Fox Exec at VES Panel: We Thought James Franco's Character Should Die in 'Apes'

James Franco - Rise of the Planet of the Apes - 2011

During the Visual Effects Society summit, executives discussed tight post-production schedules.

Tight postproduction schedules were in the hot seat, Saturday at the Visual Effects Society Production Summit in Beverly Hills.

During a panel discussion, Fox’s president of postproduction Ted Gagliano described postproduction on Rise of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men: First Class—examples of what has become a frequent industry practice of finishing a movie on an extremely tight deadline.

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Speaking about Apes, Gagliano related that the filmmakers originally thought James Franco’s character should die, then changed that decision. He said Franco flew from North Carolina to California over July 4th weekend to shoot an alternative goodbye with the ape Caesar (Andy Serkis). “We shot for three hours and (Franco) was back on the plane,” Gagliano recalled, adding that this change led to a challenging final weeks of what was originally a 41 week post schedule that involved extensive visual effects work. The film opened Aug 5.

In another example, he related that X-Men: First Class was in production until December 2010 but additional photography continued into April, resulting in a breakneck three-week post schedule to deliver some of the reels and four week schedule for the remaining reels of the movie. The film opened June 3.

Gagliano and Sean Wimmer, president of physical production and Warner Bros., warned that advancements in technology can help to speed up production and post, but meeting deadlines for unmovable release dates needs to start with discipline.

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“It’s about planning and discipline, whether that is a $200 million project, $1 million project or $50,000 movie,” Wimmer advised. “You have to stick with a plan that starts in development all the way through postproduction and distribution. Having a script that is locked and people are happy with is only going to help the budget.”

Shifting to the topic of digital distribution, Gagliano asserted that streaming is “all about opportunity. … but it starts with the quality of the movies that you are making. The other thing we really want to institutionalize at Fox for these after markets, is the importance of alternative scenes and supplemental material. For example, we thought James Franco's character should die (in Apes), so we are going to sell (the alternative clip) down the road.”