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“Piranha 3DD” producer Joel Soisson talks about filming and Wilmington

[By Brian Tucker, StarNews Correspondent]

Filming in 3D, are filmmakers still learning what can be done with the cameras?

A friend, Patrick Lussier, (“Drive Angry 3D”) said that just in the few years the list of things you can and cannot do, from no hand hold (shots) to yes to hand hold (shots) to no long lens (shots) to yes… The longer lenses tend to flatten things, which is counter to the whole principle of 3D because you want depth. For the longest time we were saying don’t shoot anything over a 75mm lens. Well, suddenly that rule is broken too. I don’t think we’re there yet, but it’s getting almost to the point where we’re back to shooting 3D movies like you shoot any movie. You just shoot what you think works best for the film, whether you want a big wide angle lens to sell the world or you want a close up or if you want to flatten the background to be more intimate.

Has the learning curve happened more rapidly than anyone expected? Especially in the last 2-3 years?

Oh, yeah. The sizes of the cameras are coming down and efficacy of the camera is going way up. I’m not feeling it as much of those who there in the beginning because this is my first show with 3D. I’m only comparing it to the last movie I did with the RED Camera. I was blown away by its simplicity.

Was director Patrick Lussier helpful on “Pianha 3DD” in terms of 3D cameras?

I think he’s the best in the business right now with 3D. We plummed as much of his brain as we could. John (Gulager) the director knows Patrick. Patrick talked to our Director of Photography (Alexandre Lehmann) who had never done 3D movie before and gave of us all sorts of tips. He’s been kind of like our godfather on this. He’s a trailblazer because he does break rules; he did a lot of handholding (with the camera). There used to be this idea that handholding with a 3D camera makes the world go so nutty that perceptions would make you a little nauseous. He got away with it, it worked.

You filmed a scene dry-for-wet yesterday. How did you deal with the woman’s hair in the shot?

That was a big controversy. Everything has to be figured out in 3D. It was very hard to orchestrate underwater. It’s very hard to play dead underwater unless you are dead. That was more than we wanted to put our actress through. You make a lake bottom and you shoot down. There’s this light that almost has this lava lamp effect, where you’re shooting through and it creates these ripples, then with the smoke and a very focused spotlight from above so you get these shafts of rippling light to go through the smoke. If the smoke is thin enough and even enough and you shoot it double speed, 48 frames a second. It’s remarkable how much like water it looks. It’ll be interesting to see if it works because every other shot in the movie is wet, with real underwater cameras.

And on the camera monitors it was convincing?

We had two separate monitors going, one inside shooting and one shooting inside the pool and they looked identical. You couldn’t tell which one was the dry and which one was the wet. You shoot it lighter and darken it down in post (production) as dark as you need. Shooting 3D underwater is another thing because not only do you have two cameras side by side but you also have to create basically a diving bell to keep them watertight.

You said you’d like to make a family movie. You haven’t been involved in one since “Hambone and Hillie.”

I’d love to make one. They won’t let me now that I making all these bloodbath movies. I’m typecast now because I make horror movies.

You’ve become typecast because of doing so many already or that you’ve been good at it?

You do get typecast during the creative aspects of filmmaking if you’re successful at something. As soon as I did the “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel, which was arguably the worst of the series I’m told, but made a ton of money. I’ve had a long checkered career with Wes Craven who I consider a friend but I’ve ruined everything he’s ever been involved in. I ruined his “Nightmare” franchise by taking the whole dream within a dream and corrupted it. I didn’t write it so it wasn’t totally my fault but I was party to that.

Wes was going to make “Pulse” and two weeks before he began the movie Bob Weinstein of Dimension pulled it from him and for whatever reasons decided not to make “Pulse” and made “Cursed” instead. I ended up shooting some inserts for a trailer campaign for “Cursed” that we ended up putting in the movie for some reason and made it worse.

Why did you choose to shoot “Piranha 3DD” in Wilmington?

The micro and the macro of it all. Ultimately so many movies are based around the iconic American town, could be anywhere. Wilmington has that character, that architecture that could really be anywhere, the geography and the look. And the attitude among the people. Having the studio and the crews, in a sense it has everything that L.A. has now in terms of what goes along with the filmmaking process – great catering, great crews.

Why here instead of Louisiana?

I think what’s really helped as of late is that whole rebate thing. It’s certainly the reason we’re here; otherwise we’d be in Louisiana. Two things: one, this did work creatively better, purely on dollars and sense the rebate in Louisiana is five percent better. It’s not really apples and apples. So with such a negligible difference between the two states and North Carolina stepping up and getting close now then you measure other things like quality of crews, quality of support, companies, and studios. Frankly, creature comforts. It’s just a more pleasant place to make a movie here in my opinion. Wrightsville Beach is awesome. And you don’t go far to get different looks, city, the rural. It’s got different geographies. I’ve seen a lot of movies shot in Wilmington and I don’t usually recognize the landmarks.

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