Helmer urges noms' panel to embrace new technologies including 3D

Martin Scorsese believes “Hugo,” a 3D film set in the year 1930, is a precursor — one that shows his fellow directors need to adjust to 21st century technologies as soon as possible.

“3D is not a gimmick,” Scorsese asserted at Saturday’s Directors Guild of America panel for nominees for the guild’s feature award. “It’s the way we see life. Use it.”

Scorsese told the capacity crowd of more than 400 at the DGA headquarters that his enthusiasm for 3D goes back to his youth — even before such films as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder.”

“I’m a 3D fanatic,” he added. “It goes back to the Viewmaster.”

Asked by moderator Jeremy Kagan what advice he’d give to young directors, Scorsese first turned to humor and said that if a director needs a dog to kiss an actor’s face, sardine oil does the trick. The director, who’s won DGA awards for “The Departed” and “Boardwalk Empire,” then turned serious and emphasized that directors need to stay current with how films can be shot and exhibited.

“Keep an open mind about new technology because that’s where this is going,” he urged.

The panel also featured Michel Hazanavicius of “The Artist,” Alexander Payne of “The Descendants” and David Fincher of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Woody Allen, nommed for “Midnight in Paris,” was a no-show, and DGA prexy Taylor Hackford drew a big laugh when he introduced the panel at the start of the event. “Woody Allen can’t be with us because he can’t go out in public,” Hackford said.

The quartet dissected the intricacies of their films, addressing such issues as dealing with actors, story structure and the agonies of editing. Hazanavicius stressed the challenges of getting the story right in order to make a silent film — such as a key scene in which actor Jean Dujardin admires Berenice Bejo.

“If it had sound, the scene would not be as effective,” he added. “The less I do as a director, the more people get involved — that’s how silent films worked. I have to tell the story in the most efficient way possible.”

Hazanavicius asserted that the story itself required that he make a silent film. “There were no bad guys,” he noted. “The antagonist in the story is sound.”

Payne sought to give credit to his longtime editor Kevin Tent, who was nommed for an editing Oscar on “The Descendants.” “He’s helpless without me, and I’m helpless without him,” he added.

Payne stressed that Hawaiian landscapes played a major role in his film. “I wanted to get a feeling of life in the islands, because the overwhelming sense of nature makes you feel puny — in a good way,” he added.

He also admitted that the key beach sunrise scene, in which George Clooney’s character finds Matthew Lillard running, was a happy accident. “The gods smiled on me that day,” he added.

Fincher credited star Rooney Mara with meeting the challenge of a demanding role, noting that she learned how to skateboard, motorcycle and smoke for the Lisbeth Salander part — to say nothing of acting in a pair of rape scenes.

“I work to find a way that they can unleash themselves,” he added.

Scorsese recalled that his key breakthrough with longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker came after the fourth test screening on “Hugo.”

“We cut out most of the exposition because we realized we didn’t need it,” Scorsese said. “We locked ourselves away for four weeks because we knew what we needed to do.”

Hazanavicius underlined Scorsese’s point that the editing process is stressful.

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