Hey all, We got David from Damngoodcup to interview Rupert Sander fo us and heres what was said. So Read on dear cinefools.
David: We’re online media, so we’re more interested in the filmmaking aspects, than what the cast did at lunch.
Sanders: I never saw them at lunch!
David: I figure it would be best to start with you as a filmmaker. With all your commercial work, with X-Box and all that stuff - but before that - how you even got into commercial work to begin with.
Sanders: Well I went to art college in London, I didn’t really...I was doing graphic design. And then I went to America where I was kind of just bowling about really. I ended up meeting a girl who worked for Tony Kaye; who was a big commercial director; who made a film called ‘American History X.’ Tony was filming - filming from a helicopter. Filming a jet, a jet flying ten feet above a formula one racing car.
There was a second unit, there was just this chaos. And I was like wow! This is amazing! And this was the very first film set I had ever been on. So I got to know Tony, and he said I should go to London and try to become a director. So I did, I went and I wrote a - I realized I didn’t have a showreel, so I didn’t have anyone to hire me - so I went and wrote a small spec script that I shot for like 600 pounds for Sony Walkman; and then I sold it for 35,000 pounds. And then I took it to Tony and he took me on. And then you know; slowly over the months, and then the years, I just started getting more and more work, with bigger budgets, more interesting - you know - scripts! Because without scripts you’re polishing turds really.
So I did a bit of turd polishing for a while!
And then I started getting enough work off of the reel; that people started hiring me for other things.
David: And from there did you segway into the big commercial stuff?
Sanders: It took about ten years. It takes a long time. You know, every script you get; you just get a bit better. You get some awards, and once you get awards that brings other work. We were lucky. The first ‘Halo’ commercial we did won two golden lions at Cannes. So when that kind of thing stirs up, you get more kinds of work coming in from that. So really you know, it was just hard work.
David: So did that lead straight into ‘Snow White’ or were there other feature films you were chasing?
Sanders: Nah, I mean I was looking at other things. I’d been on a couple of other things that I didn’t get. Things I developed that got turned down. You’ve just got to brush yourself off and get back up again. You know, keep coming back up over the hill and hopefully you wont keep getting knocked down it. Then [Snow White] happened, and it kind of paid off.
David: So once you get onboard ‘Snow White,’ Is a movie of that size already half planned? What’s the state of it once you come on?
Sanders: When I came on it was just a script. So there was very little there. The script was over there, and I wanted it to be here. So I did a lot of work on the script, and it was all about designing the world - and then putting that back into the script. Each one would feed each other, so it was, you know, it was a fun process.
David: This might seem like a strange question, but how do you handle a film of this size, coming from commercial work?
Sanders: It’s very similar to be honest. You’re dealing with a lot of people on a big commercial. You’re dealing with all the same departments on a film, except those departments just fan out a lot deeper. You’re dealing with 20 grips on a commercial, and like 200 on a film. 10 horses on a commercial, 200 in a film. It’s the same language, it’s the same, you know, you have to gain the respect of the people, you have to get the best out of the people, whether you have ten of them, or a thousand of them. It’s the same skill-set.
You have to be very practically minded, and you have to be - to be a director on this kind of film, you have to have many more facets to you than just being artistic.
So it’s just about the management, the problem solving, the politics, the story, the actors, the construction... you know, there are so many different things going on, and that’s to deal with.
David: You’re talking about politics with actors, and things like that. Do you favor working with the actors, or is the visual aspect, or are you somewhere in between?
Sanders: Well, to me, if the actors aren’t doing well, then nothing you are going to be putting into the visuals will work. The story has to blossom from the characters. And to me the most exciting thing was to get to work with the actors.
David: In particular, say Charlize Theron? I ask because she was my highlight of the cast - aside from the dwarves.
Sanders: Every different actor is like a different relationship. It’s just about getting the best out of each one, and finding the style that they work in. And how to get the best out of them. So you know, It’s a fun part of the process.
David: Did anything with what the actors said to you, lead to different performance choices?
Sanders: Well yeah. I mean, a lot of direction is conversation. You know, a lot of the work that I did later on with the script came from discussions with Kristen (Stewart) or Chris (Hemsworth), Charlize (Theron). We just steadily got to a point, and then once we were shooting we would reference those conversations, and talk about things that we had discussed. saying ‘maybe we should do this thing like that, remember how we said...” You just have to keep a good dialogue going.
David: Is there anything in particular you could point to?
Sanders: So much of it came from that! That to me, is a nice way to direct. The problems happen in films when the communication between actors and directors break down. And if you’re not having those kinds of conversations outside the work environment - because then - when you come into work, neither of you know what each other is talking about.
David: And I could imagine that would be stressful because you’re working for so many months and days.
Sanders: Yeah! And I got lucky, because I got along well with everybody, and I got along well with all the other actors.
David: So leading on from that, when you’ve got scenes, like in particular in my mind: the mirror on the wall. and how you’ve made it into an actual figure. And at one point - without spoiling - it’s almost a hallucination of the Wicked Queen
Sanders: She’s psychotic. She’s seeing things, hearing things. She’s acting from a position of fear. Stuff is getting to her. And she feels she is losing her grasp on her power. That’s terrifying to her and you start to see that coming through slowly. There’s no-one around for her to talk to, to support her. For her to trust. so her mind starts to slip away.
