Post Magazine

December 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 17 of 51

DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 16 POST DECEMBER 2015 he multi-faceted Peter Landesman is a director and screenwriter (2014's Kill the Messenger, 2013's Parkland), an award-winning journalist, author and painter. The latest addition to his extensive resume is Concussion, the new timely and topical sports drama out Christmas Day, which he wrote and directed. Starring Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Luke Wilson, David Morse and Albert Brooks, Concussion deals with the controversial subject of brain damage suffered by pro football players and the David vs. Goliath battle that erupted between the real life forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Smith) and the NFL, who fought hard to suppress his research on CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Landesman's behind-the-scenes cre- ative team included director of photogra- phy Salvatore Totino (Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code), Oscar-winning editor William Goldenberg (Argo), and VFX supervisor Jamie Dixon (Prometheus, Tropic Thunder). Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, the director talks about making the film, dealing with all the effects, and his love of post. The film doesn't pull any punches in dealing with the NFL. Given that this is such a controversial subject, how nervous were you about taking this on, and what sort of film did you set out to make? "To be honest, I never gave the NFL a second thought. When I was a journalist and war correspondent, I was dealing with real battlefields, real bullets, real murderers. The NFL's a powerful, corpo- rate institution, but ultimately, it's about entertainment. And more importantly, we were protected by the truth, and we stayed focused on that — and what's even emotionally true when it comes to performance. I wanted to make a com- plex film, and to avoid one infused with self-importance as that's so boring and self-righteous. I wanted to wrap a thriller and sense of suspense around a serious issue that also informs and entertains." Most of the blame obviously belongs with the NFL, but aren't the media and fans also partly complicit? "Absolutely. We're all like silent partners in this scandal. No one wanted to hear the truth because of the game's popular- ity and all the money involved." Will Smith's character is based on the real-life Dr. Omalu. As the writer, did you feel an added sense of responsibility because of that? "I spent a lot of time with the real Dr. Omalu, but I feel my responsibility as a writer and director is really to the most honest version of the character, wheth- er it's real or imagined, and the larger obligation is to the whole movie. You can be paralyzed by feeling you have to 'do right' by someone, and sometimes mov- ies about real people disappoint those people. But that wasn't the case here. Everyone involved loved the film." Ridley Scott produced this after being set to direct it. How involved was he and how did he help you? "He was shooting The Martian simultane- ously to this, so he had his hands full, but he created this protective bubble around me. He was my mentor watching over the whole production, and he injected great passion and had the foresight to see that this was a story that had to be told. And he's so experienced as a pro- ducer and taught me so much." What were the main technical challenges of pulling all this together? "At the start I had scheduled shooting all the football scenes in the film with real players, which would have been great in some ways, but at the end of the day I decided to just go with the real foot- age, as you can't top the real thing. And I think it was the right decision. How tough was the prep and shoot? It's al- ways tough, and by the end you're all so exhausted. It was a 56-day shoot, which is fairly long, but I had a great DP and crew, and everyone kept the energy up." Do you like the post process? "I absolutely love it. Look, you make all these different movies on one single film — the one you write, the one you prepare, the one you shoot, the one you edit, and in post it's you with a whole new partner. Instead of a big cast and crew, it's just you and the editor, and then the composer and sound guys and colorist. It's a far more intimate experi- ence. You take the hope you take into the shoot, and the footage you got, and then you sit down and find the film you really have — not the movie you hoped to make but the one you actually shot. And sometimes you're surprised in post, sometimes you're disappointed, but it's completely within your control to start molding it. It's far less brutish than shoot- ing, which is almost blue collar work, and far more intellectual and refined." Where did you do the post? "We did all the editing at Ridley's com- pany, Scott Free, in LA. And then we did PETER LANDESMAN: CONCUSSION T ADDRESSING THE REALITY OF FOOTBALL- RELATED BRAIN INJURIES BY IAIN BLAIR (L to R) Actor Will Smith, the real Dr. Bennet Omalu and director Peter Landesman.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - December 2015