Director Neil Jordan Talks BYZANTIUM, the Vampire Genre, TWILIGHT, THE BORGIAS and More at TIFF

     September 14, 2012

Neil-Jordan-byzantium-interview-sliceOne of the many films to premier at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was director Neil Jordan‘s vampire movie ByzantiumStarring Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley, Caleb Landry Jones and Jonny Lee Miller, the film’s about the tension between mother and daughter vampires over their code of secrecy.  Here’s the full synopsis and the first clip.

Shortly before the premiere, I was able to speak with Neil Jordan.  We talked about TIFF, how Byzantium came together, did the film change during production, the current popularity of the vampire genre, his opinion of the first Twilight movie, his love of the ARRI ALEXA digital camera, deleted scenes, extended cuts, The Borgias, and a lot more.  Hit the jump for what he had to say.

Finally, IFC Films picked up Byzantium, so you can expect to see it at some point down the road.

neil-jordan-imageNeil Jordan Time Index:

  • 0:15 – Neil Jordan talks about what it means to be in Toronto, where his wife and her family are from, and at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival specifically.  He calls it a “beast of a festival” and contrasts it to Cannes and Venice.  He says it’s a great place to show films since the audiences are so responsive and filmmakers can figure out what the North American distribution should be.
  • 1:20 – Jordan reveals that he loved the possibility in the script and was told it would be fully financed.  He goes on to talk about the film’s financial difficulties that occurred and how that affected his job as a director.
  • 2:15 – Regarding how much the script for Byzantium had changed over the course of production, Jordan reflects on its evolution from the original play to the finished product.  He says the play didn’t exactly belong to the genre of horror and he wanted to take it more of a haunting direction, to make it “frightening, bloody and real.”
  • 3:30 – Jordan talked about how he got into the vampire genre.  His introduction came through Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire.”  Jordan says Rice should take the credit for society’s current obsession with vampires.
  • byzantium-saoirse-ronan4:30 – Jordan goes on to talk about his opinion of the first Twilight movie.
  • 4:50 – For filming, Jordan talks about going digital and using the ARRI ALEXA camera.  He says it’s “changed the game” and compares it to other cameras on the market, including his previous experience with digital cameras.  He also laments the passing of film.
  • 5:35 – Jordan talks about using vintage lenses on contemporary digital cameras and says he’d love to use an anamorphic lens.
  • 5:55 – Jordan talks about the editing process for Byzantium alongside the dwindling nature of theaters that still show film.
  • 6:50 – Jordan goes on to talk about filming with the camera, saying “there’s just something about it.”
  • 7:15 – Regarding deleted scenes, Jordan says they had quite a few but nothing major.  Most of the material came out of editing between the present and the past, which was a process of finding out which was the main story.
  • 8:00 – Jordan touts the writing by Moira Buffini as central to the balance in the story of Byzantium.
  • byzantium-gemma-arterton8:15 – Jordan talks about extended cuts on Blu-rays, saying he would only release an extended cut if he was forced to make edits , but he had final cut on Byzantium.
  • 8:55 – Jordan’s kids are his first critics when it comes to “friends and family” screenings, though he says they’re not always all that interested to see his movies.
  • 9:20 – Speaking of kids as critics, Jordan makes a point that general audiences are not enthusiastic about what studios are churning out these days, choosing to spend their time investing in cable series and television shows.
  • 9:50 – TV is very good now, but Jordan says that is “almost sad in a way.”  But he also appreciates the power given to a writer on a TV production.
  • 10:50 – Jordan will probably not return to TV soon because of the time commitment.  He only turned a movie script into the series The Borgias after a suggestion from DreamWorks.
  • 11:30 – Jordan’s one-line pitch for Byzantium: “It’s kind of a feminist vampire parable.”


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