A Report from the Edgar Wright Saves the World Event at LAFF With J.J. Abrams

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LAFF Edgar Wright Saves the World with JJ Abrams slice

Last night was an awesome event at the Los Angeles Film Festival.  Billed as “Edgar Wright Saves the World,” the event featured writer/director J.J. Abrams and Edgar Wright on stage together and it was two hours of Abrams asking Wright questions about his career.  You could have called the event “Edgar Wright: This is Your Life” and it would have worked.  Either way, it was very cool to watch two directors that I love talk in front of a packed house.  What made the night even better was Wright world premiered 9 minutes from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and a very cool viral clip for the movie.   While I hate using the words like awesome or cool when describing something…the clip looked awesome and very, very cool!

Of course the two hour discussion was not just about Scott Pilgrim, as Abrams had Wright talking about how he got into making movies, how did he first hook up with Simon Pegg, how tough was it to get Shaun of the Dead made, and so much more.  For a complete recap, hit the jump!

(Update – we were asked to take down the audio that we originally posted with the article. Sorry about that)

How Did You Get Into Filmmaking LAFF Edgar Wright Saves the World with JJ Abrams

The night began with Abrams and Wright taking the stage (which was in front of the movie screen in cinema 8) and making some jokes.  While many wondered if Abrams would get a question from the audience regarding Star Trek 2, Wright diffused the situation by making a joke about it right at the start.  I could almost see Abrams getting a bit nervous, but right after the joke, the night was all about Edgar Wright.

Abrams started by asking Wright how he got into directing and what were his main influences.  He talked about how Sam Raimi was an incredibly important part of his getting into making movies as he admired how Raimi got into the industry with no connections and how he did it so young with Evil Dead.   Wright also credited a show in London that Jonathan Ross did in the (I think) early 90′s that focused on filmmakers.  It was a 60 minute show that was about directors each week and the Raimi was an episode.

Wright also talked about how he made many short films with friends on video and then they showed one of his shorts.  He explained how one of his shorts won him a video camera.

After the short, they continued talking about Raimi and Abrams said Evil Dead 2 is also one of his favorite films.

Wright then talked about his first feature called A Fistfull of Fingers and how he made it for 11,000 pounds.  Said he isn’t all together happy with it but that he learned a lot while making the film – especially not to try and do the same joke over again with the same actors and on the same location.  He went on to call it a “cautionary tale.”

Edgar Wright Does TV

edgar_wright_image1But while he might have issues with the film (shot over 21 days), it was this film that got him into TV as Matt Lucas saw it and brought him into the TV world at age 24 in 1996.

Wright explained that he did 3 years of TV and how he developed his style of fast editing.

Says Raising Arizona is his favorite movie.

They showed an extended clip from Spaced (which is such a brilliant show that if you’re reading this and have not seen it, buy it today).  After the clip ended everyone was clapping.

Abrams asks what is Wright’s least favorite thing about Simon Pegg.  Gets a laugh but then they talked seriously.  Wright explains how everyone involved in Spaced was acting their real age and that really helped the show feel authentic.  He went on to say that they didn’t have any interference from the network while making it and that they shot all 7 episodes together.  That meant when they shot a location, they shot every scene at that location for all 7 episodes at the same time.

Wright said while the reaction to Spaced was good, it was after episode 3 that he discovered a fan site to the show online – which was at the beginning of the online universe.  Also said it was really DVD that got many folks into the show.

He’s happy they didn’t make a third season

The zombie scene in Spaced was a big factor in getting Pegg and Wright together for a feature film as they talked about making a movie that day.

Wright told a funny story about the camera man on the zombie shooting day saying something like “there is nothing from today that I would put on my reel.”  Wright said hearing that really depressed him and when they got into the editing room, they cut that scene first.

Shaun of the Dead

shaun_of_the_dead_simon_pegg_and_nick_frostTalked about playing video games and how he used to be a gamer. (he’s not anymore).  Told a story about how he used to play Resident Evil 2 all the time and he’d have all night gaming sessions.  So at 6am he used to go outside to get the paper and the streets were empty and he’d wonder what would happen if the zombie apocalypse were to happen.  (If you ever hear from someone video games don’t lead to great ideas, tell them this story!)

Writing Shaun of the Dead took a few years and while they were writing it he shot a bunch of music videos.  While making them, he tried out new ideas like long steady cam shots so he’d be comfortable with them when doing a feature.

After talking for a little while, they showed two videos that Wright directed.

Wright explained how tough it was to get the money for Shaun.  Told a funny story about how he kept all his rejection letters and how one of the studios that rejected it spoke to him after seeing Shaun and thought he had changed the script and the ending.  Wright said it was exactly what they wrote and he offered to send him the script again.

