Collider’s FINAL DESTINATION 4 Set Visit – Part 3 of 3

     June 9, 2008

Written by Matt Goldberg

To read part 1 of my set visit, click here; to read part 2, click here.

After interviewing producer Craig Perry, we were treated to a first-look at some of the 3D rendered footage we’ll be seeing in the film. Not all of the effects were finished, but we got a clear sense of depth of field and there really is a wonderful sense of dread when you no longer have the security that at least bad things don’t happen in the background. Every plane is a murder waiting to happen and since everything is in focus, it’s harder to draw your eye to where you think you expect the scare. Of course, there’s also the goods of just sending a tire flying out of the screen and decapitating a poor spectator. There was also an uncannily eerie and beautiful scene underwater where a kid is picking up rings from the bottom of a swimming pool. Perry later told us that they weren’t just showing off but that the pool and that kid actually do serve a purpose in setting up a kill.

After the impressive display of what we’d just been speaking about with Perry, we found that three of the lead actors had some time to talk to us in between takes. Bobby Campo plays this film’s clairvoyant one who helps his friends cheat death. Of course, he is unaware of the previous three films and doesn’t know that if the reaper wants you, just go with it. Accompanying Campo in our roundtable were the gorgeous leading ladies, Shantel van Santen and Haley Webb. Watching actors like this in movies and television, you know they’re attractive, but it’s not up until you’re seeing them up close that you actually feel grotesque. I’m about the same age as these actors and somehow I look like an old sock and they all look like they sucked the youth out of some newborn babies. I pushed thoughts of visiting a local nursery to the back of brain and listened as these beautiful but polite young actors answered our questions:

Are there any survivors in this one at all?

Shantel Van Santen: Define survivors?

Bobby Campo: You’ll just have to wait and see.

Is there ever any competition amongst you to see who gets the best kill scene?

Shantel Van Santen: There are so many cool ways to die. I don’t know if it’s a competition to see who has the best death scenes. For me, I got really excited to read about the things that were going to happen in the premonitions. The stakes are higher in those premonitions. But the way we are all going to die is just so neat. And mean. It’s not necessarily a competition. We are very supportive of each other’s death scenes. Its like, “Oh, I want to be there that day and cheer them on.” It’s fun to see someone’s leg disappear.

Haley Webb: I disagree. But, I do think the death scenes are cool. It’s cool to compare the different death scenes, and see how we are each doing them. Especially with how close we are as a group of friends on set. It’s not particularly fun to watch your friends die. But I find myself saying, “Ah, cool! You get to do that!?!”.

What is your relationship with each other?

Haley Webb: Shantel and Me are lovers [laughs]…no!

Bobby Campo: I’m just their puppet. I’m the monkey in the tuxedo. In all seriousness, Shantel and me are boyfriend and girlfriend in the film, and Haley is our friend.

When one of the actors gets picked off, do they actually leave the set after that? Is it like they are really gone?

Haley Webb: You mean when we die? Maybe we are all survivors.

Bobby Campo: They get voted off the island when they die, for sure. The shooting sequences are actually mixed up, so some actors actually come back for certain scenes after they die.

Are you guys all together at the race track in the beginning?

Bobby Campo: Yes, we are all there together.

Haley Webb: We have been shooting a lot of our scenes together. We still have quite a few scenes that involve all of us in the same shot.

Shantel Van Santen: Even when it’s just two of us on screen, it always involves one or two of the other characters. It is about the four of us and our relationships together. That really is an emotional experience for us. And it’s horrible to see one of us all gored up. It’s like, “Oh, my god!” It is really tough to see your friends mutilated. Bobby is usually happy about it.

Is there one main character?

Bobby Campo: I think this is definitely an ensemble film.

Haley Webb: Yeah, it really is. We do have the one character that has the premonitions. But it’s cool, because we are all effected by it. We all come together to try to help each other. So, it’s cool. I like that. Yeah, it is definitely an ensemble.

Working in 3D, do you have to approach acting any differently?

Bobby Campo: It’s interesting, because you have to do the blocking differently. There are a lot of three shots, which deals with depth of field. There are no quick shots, because the brain can’t deal with it. So you have a little bit longer to get through a shot. It’s not boom, boom, boom. It’s more natural. It doesn’t change your acting style too much, but the HD doesn’t allow you to go off. Even with the over the shoulder stuff, you can see everything. So you can’t be lazy. Forty yards away, you can still see everything. So even the extras have to be conscious of what they are doing.

