DISTRICT 9 Director Neill Blomkamp Talks About His Next Project, Making Movies on a Budget, and What the Future Holds

     January 4, 2010


If you were among the masses that made District 9 one of last summer’s sleeper hits, you’ll be pleased to know that director Neill Blomkamp has more sci-fi awesomeness on the way. Unfortunately, that’s all we know at this point. In an interview at LA Times’ Hero Complex blog, Blomkamp was pretty much mum on the premise of his next flick, saying only that “it is science fiction and it has many sociopolitical ideas that interest me. Those ideas are wrapped up inside something that is like a Hollywood action film.” Two financial details that we are afforded are that the new flick is being financed by a group called Media Rights Capital and will have a bigger budget than District 9.

After directing one of the summer’s biggest hits on a shoestring budget, Blomkamp’s prospects in Hollywood are looking good. The financial success coupled with the fact that the film was universally praised for its intelligence, ingenuity, and visual brilliance naturally has many looking forward to bigger and better things to come from the young South African. However, in the interview, Blomkamp tells us why we might be disappointed on the “bigger” front. Hit the jump to find out why he prefers working with a smaller budget as well as what types of projects we can expect to see him involved with down the road.

district_9_official_movie_poster_02_.jpgFirst, with regard to budgets:

“I’ve been offered films – a lot of films, in fact – with seriously high budgets, and I’ve turned them all down. The reason is exactly what you said earlier: Once the budgets get bigger, you can’t do what you want as a director, unless you’re Peter Jackson or James Cameron. And even then, the pressure is still on the filmmaker. Even if the studio isn’t clamping down on you, all the pressure is on the director. And if you screw that up, the jeopardy situation is even worse. The way you don’t get yourself in that jeopardy situation is by making films that aren’t as risky financially. I just want to make films that have enough of a budget to pull off high-level imagery but also have a budget that is low enough that I can do what I want.”

“This next movie will cost more than “District 9″ but it will cost much, much less than the big summer films. You can do a lot for less now. It’s all about process, too. If go into it knowing what you want to accomplish, you can save money. If you go into it trying to figure out what you want, it’s going to cost a lot of money. The other aspect is trimming it down. It’s like a diet. Instead of 2,000 effects shots, you can probably do with 1,000. Those kinds of sacrifices are worth it if you get to make something that is not in any way generic.”

Interesting way of looking at it. He’s certainly right about pressure rising in concert with funding and about the “jeopardy” it places directors in. Last April, /Film had an interesting take on the mass exodus of burgeoning (and therefore expensive) young starlets from Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch that occurred after Snyder’s big-budget pic Watchmen failed to meet studio expectations. Most directors are willing to take the risk for the enhancements in quality (particularly visual quality) and higher profile actors that larger budgets offer. However, the 30-mill-produced District 9 is one of the best-looking sci-fi films I’ve seen, and if Blomkamp is content doing his thing without a Titanic budget, I say more power to him.

Lastly, in the segment below, the director goes into what he’d be interested in doing beyond the immediate future; in short, pretty much everything, but with a particular focus on sci-fi and horror.

“Science fiction interests me massively. There are two reasons for that. There are loads of sociopolitical, racial, class and future-planet situations that really interest me, but I’m not really interested in making a film about them in a film that feels like reality because people view that in a different way. I like using science fiction to talk about subjects through the veneer of science fiction. The other reason is I’m like a total visual kid. I grew up as an artist. Science fiction allows for design and creatures and guns and all the stuff that I like as well. So I think most of the films I make, I’m sure, will be in that category. But I can also see myself making a film like “Black Hawk Down” and I could also totally do horror. Science fiction and horror, that right there is my optimum. I can see myself doing out-there comedy like Monty Python, absolutely, I would love that. Seriously.”

For me, Blomkamp immediately became a director to watch after I saw District 9 over the summer. Upon reading this article, I’m even more intrigued by his potential. The combination of his varied interests with his devotion to quality filmmaking and apparent talent for anchoring spectacular visuals with depth and poignancy has me thinking that he might just be the next Ridley Scott.

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