Abrams talked about his love of Shaun of the Dead.  Said one of his favorite moments is the clip of Shaun going into the Winchester after he’s broken up with Liz and how everything is set up there without the characters knowledge of what’s going on. He called it the scene filled with “code.”

They showed 3 clips from Shaun of the Dead

Wright said the first day of the shoot was the long steady cam shot of Simon Pegg going to the convenience store.  They shot the dirty version first and then they cleaned it up for the clean versions.  Said the location was never closed so it was a huge challenge to shot the scene.  Also said the store was actually open when they were shooting the scene!  He also said he wanted to film that scene on the first day so the crew would know they were trying to do something special.

Wright talked about his love/hate relationship with London

Talked about George Romero’s reaction to Shaun of the Dead (which he loved) and how when Universal sent him the print to watch the film, they also had a security guard watching the movie with him because they were nervous about security.  Wright explained it was funny to think anyone thought Romero would pirate the movie.

Hot Fuzz

Since the night was getting late, things started to speed up when simon_pegg_stars_in_edgar_wright_s_new_action_comedy_hot_fuzzthey got to Hot Fuzz.

Wright explained how they probably did more research than they needed to when writing Hot Fuzz.

They filmed some of Hot Fuzz in Wright’s home town.

Told a funny story about how his mom is a conspiracy theorist and how his home town was full of free mason’s and they weren’t exactly quiet about it.

Showed some clips of Hot Fuzz

Don’t – Grindhouse trailer

Wright said that he basically did the trailer for free

Shot it over 2 and a half days

Loved doing it as it was all money shots

Said when he turned in the script, Tarantino said he was first one finished as the movie script still wasn’t done

Showed the trailer

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Talked about how he was given the book back in ’94 while out promoting Shaun of the Dead

Called the book the “dream scene that never ends”

While the evening was filled with clips most of us had seen, Wright brought along 9 minutes from Scott Pilgrim!!! The scene started with Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) and Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in his apartment talking and they eventually go for a walk and end up where Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) is filming his movie and then the battle ensues.  They were talking about Romona’s new hair color and Scott Pilgrim’s haircut…

While some of the scene has been in the trailers, the opening was all new footage.  What was great about the clip was how fast the editing was and how it seemed like all the air between the characters and the situations was removed.  If the rest of the film is like the clip I saw, holy shit is this movie going to be a fast ride.  Also, any debate that Michael Cera isn’t the perfect Scott Pilgrim…you can stop that conversation right now as you’re wrong.  He looked perfect in the part.

The other thing that I LOVED were all the comic book moments on the screen.  I wish I could properly describe the way Edgar Wright has perfectly captured the Scott Pilgrim comic book and moved it onto the screen. You’ll just have to trust me when I say I was VERY impressed with the footage and I think fans are going to freak out on August 13.

Wright talked about all the casting and how Michael Cera did a ton of his own stunts.  He also said it was funny that the two people that have done a lot of stunt work in the past (Brandon Routh and Chris Evans) didn’t have that much action in Scott Pilgrim, and the rest of the cast did.

Audience Q&A

Since it was getting really late, Wright took only a few questions from the audience.  Talked about how he maintained creative control on a big studio movie.  Also said they almost shot the movie in NYC due to tax breaks, but they ultimately did it in Toronto.  Was also asked how tough was it to adapt something that wasn’t done yet.  He explained the books will be canon, but the movie and the video game will be nice extras (or something like that).

Said they shot a bit of test footage over 3 days for Scott Pilgrim to show the studio and the footage was a huge help in getting the film made.  It should be on the DVD.

LAFF Edgar Wright Saves the World with JJ AbramsScott Pilgrim Viral Shorts

The last bit of awesome was Wright premiering a viral short for Scott Pilgrim called “Love.”  The short was more atmosphere than story, and it featured Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), Scott Pilgrim and Romona Flowers with some very cool editing and the word love floating on screen. Trust me, when you see the short, you’ll understand why it’s hard to explain.

Wright said there are 7 viral shorts and they’re coming soon.

What I loved about the short is that it showed part of the movie without ruining any scene.  Great clip.

Final Thoughts

While the Los Angeles Film Festival is still growing and it’s not on the level of a Sundance or Cannes, with events like last night’s Edgar Wright Saves the World, it’s a huge step forward for the Festival.  Also, with the new LA Live downtown (where it was held), I think the Festival has landed a great location that’s definitely worth checking out.

And regarding the actual 2 hr event, getting to see J.J. Abrams as an interviewer and Edgar Wright talking about his career was something special.  Maybe next year they can reverse it and have Wright asking Abrams the questions….

hot_fuzz_movie_image_simon_pegg__nick_frost_and_edgar_wright




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