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When Jon Chu was hired to direct G.I. Joe: Retaliation, many assumed he was chosen because of his experience shooting in 3D; his Step Up 3D and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never were big hits that boasted well-received 3D presentation. But the sequel ultimately was shot on film and scheduled for release only in 2D prior to Wednesday, when Paramount announced that the film’s release date was being pushed from June 29 to March 29, 2013, so the studio could convert the film to 3D.
At the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival, Chu spoke exclusively with The Hollywood Reporter about the process of making the film, the decision to shoot in 2D and the ongoing collaboration he enjoyed with the studio.
The Hollywood Reporter: How was it decided not to shoot the film in 3D?
Jon Chu: There was a point where we were talking about it when I first came. It seemed like a natural thing, but I told them: “I know 3D. This is what we need. If we’re going to do 3D, we’re going to do it right.” It had a certain price tag to it, and I was like, “If you guys are down, I’m down, but I do need more time to do it right.” And they were about to do it, but they cut it just a little bit short, and [I said,] “If you guys are going to cut it short, there is no point. Let’s make a movie — let’s go for it and we’ll go all out.” And we shot on film, super-35, and I thought this may be one of the last times I get to shoot on film, and it was actually kind of freeing. I mean, I love 3D and I think there is a lot you can do with it, but there is something to be said about just not waiting for anything. You’re just going. We shot so much film. I mean I think we shot 1.2 million feet of film.
THR: Was that due to using multiple cameras for setups?
Chu: Yes and no. We were really efficient when we were shooting – we’d do like 50 setups a day, which I’ve never been at that rate. Stephen Windon, our [director of photography], is just awesome, and his camera crew, they’re all warriors. They’re in it, they’re sweating — we’re in the desert and it’s 114 degrees, and the Steadicam guy is just trudging through this sand. So it was brutal, but they were down to be down and dirty.
THR: How do you integrate the studio’s notes and guidance into the process? And have you encountered those kinds of suggestions on G.I. Joe?
Chu: Always — I mean, there is always stuff. There are always things that you need to work out with them. That’s part of the moviemaking process. But nothing’s forced. Nothing like, “Jon, you need to dumb it down this much” — that would ruin the movie. There have been points where I’m like, trust me — the audience gets it by this point, and they’re like, “We don’t get it because we don’t know about G.I. Joe,” so we’ve been able to iron out [those differences], maybe adding things here or putting in that scene that we cut out previously or things like that. But nothing major, and when I take those notes, I try to listen to where the issue is, because no matter what, if someone is bumping, there is some issue. They may not be able to communicate it right and they may be giving you a solution, not the problem, so we try to interpret their problem. I never take a problem off the table because I know if they’re bumping, someone is going to bump against, so that’s a question that we play with and fiddle with. So it’s a problem you sort of always struggle with, but nothing out of the ordinary.
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Sterling K. Brown