Haley Webb: There are a lot of technical things you have to remember. When you are walking, they will say, “Can you walk a little bit slower? The camera is having a hard time trying to catch up.” There are so many people operating the camera, so you do have a little bit more to do as far as being aware of your body movements.

Does working on a film like this make you think about your own mortality?

Bobby Campo: Yeah, I can’t go anywhere without seeing the mousetrap. It’s something that I have been working on a lot, trying to get it just right for the movie. It is kind of second nature to me. The film proves how fragile we are. It’s all right there. It is something to think about, and working on this does change your perspective on it.

The three actors then politely left, shaking all of our hands, once again making at least me feel hideous and wondering if they went to go wash off the ugly. But there was no time to consider their actions because it was time to talk with the film’s director (and in my mind, reigning champ of the franchise), David Ellis. Ellis is a no-nonsense kind of guy and you can see that it comes from his history as a stunt-coordinator. There’s no time for on-set melodrama. Just walking around his set, you could see that were was a mutual respect among everyone but also a genuine enjoyment of the work. The woman who drove us to the set said it was the best set she’s ever worked on and that she would work with Ellis again in a heartbeat. After speaking with him, it’s not hard to understand why.

How is the shoot progressing?

David Ellis: The shoot has been awesome. We’re living the dream. We are making movies in Hollywood and we’re getting paid for it. We’re blowing people up and killing them, so it’s all good. We are right on budget and we are right on schedule. This is a tough movie. You have so much more going on. You have all these traps and misdirects. The script has a little bit of dialogue and then you have whole paragraphs of action. That can be a pain. There’s a lot to cover. But we’re doing a really good job, especially for a 3D movie.

Was it the chance to work in this new 3D medium that brought you back for another installment?

David Ellis: Well, as far as the studio bringing me back, it’s because they couldn’t find anybody else to do the job. But for me, personally, yeah, the 3D is why I came back. It’s great to be a director and riding this new wave of 3D technology. There are all of these great directors, like James Cameron, that are out there on the forefront of this new technology. To be a part of that is awesome. And this is the perfect genre for a 3D movie.

Do you feel you have to up the ante from the 3rd film?

David Ellis: Well, I don’t want you to think that I am competing with James [Wan, director of “Final Destination 1 and 3”]. I think James is a great director, but he has a totally different style. My “Final Destination” movies are different than his. Hopefully the fans like them all. We definitely have upped the ante for the fans of the franchise. They obviously know what this film is. People try to cheat death, and then these people get killed. It’s about how we’re going to kill them and if it’s going to be cool or not.

Did you have any ideas that you really wanted to see with this new one as far as the deaths scenes go?

David Ellis: Yeah, I did. Craig Perry and I spent a lot of time hashing out the different ways we could kill people. You will see some blood. There will be some really cool stuff. It’s all a combination of practical stuff and digital effects. Our visual effects guys are working on the shots as we shoot.

Was this film always going begin with death on the racetrack?

David Ellis: Yeah, that was in place when I came on. I have heard people talk about having it open on the Golden Gate bridge. There were a number of different things. I think at one point they were talking about having it take place at a ski resort. But when I signed on, they knew it was going to be a NASCAR sort of thing. That is why they picked me, probably. Because I did all of that car stuff on “Final Destination 2”. And I did the second unit stuff on “The Matrix”. A lot of it had to do with my action background.

How is it working with the two major set pieces of this film? The race track and the movie theater?

David Ellis: This is pretty cool. We had a big set piece at the end of “Final Destination 3”. But at the end of “Final Destination 2” they just had the kids at a barbeque. It wasn’t a big deal. This one has a lot more action in it for your buck. It runs at about 88 minutes, and it is none stop. There are two big set pieces. The audience won’t forget the last ten minutes of this one. That last ten minutes is pretty killer.

continued on page 2 ——->


Are there going to be any characters left from Part 4 that could segue into a Part 5?

David Ellis: Yeah. We don’t kill everybody. There are some people…Eh, I don’t want to give too much away. A lot of people do get killed. It’s good, because there are some really unsuspected twists at the end that could carry us into a fifth movie…Or not. But there are definitely other people aside from the main characters that you become invested in. If they wanted to do a fifth movie, they could do that. First, this movie has to do well. Fans have to embrace it and want to see it again.

