'Super 8' Series: Zack Snyder's Memories

The "300" and "Watchmen" director tells The Hollywood Reporter he was 11 years old when his mother bought him his first Super 8 camera.
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Zack Snyder

With Super 8 opening this Friday, Heat Vision is taken back to the golden time when we were making movies with a Super 8 camera, running around the woods with friends, splattering ketchup on the face of Jack Briglio, the Italian kid from across town, as he died a pitchfork death.

Heat Vision isn't the only one with Super 8 memories to share: this is the second of three installments where cool filmmakers talk about their own early days making movies using the camera. Yesterday Guillermo del Toro talked of his teenage recollections using the film format.

Today's recall comes from 300 and Watchmen director Zack Snyder ...

“I was like a maniac. My mom bought me my Super 8 camera when I was 11, a Canon 1014XL-S. The first movie I ever shot was a stop action Star Wars movie with my Star Wars figures. I built an elaborate set, had the Millennium Falcon land, and they all got off and had a fight with Hammerhead and a few other guys. I scratched the lasers into the film. You took a paperclip and scraped the emulsion off and — pew, pew, pew — made lasers.

When I got to high school, I started making these super-elaborate movies using my friends. I was in boarding school, and I made a movie about this guy who breaks a rule and it escalates to where he gets put into solitary confinement, he escapes, goes on a killing spree and gets put into an insane asylum. It was my acting-out against authority. It was totally Rushmore-style. I did it with an Apocalypse Now template as a jumping off point.

When I got to college, Larry Fong and I made a pretty hectic World War I film. I rented a backhoe, and I got these people to lend me their back yard, and they had no idea that I was going to dig giant trenches in them. I made it rain, using hoses on sticks. It was crazy. And so while everyone in class was filming their cat walking around their house, I came in with this epic WWI movie. It was pretty awesome. Larry Fong shot it — my DP who shot Sucker Punchand is now the DP of Super 8.

My Super 8 camera let me start to use that language in a way that was intuitive and technical. Because using a Super 8 camera is so much more technical than shooting in video. There’s lighting and exposure. You’re dealing with a celluloid process. So when you edit you have to physically cut it and tape the shot together. It’s hardcore.

Super 8 is a great tool for not just making valid movies but for learning how to make big movies. There’s a difference when you are rolling film and the film is going through and the shutter is taking the still, the rrr-rrr-rrr… My 1014 had a button on the side that when you pushed it, it went to slow motion. And I wore that thing out. I loved that button. It went to 50 frames. I shot a lot of slow motion.

It's funny, I haven't thought about them at all until now. Now, I’m like, Oh, shit, where are they?”