David: Another strange question: There’s a lot of strange drug imagery in movie -
David: Particularly a lot of strange hallucinations - like before talking about the mirror. Was that a conscious decision?
Sanders: Well, I like hallucinating!
Sanders: I dunno, I think there is something about fairy tales, that are hallucinogenic. Something in the way they are portrayed in film. You could argue that even in Disney, there is a trip sequence when she heads into the dark forest. Those eyes. Those branches.You know, I think there is something, somehow in all the Gustav Dore, and the Arthur Rackham illustrations - there is like images within images. Trees with faces and hands and I like that kind of stuff. I respond to that. So that’s really where all of that came from.
David: Cool. Is there a similar thing to the portrayal of Snow White herself? Being a strong female character? Because what I noticed in the film was that she tends to help herself through the whole way.
Sanders: Well, yeah.
David: And even for it being tagged: ‘And The Huntsman’ it’s still very much a Snow White story.
Sanders: Yeah, she’s the driving force. I think she is a leader, and she is able to inspire good in others and they seem to find there way again alongside her, and I think that’s very exciting. There’s too many portrayals of women in film where they are just waiting for someone to help them, and that wasn’t the Snow White that we wanted. We wanted someone who was going their own way. She was making the choices and not waiting for others to help her.
David: Was this something you discussed with Kristen Stewart, particularly considering her coming from The ‘Twilight’ films.
Sanders: Well, we didn’t really talk about her film anthology. We both knew what the character was early on and the more we discussed it, you know, it was great seeing through her eyes what she felt happened to the kingdom, what happened to the people and how that was the thing that really scared her. Because that’s what being the daughter of a queen is like- you know, your father builds a kingdom and builds the trust of those people - and then you see those people, you know, living in ruin. And that really affected her. Those were the things that were really interesting to play with.
David: And with the dwarves, was it a conscious decision to cast non-little people?
Sanders: Yeah, I mean what is a fairy-tale dwarf? It’s not necessarily a little person. I liked the idea of getting this great cast of comrades, tough guys with big hearts. You feel like they are a family when you first meet them. It’s funny seeing them in a different way than we are used to seeing them. It’s nice. They don’t really have that many - they are more proportionate...they aren’t really little people. They are fairy tale dwarves. But they were fun to work with.
David: Did you have a particular scene you enjoyed with them?
Sanders: No, I mean, I found them funny the whole way through.
David: They have this amazing chemistry.
Sanders: They do! They’ve all worked together before. They all know each other. Ray (Winstone) and Johnny Harris; they used to box together. So they have this kind of banter. Most of them are from the east end of London, so they are very good at taking the piss out of each other, and they’re very funny. They created great character for themselves.
David: So I just have to ask a couple more questions, more about advice you would have for aspiring filmmakers?
Sanders: The thing is - the thing that always held me up - was not wanting to be wrong, not wanting to do something that was wrong. Like, I wouldn’t do things, and then wonder why nobody was coming to me. You just have to keep creating. And nowadays with the internet, you are far more likely to get found than I was to be at my age. Because at my age you had to take a cart around to all these people to show them the work. But now if you do something, and it sparks a fire online, it can be huge.
You just have to build on that. The other piece of advice is to get onto film sets. You know, if you are coming on to a film set as a runner in the art department. You are meeting the people in the camera department, sound department, grip department - and all those people want to go up to the next stage.
So you know, find a group of people who you get a long with - that all do different things - and then you’ve got the skill set to make things. And that’s really important. Whenever I have assistants, or some people that come onto set and say to me ‘how do I get ahead?’ I always say: ‘go talk to that guy’ and point to this guy: ‘He wants to be a director of photography’. Or that guy ‘he wants to be an actor’. Get a group of people your age and you can work up together. Just keep doing stuff.
David: Would you suggest independent film as a way to go?
Sanders: Some people come from writing, some people come from independent film, some people come from TV. With my case, it’s been a weird one. It doesn’t happen that often. I wouldn’t say to a bunch of young aspiring filmmakers: ‘you’ve got to go out and get a 170 million dollar movie.’ You know, you just - if you land up in commercials do commercials. If you land up in independent film do that. I mean, you know, I’ve got one kind of skill-set, other people have a very different kind of skill-set. There’s many ways to get there.
The publicist comes in to let us know we’ve got time for one more question.
David: I’ve got time for one more question. With your upcoming projects; I saw on IMDB that you’ve got one called ‘the untitled rupert sanders project’ - I was wondering if that was a personal one?
Sanders: I’ve got a few personal projects that are coming. That are just starting to come through. I was working on stuff before ‘Snow White,’ and some of those are now coming - I’d love to do something in the science fiction world. I’d love to do something in the crime-thriller world. so those are two areas I’m looking at at the moment.
David: Is there anything specific you might move into?
Sanders: No, not really. I mean, I’m currently writing the sequel to ‘Snow White.’ So I’m just going to keep everything going forward and see what comes out first. You’ve always got to have a few different fingers in a few different pies, because you never quite know what’s a go and what’s not.
David: Well, thanks Rupert.
Sanders: No thanks to you, nice to meet you. Take it easy.
So thanks to Dave and Rupert for the interviews. Check out the review here and go check out Snow White and the huntsman out in cinema now.