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Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008 9:15 PM

The George Miller Interview, Part II

N'Gai Croal

In Part I of our two-part Q&A with Australian writer-director-producer George Miller, he discussed why he wanted to step up his level of involvement in videogames; how he met Cory Barlog; and what areas of common ground he sees between the two media. In Part II, Miller explains why he's starting work on the Mad Max videogame long before the movie goes into production; why he believes the game will benefit from his longtime process of workshopping new creative endeavors; and whether he'll be seeking a leadership role on the videogames for all of his future movie projects. Read on.

Do you already know the first game project that you and Cory will be working on?

Well, the first one will be a "Mad Max" game. Because what happened was, we were all ready to go, within eleven weeks of shooting the next "Mad Max" movie, "Fury Road." This was way back when the war in Iraq started, and that really threw this out for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which was that the American dollar crashed against the Australian dollar. And apart from that, just insurances, getting vehicles and stuff there on container ships--all that slowed down around the world. So we had to move on to "Happy Feet," because that was going to take a long time.

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We were all ready to go on "Fury Road," but instead of going off and shooting "Fury Road" straight away, I said "Okay, now that we've got that whole world prepared, let's work together with somebody, if there's someone out there." And that started off on the path of trying to get together with Corey. Not handing it off to some third party game developer as we did on "Happy Feet," but to try to do it all as a piece, in the hope that we overcome that problem of making bad films from good games or vice versa.

I realize that the schedule for making a live action movie, even one like "Mad Max" which I'm guessing these days would now have a lot of CG in it--

Yes.

--those schedules for movies and games are very different. What stage of production is the movie in? Would it be apt to say that it's in an advanced stage of preproduction?

The movie was in a very highly advanced stage of preproduction when we stopped it. It's all prepared, but now I want to stop and do the game and get those schedules in sync.

Okay.

In other words, I'm delaying the movie in order to do a really good game. Normally what happens everyone's scrambling to finish a game so it can coincide with the release of the movie. In this case, because I've got another couple of movies to make, we can wait and do it properly. That's the theory.

And in your ideal world, you'll try to sync up the release of the movie and the game?

Yes.

What stage is the game at right now? Are you and Corey working together on a script for the game?

Corey's working on that. Then we'll be getting together and reviewing it, and we'll slowly get our team together so that there is that overlap I talked about before. But he's working on it as we speak. He's already sort of gone through all our material, all our bibles, all our preparation on the movie. He's gone off to do his thing. He'll come back, and we'll have these workshops, which--games and movies are very collaborative processes. And I'm a big fan of an immersive workshop process. I would like to think that the game people and the film people will affect each other.

When you say workshop--because that's not something that's really done much in games, or that's not the language that's used in games--what do you mean by workshop?

Well, it's where you bring everybody together to review--it's a multi-disciplinary approach, where you bring everybody together from all different areas and see where they inform each other. You review each others work and then toss it around. If it's done in the right way, it can be incredibly rewarding. You get some very rich material.

Take it just from the point of view of design. The people who've already done a lot of work on the film, we put them together with people designing the game for the physical design--the vehicles and so. Someone else might throw out something that might shift what we've already prepared to do in the movie and vice versa. Character, voice, costumes, look, locations, everything. And also at the level of performance, in terms of everything that would inform a character: their physicality, their voice, their emotional state, their wants and desires--all those sort of things, we would get in and throw around. I do that on all our projects. If we do that, it ends up much more integrated. You get rid of that sense of superficiality. You end up feeling there's more to it than meets the eye, ultimately.

Do you own the rights to Mad Max?

Yes.

Okay. I'm guessing that for the "Justice League of America" movie, which is on hold now, that Warner Bros owns the interactive rights. But when you look out past your next couple of films, looking at the kind of films, the kinds of worlds, the kind of immersive world that you want to create, is this going to be an important part of your contractual agreements going forward? By that, I mean having the ability to take on more of a leadership role on the game making parts of the movie projects you'll be getting involved with in the future?

It's not so much about whether or not you call it a leadership role, I just think I need to be involved. If I go back to the notion of storytelling, up until a few years ago I saw myself as a storyteller working exclusively in theatrical movies. I have produced some television in the past. But basically, it's all been theatrical movies.

Now that notion's exploded, and if you are a storyteller your story has the opportunity to go out as cinema, through a game, you know as little interstitial pieces on your iPhone--you know or on the Net. It can go into television. It could go into a whole range of things, including graphic novels and so on. This is not something new; it's just doing it a little bit more consciously. And it means not necessarily controlling everything yourself because you can't.

My expertise is in cinema, but it's about seeing where those disciplines overlap and bringing people together--by workshopping or whatever you want to call it--bringing together all these disciplines and basically telling the story of the same characters and the same world, but putting them out in all these different platforms. Does that make sense?

I see myself not so much as a filmmaker but as a storyteller. If I'm a storyteller first and a filmmaker second, then all of this other stuff is a legitimate part of telling the story. So that's how I'm seeing it. And my job--my specific job is to tell the story through film; at the same time it's someone like Corey's job to tell the story through the game. But there's a cohesion between the two.

Got it.

That's the idea. If you're much more interested in games than movies, then you might enter the story through the game. Or you might enter the story through the film and move towards the game. It's still the same story. It's still the same characters. It's still the same world. It's just that you can approach the characters and the world from different angles.

Lastly, when the movie was originally going to go in to production--I guess this would have been back in 2003--

Yeah.

--had Mel Gibson signed to play the lead again?

He all but signed to play the lead, yeah, yeah. But I think that day is long gone now--it's five years later.

So are you looking at a different scenario this time around?

Oh, it wouldn't be with Mel.

Got it.

Yeah. Mel was--I didn't realize it was so long ago but, he was 20, well, he was 21 when he first played Mad Max. He's in his 50's now--it's too old. Yeah, I think for "The Road Warrior" he was 22 or 23 or something, so he was just a baby back then.

In a game you can deal with the likeness of the main character, a bit later in the process. But is your vision that the same person will play the lead--

Oh yeah, yeah.

--in both the--

The same cast, yeah, yeah, yeah.Yep. Not just the same one person as the lead, but the same cast [in both the film and the game].

Great. Well, George, thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it.

Thanks, N'Gai. I hope you got what you need. Have you spoken to Corey?

Yes, I've spoken with Corey. I spoke with Corey before the holidays, actually.

Okay, thank you.

All right, take care.

Bye-bye.

Next: In which we reconnect with Cory Barlog, finally armed with the knowledge of his first project, to delve into the creative philosophy underlying his plans for the Mad Max videogame. To read Part I of our Q&A with George Miller, click here. For Parts I and II of our interview with Barlog, click here and here.

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Member Comments

Posted By: Evilbaby (March 14, 2008 at 2:19 PM)

well you could tell both in this interview and the one with Barlog that there is like a evolving fusion of terms between the film and game industry.  Seems like both parties, and the press, will be having a lot of "Does that make sense?" conversations as things go forward.

Nice job though N'Gai! I'm pretty excited to see how well Miller can pull this off.  though it seems kind of straight foward I don't think anyones every really approached a property like this....especially not from the film side.  Really enjoyed the piece.


Posted By: HeartbreakRidge (March 13, 2008 at 12:23 PM)

I love how both of you asked each other multitple times if something made sense. :)


 
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