Would you come back?

David Ellis: Shoot, yeah. This has been a great experience. Look at my first movie, “Homeward Bound 2”. It didn’t really do anything for my career. But it made a ton of money. People thought I was great…If it was a movie where they had dogs talking. Aside from that, they didn’t think I’d proven myself. But then I got to do a lot of second unit action segments for movies like “The Matrix” and “Harry Potter”. I started to get some notice as a second unit director. So they gave me the “Final Destination 2” film. That led to a couple of other great opportunities like “Cellular” and “Snakes on a Plane” which lead to me directing this. So, yeah, I would come back for another one.

After working in 3D, do you think you will go back and make another 3D film? Will it be hard to return to conventional cinema?

David Ellis: You know what? This has been a really great experience. It’s really cool. My next film is a small, supernatural thriller, and I think it would look pretty cool in 3D too. For me, the coolest thing about the 3D is the world. I think the dialogue scenes are really cool, because you feel like you are there in the moment. I think there are a lot of movies that would be great in 3D and I would really love to work on them.

What do you like best about working on this particular film?

David Ellis: There are so many things to like about it. I like that we have a really young cast that nobody knows about. I think that they are all movie stars. They’re really good in the movie. I’m really impressed with their work ethic. And they’re good actors. I’m really excited about the 3D. The action is going to kick ass. For a “Final Destination” movie, it has a lot of really good twists. We’ve had an insane time shooting it.

Are you guys going to be doing a lot of CGI?

David Ellis: Well, I love to do practical action. I do it whenever I can. On “Final Destination 2” we really only had the logs that came off the truck. We had to have them go in a specific spot. But compared to a CGI heavy movie, it was very limited. With “Snakes on a Plane”, I couldn’t get the snakes to do what I wanted, so we had to use CGI. We had planned on using real snakes for that, but they just wouldn’t follow orders. They are not like dogs. They don’t go from point A to point B. On this movie, we have some set pieces where we will have to incorporate some CGI. But, again, I’d rather rely on practical effects, especially in the action sequences. I think CGI has a tendency to pull you out of the story. It’s not real, guys. So I try to incorporate action in my movies that is more reality based.

Do you think 3D is going to change the way people look at movies?

David Ellis: I hope it does well. Everyone is talking about what a huge impact it is going to make. It’ll be important to us as filmmakers to make good films. They need to be films that aren’t reliant on the 3D factor, otherwise it will just fall apart. It’s a great in-theater experience for fans. Hopefully it’ll have a good effect on people.

What has been the most challenging thing for you on this one?

David Ellis: Well, we have had the one big set piece, and now we are doing a second one. And in the third act, there is a big sequence in the mall, which has been really challenging. We’ve had to work with the escalators and the movie theatres. There’s all this physical stuff that goes into it. And it is the last big set piece premonition. We have more than one premonition in this one. The main kid is having visions all the time. There’s always foreshadowing, and he’s always trying to figure out the bigger premonitions. He wants to save his friends. And with that follows a chain of death.

Does he succeed in saving his friends?

David Ellis: Yeah, he does. Kind of. He thinks he does. I will leave it at that.

How long is post-production on this film?

David Ellis: It’s longer than most films because every time you do something, you have to go back and change the 3D elements. We are constantly pushing how far things should reach out into the audience. We can play with that. Like, how far out should that water bottle be? Should we pull it back? Our post will take us through this year. Hopefully we will come out at a good time next year.

How do you think the film will hold up on a conventional screen?

David Ellis: Oh, it holds up in 2D. You still have all of the great deaths. You have all of the great misdirections. You have the great freight moments and the drama. It still has all of those elements, which just happened to hold up even better in 3D.

With that, we were nearing the end of our time on the “Final Destination 4” set, but before we left, we were invited to see the filming of a second explosion, which would be layered on top of the movie theatre explosion they had done earlier in the day. They handed out earplugs and like the wussie I am, I not only jammed them in my ears as far as I could, I then put my fingers over the plugs. Then I braced myself and listened to the countdown,


And at that moment, I discovered what I knew in my heart always to be true:

Explosions are cool.

“Final Destination 4” hits theatres in 2009.

this is a fan made poster

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