J.C. Chandor on ‘Triple Frontier’, Netflix, and the Future of Movie Distribution

     March 31, 2019

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If you watch a lot of Netflix films, you may have noticed the original movies they’ve been producing have been getting a lot better. This trend continues with director J.C. Chandor’s Triple Frontier. Loaded with some fantastic actors – Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal – the action-thriller, written by Chandor and Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), centers on a group of former Special Forces operatives that decide to steal a South American drug lord’s money. while you’ve seen a ton of movies about big heists, what’s refreshing about Triple Frontier is that most of the film takes place after they’ve done the job. Trust me; if you have Netflix, you absolutely want to check this movie out. For more on Triple Frontier, you can read Vinnie Mancuso’s review or watch the trailer.

Shortly after seeing the film, I got to sit down with J.C. Chandor for an extended interview. He talked about why he loves Netflix, the changing marketplace for watching movies, how the film changed in the editing room, the deleted scenes and if fans of the film will ever get to see them, how they got Metallica in the soundtrack, the ending of the film and what it means, and a lot more.

Finally, spoilers were discussed during this interview so if you haven’t seen Triple Frontier yet, I would not read this interview.

Check out what J.C. Chandor had to say below.

Collider: First of all, congrats on the movie!

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Image via Netflix

J.C. CHANDOR: Thank you.

You did a great job. I was asking everyone downstairs, and I was going to ask you, there’s been a lot of talk in the last few days about Netflix, and Oscars, and people having different opinions on stuff. I’m of the opinion that if it plays for one week in theaters, it’s eligible. Have you heard about all of this stuff?

CHANDOR: A little bit. I haven’t heard about this latest. These guys gave me a warning that a prominent member in the community has spoken out quite clearly on it. For me, and this going to Margin Call – you remember the way that was released. My career, when I got my first chance to do this, was the first days of this world kind of changing. That movie was released day and date. Would I have loved that movie, for every person to come and get a babysitter and see it in a movie theater, yes. In the last 10 years or whatever, since that filmed played, the world just keeps changing. I think as storytellers, and as an industry, to sort of fully put your head in the sand is not really an option. For 800 bucks you can have a movie screen in your house and have any movie ever made delivered to it. To sort of deny that the market place has shifted, is a fool’s errand, just as an industry. That’s just my personal opinion about where we are.

As it relates to this particular movie, and my career in more specificity, it’s like, look, my specialty and what I find enjoyable and what I want to watch as a viewer is original story telling. I want to see stories that I haven’t seen before, and I want to see people put in situations that have a real relevance with what we do in our daily lives. I want it to be kind of original and have a storyteller be thinking up some new thing that hadn’t been thought of, or a reinvention of a classic story. The studios, for whatever reason, have not been embracing original storytelling. I think that’s pretty clear. So, you have this marketplace, totally bifurcate, in what I think is an unhealthy way, which is north of $175 million dollar movies and under $13 million dollar movies, or whatever the magic number is on the low end. Everything else in between is tough to get made. So, I think, I’m appreciative that they’re there because I’m trying to tell original stories, and they’ve been supporting this one in a great way.

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Image via Netflix

Technically speaking, I think there’s going to be some really interesting things in the next five years, with these windows. My hope is the window disappears, and if you want to go see a movie in a movie theater go see a movie in a movie theater. There’s going to be a great compromise that comes out of it. I think to just deny the fact that I can watch any film in the world at any given time, to pretend that that’s not happening, is dangerous With the Academy, I had some long, rough goes on a couple films with them. I felt like what we went through on All is Lost with the Academy was just a tough experience. I really believed in Mr.Redford’s performance and it was heartbreaking that they kind of turned on him a little bit, in like a weird way. I think, I’ve chased Oscars in my first couple of films, in ways in which I’m a little embarrassed about now. I wish I’d just let the movies stand for themselves. I know that that’s a big important part, and it does define a certain thing. Not to point it out too obvious, but I bet if you actually ran the numbers Roma was probably seen by more people in theaters than some of those other smaller films that were also nominated. Margin Call was only at $6 million of gross. I feel like it’s because of the Netflix thing right now. It’s got a target on it’s back in an interesting way. I think there’s going to be some interesting –

It’s also going to be very interesting when Time Warner launches a streaming, and these other people launch streaming because they’re going – anyway that’s a whole different thing.

CHANDOR: I love this just from an interest standpoint. My hope, if you wanted to say what I would hope would happen in five years is that, what I keep saying is, if Game of Thrones, each week – and how many episodes is it?

10 episodes.

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Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon / Courtesy of Netflix

CHANDOR: So, 10 episodes. So you have a 10 week period where that show comes out, a new one, right, every week. How many people do you think – you guys have an audience that’s so in that world. How many of them, would it be 2 million people would go to the theater?

I had this conversation with someone else recently. If they could get the VFX and prevent leaks, I believe the final season coming up, if they release those in theaters every week it would be a madhouse.

CHANDOR: Imagine a movie theater that is the place where your readers meet every Friday night for those eight weeks that those episodes are coming out. You’d have a real community, I heard someone the other day refer to it as, “If you could turn the movie theater into an Apple store for movies.” A place where people go to hang out, maybe you go see a film. Some of these TV shows – that feels like the future to me. People don’t want to sit in their freaking homes all day, right? There’s a huge percentage of the audience – I’ve got young kids. For me, it’s like a $200 evening if we get a babysitter, you go to dinner. Just watching the distribution model of this film, It’s like so efficient and so effective. This movie is going to be in 135 million homes in one day, which is crazy. I think it’s very easy for that filmmaker, not to get too cute about it, but that filmmaker you’re talking about, can get a movie made in a different way, that the other 95% of filmmakers in the world – it’s a little rich because the market has changed.

I could actually dive so much deeper, but I have so many questions about the movie. I’m fascinated by the editing process because that’s the final re-write. I’m curious how the movie changed as a result of any early screenings.

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Image via Netflix

CHANDOR: It got tighter, which I think is so cool. It feathers right back into what you’re talking about. One of the things that Scott Stuber, who’s running this shop, and was my boss on this movie, one of the things he really stressed in a positive way for me was no matter how we’re delivering, this the two hour movie is not dead. It’s such an efficient, beautiful, well-timed – going back to Greek plays, most of them were somewhere between an hour and half and three hours long, in multi-parts. To tell a story over ten hours is fun, and there’s a lot of people doing it right now. Even in your home, as that filmmaker would say, as a TV movie, the two hour time table is something to believe in as a true storytelling technique. I was sort of imagining that I would have a little more freedom and willingness because of Netflix and because of the difference of the movie, to kind of let it wander the way some of my other films had. What I realized in the editing room, especially after the first screening we did, which was a mall in New Jersey, you know 400 people. It was a pretty brutal screening because halfway through it I realized that this is a freaking action, fun, adventure film that’s operating on two levels. It needs to be this tense, fun thrill ride.

How long was the cut that you showed?

triple-frontier-posterCHANDOR: Probably 2:27 or something. Like, 32 minutes longer than what you saw. The other thing that’s fascinating now, they make people when you do those test screenings leave their phones outside and people are having – you can see them. When you’re in that test audience you’re looking around. It’s the most stressful thing in the world. I could literally notice that people were having physical reactions, because they’re so used to having that damn thing, so the fact that we had taken it from them, it was like – of course they wanted it shorter. They wanted to get outside and get to the little ziploc bag, and get their fix back. It was like, 2:32 and it was too long because the movie was meant to be this great pot boiler.

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