DKIT Creative Media Student Wins Internship with Director John Moore

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Kinga Grabarczyk, who has just completed the BA (Hons) in Video & Film Production in the Section of Creative Media, Dundalk Institute of Technology, was one of the recent winners of the John Moore Film Award, following her role in the creation of the short film And Out of War… last year, is starting an internship with John Moore in Dublin on the set of his recent film.

To win the internship, Kinga had to submit her showreel and an essay discussing the following – ” Is a director’s vision actually crucial to the success of modern, commercial movies such as “Ironman”?

This is the second time a Creative Media student has been given an internship with John – recent graduate Blaine Rennicks spent some time with John on set in Budapest on the latest Die Hard film a number of years ago.

John, a Dundalk native, continues his relationship with DKIT through his yearly John Moore Film Award. This award is given to the best short film made by students on the third or fourth year of the BA & BA (Hons) in Video & Film Production, as chosen by Director John Moore.

 

 

 

 

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Interview: John Moore

Johns Beard Directs CMYK

From Dundalk to Hollywood, John Moore has made quite a name for himself bringing action to the big screen. His feature film career began when he directed Gene Hackman in Behind Enemy Lines; he then remade the classic Flight of the Phoenix, shot a film version of Max Payne – a video game with over 11 million players, remade The Omen, an iconic horror, and has now directed the latest instalment of Die Hard.

Steven Galvin talks to the Irish director who’s making a big bang on the action scene.

You started off at Dublin Institute of Technology and spent time at Filmbase – can you tell us a bit about your memories of that time?

Well, happy, excited. Honestly, if I had stopped to think about it, I would have been terrified, would have thought ‘You better get a real job’. But there WAS this sense of ‘collective’. Remember, no mobile phones, no internet, no social networking so the only thing to do was gather at a coffee shop or at Filmbase (which was a run-down, wonderfully dusty little nook), and chat and feed off the collective belief that we could make stuff, make images, movies, music…so exciting. Honestly? I haven’t really captured that sense of wonderment since then. I think I was very lucky in that I was around a bunch of people, a little older than me and mostly Dubliners who I looked up to, thought were really smart, impressive individuals I could learn from – I felt genuinely grateful to be allowed ‘in’. It was SO damn exciting and we had nothing, really nothing: no money, not a lot of equipment… just this damn excitement that we could actually FILM something and that someone might watch it!!!

You then worked as a news cameraman and moved onto shooting commercials – that must have been a great learning curve.

Well, what happened was a short intro to video camera stuff at RTÉ, then SKY was allowing guys to be around camera, then a rejection from the BBC, and then we formed the ClingFilms collective, consisting of Harry Purdue, Paul Fitzgerald, Damien O’ Donnell and myself. We’d all been at Rathmines together and so we did our thing in music videos for a while, some shorts including the wonderful 35 Aside, which Damien wrote and directed. I started working as an assistant cameraman or clapper loader during that wonderful boom in Irish production in the early- and mid-1990s. I then did some fake commercials to get a showreel going and got picked up to go work in South Africa. They were just emerging from the apartheid regime and their economy and advertising industry really boomed. Exciting times – I didn’t really know what I was doing: 25, in a strange city, alone! But I knuckled through, fake it ‘til you make it. Then I started getting work in Dublin, London and eventually the US and that work led to the movies. I was lucky.

Behind Enemy Lines was your first feature film – there’s an interesting story behind you getting that…

More luck. I did a relatively big commercial for a new games console (which promptly tanked, taking Sega with it!). It aired to some pomp and self-importance at the MTV Music Video Awards – remember this is 1999, music vids were bigger than the Oscars®! So the story goes that an executive at Fox saw the commercial and brought it to their boss, studio head Tom Rothman and he was working on making Behind Enemy Lines happen with producer John Davis (who has made some landmark movies like Predator and Waterworld) and they were looking for a director. They literally called me – I was shooting an Eircom commercial with Riss Russell in Budapest at the time. I jumped on a plane, met them and they hired me!

And was it daunting being in control of such a massive Hollywood production for an Irishman’s first feature?

Again, I didn’t stop to think. It was too exciting to be daunting. And I had gained a bit of experience by then, so I thought, ‘Just go for it’.

What was it like working with Gene Hackman?

Quite surreal but thrilling. He was so damn professional and kind, really all you have to do is point the camera at Gene and he does the rest. And I know how to point – everyone does!

Bruce and John Moores Beard use an ipad CMYK

Coming to Die Hard, what do you think it is about the series that has made it so successful?

Bruce – he’s charming and unique, real and identifiable. Harry Callaghan, Popeye Doyle, John McClane…

You’ve said that you made a conscious decision not to make it ‘overly jokey’.

Well, indeed. There’s no need: Bruce provides the unique John McClane brand of humor, so no need to pile on top of that. In fact, you go the other way: make it super-serious so that McClane’s humour plays in contrast.

What’s it been like working on a film of this scale?

I was lucky to have my first movie be relatively biggish, in terms of production, so this wasn’t anything we hadn’t attempted before. But it’s not easy, there’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re trying ideas for big stunts and action set-pieces, a lot of moving parts.

And working with Bruce Willis?

I started with Gene Hackman, went on through Dennis Quaid, Liev Schreiber and Mark Wahlberg, all tough, opinionated guys, good at what they do. So Bruce was a natural progression. I know what makes these guys tick.

You opened up the set of Die Hard to Dundalk Institute of Technology student Blaine Rennicks for two weeks.

