11 Reasons to NOT to make an IMAX art film in your basement: #2: “It’s Impossible”


It always seems impossible until its done.
Nelson Mandela

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
Walt Disney

#2: “It’s Impossible”

(read #1 here)

So as I sat in the Vegas airport, my flight delayed for hours, it was clear, despite James Hyder’s enthuasium for the giant screen, IMAX was impossible. First of all, the cameras were enormous, ridiculously huge and practically impossible to shoot dialogue with because of the noise. (Remember, at this point “Outside In” still had 9 minutes of a dialogue scene in it as the script).

150 pound IMAX camera

I had quit filmmaking the first time, back in 1991 when I dropped out of film school, heavily in debt from shooting a 15 minute 16mm film. I knew the challenges of shooting motion picture film and short of winning the lottery – and I mean the big 200+ million dollar lottery, making an IMAX film was not an option to consider.

This was back before “The Dark Knight” was even shooting. And despite their huge budget, they elected to only shoot a small amount of the film in true IMAX with real IMAX cameras. Note also that “Avatar” was not shot with IMAX cameras either as that would have been impossible even today. It was shot with HD cameras but because 3D images are so much lower quality than 2D, it’s not that noticable when you are wearing your 3D glasses.

And it’s not just the giant cameras, everything is giant – you need giant tripods, giant film, giant everything. It’s a crazy world and why no major Hollywood film has ever been shot 100% IMAX. There are a few foolish brave souls who made feature length films in the 15/70mm format that is IMAX. But these are only notable for how much money they lost.

The only indie filmmakers like myself to ever attempt making a shot-on-IMAX film, made a film called “More” in 1998 which was only 6 minutes long. Thus, it as almost never seen in an IMAX theaters due to the very short length. However, it’s a great film, well worth watching, and it ended up, ironically, been seen widely as a very popular internet short back when web video was lucky to be 320 X 240 pixels.

So as I finally got on the plane to leave Vegas after a six hour delay, it seemed okay to forget about IMAX in the din of the airport slot machines (I mean, at the gates, really? Didn’t you get everybody’s money on the machines in baggage claim?). The plane was crowded to the gills, I was stuck in aisle seat in the midst of a whole crew of very drunk (six hour delay, remember) gamblers returning home to Raleigh. This was gonna be a great flight – sigh.

Of course, the drunk couple next to me was very friendly. I mean, put their arms around me “this guy is great, we love him – what’s your name?”. But a strange and wonderful thing happened somewhere flying over Texas. The couple lived in Raleigh, NC, ran a landscaping business and just went to Vegas every so often to blow off steam.

After asking me how much money I lost in Vegas, they discovered I did not gamble  (having no money) and was there because of a film I was trying make about space, Saturn, big questions. “Saturn, really?” they asked. Like most people they had no idea a spacecraft was at Saturn and they had never heard of Titan, much less that we landed a spacecraft on the surface. I pulled out my laptop and started showing them pictures from Cassini. They were stunned, sobered. They wanted to see every picture I had.

As I drove back to Greensboro from RDU airport, I though, “maybe IMAX was impossible. But maybe James Hyder did have a point – there was no better way these photographs could be presented than on an 8-story screen.”



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