Trumbull back in saddle

Director, f/x supervisor has projects in works

LAS VEGAS – Like lovers reuniting after awkward years apart, Douglas Trumbull and Hollywood are back together.

Trumbull — the keynote speaker at Sunday’s NAB session “Filmmaker’s Views on Advance in Image and Sound” — was a director and f/x supervisor who gave up feature filmmaking and moved into entertainment tech research after a traumatic experience on his 1983 pic “Brainstorm,” in which his star Natalie Wood died under mysterious circumstances.

He pioneered higher frame rates, developing the Show-scan system that ran at 60 frames per second, but Hollywood didn’t take it up, he says, because neither studios nor exhibitors were willing to change to 60p without the other going first.

Now there’s finally a push for higher frame rates, and Trumbull, excited by the potential he saw in “Avatar,” wants to make movies again.

“I’m back in the saddle,” Trumbull told Variety. “I’ve got two screenplays I’m almost finished on, and I’m going to be using some really extreme new digital technologies.” He says he plans to shoot live-action but use virtual sets to slash costs and shoot as many as 100 setups a day.

Trumbull laments that since he was a young movie fan, inspired by Stanley Kubrick, “the industry stopped 70mm, stopped Cinerama and multiplexed itself into oblivion.” He says the industry should be directing and editing in a new cinematic language.

“I think that’s going to get people back into theaters, because I think frankly people are kind of bored. They see the same-old, same-old formula all the time. You see your master shots and your two-shots and your over-shoulder and your closeups and your inserts, and everybody says, ‘I’ve seen that a billion times. … And so along comes ‘Avatar’ that does something new, and it’s the biggest-grossing film of all time. So there’s a message.”

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