Yep, something I hope more Irish directors, DOPs, etc. will do – pay it forward, pass the break along and help someone move forward in their career. It’s essential for the growth of the business that we do everything we can to ensure guys like Blaine get the help they deserve to develop a career. It’s an obligation, not voluntary.

You used miniatures on Flight of the Phoenix and have spoken about being on ‘dodgy ground’ with CGI. How did that work for you on Die Hard?

CGI improves almost exponentially – we had a good experience on Die Hard but we still did a huge amount of stunts live-action. Always will.

When you’re working on something so massive, do you ever have moments of ‘Jesus, I’m directing Die Hard!’?

Not really. Does the pilot of a 747 ever have moments of ‘Jesus, I’m flying a Jumbo!’? I hope not!

In general can you tell us a bit about directing action sequences?

Well, that’s a whole big, fun conversation, but the rule is: get great stunt guys who’ll really put it out there for you to film. Action is editing, so lots of cameras, please! And forget masters! You always end up cutting them to bits. That’s it, in short. Oh, and invest in some good ear protection.

What’s the draw for you directing action films?

I love the planning – the idea of being meticulous in the ridiculous. It’s a thrill to plan something for months, years even, and see it all come together in 30 seconds of wonderful, loud mayhem.

You’ve talked before about the fact that story and action don’t have to be mutually exclusive – can you say a little more about this?

What I meant by that was ‘integration’. Action should be a natural, ruling part of the story. A movie shouldn’t feel like it stops for a gratuitous action set-piece – though they often do and the film is the poorer for it. I’ve done it myself and regretted it.

Are there specific things you look for in a script?

Pages. And that they be unstoppably turnable.

What is the development process within the studio system like?

You’ve read Dante’s Inferno? It’s tough, horrible, but like Churchill said about democracy: it’s the worst system, apart from all the others.

How involved are you in the post-production process?

Totally and integrally – it’s the best, most creative, least stressful period of a film’s production. Get through shooting, you’ll be fine…

Would you like to take a break from action and take on a different sort of story – perhaps something on a smaller scale?

No– why would I? I love it – but I always am looking for the stories to be better. Zero Dark Thirty is an action movie.

You’ve worked outside of Ireland for most of your career – any plans to return to Ireland to make a film?

I just don’t really know how to answer that. Yes, but what use are plans? I’d love to, but it won’t come out of thin air. I need the right script, the right producer. That’s a hint for anyone reading this.

And finally, what advice would you have for Irish filmmakers working outside of Ireland?

None. Directors don’t take advice – that’s why they’re directors!

 

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland Magazine, Issue 144 in 2013.

 

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Cinema Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

  • DIR: John Moore  WRI Skip Woods   PRO: Alex Young  • DOP: Jonathan Sela • ED: Dan Zimmerman • DES: Daniel T. Dorrance • CAST: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

The decline of the Die Hard series continues unchecked with this empty cacophonous clanger that is so inert story-wise that no amount of explosions can blow the cobwebs away. In fact, let’s face it – the quality has nose dived since Die Hard with a Vengeance. That smart inventive second sequel proved irrefutably that action films can evolve away from the basic concept of a franchise while retaining real character, wit and heart.

The greatest charge levelled against Len Wiseman’s last pallid instalment was that it didn’t feel like a Die Hard film at all.  Any hope that our own John Moore could arrest that creative slide departs within moments of the start. In fairness to him, the incessant action is handled competently enough but the script can’t find any reason to have action. It just insists it takes place.  All the time. For no reason.

Therefore, the lion’s share of the blame falls on Skip Woods’ horrendously superficial screenplay. The credits haven’t even concluded by the time a tight knot of dread forms as the lazy action failsafe of a coveted ‘file’ is trotted out. In that moment, we know we are simply watching a chase film. There was a time when a chase was just a constituent consequence of story and plot that formed part of a film. Right now, chases are movie length and most of the time to paraphrase Morrissey – we are bored before we even begin. It’s definitely the case here So entire rooms, roads, buildings and city districts will be razed in pursuit of this MacGuffin ‘file’.  It serves only as an excuse for action but it’s a sorry excuse that doesn’t remotely justify or explain the carnage that follows.

Woods seems to have literally lost the plot because no plot exists bar John McClane travels to Moscow to visit his incarcerated son Jack.  Once there, Willis attempts to shake off jet lag by absorbing the full impact of not one but two vehicles in his seemingly crush proof chest. To rouse himself further, he spins a lorry over countless cars before emerging unscathed. All of the shattered glass in just this one sequence prompted a memory of the original Die Hard which brilliantly distinguished McClane as a vulnerable and human hero. The first film showed the damage caused by bare feet walking over broken glass. A simple scene that made us wince in empathy and admiration while making the audience feel genuine pain.

This film is painful too but it’s not the same thing. In this, car windows, chandeliers and glass ceilings exist only to explode or cascade. There is so little at stake that even the characters muse around the midway point that they have nothing at stake in the plot and could easily just leave.  When your ostensible heroes can freely walk away mid-film, something has gone horribly wrong on the screenplay side. Ideally, they should be locked in an inescapable escalating scenario and be compelled to continue.  Woods can’t even equip Willis with any decent quips. Sure, McClane talks away to himself in that established style of the series but now it seems more like the onset of dementia than cool movie patter.  Judging by Woods’ back catalogue which began vacuous with Swordfish and has stayed vacuous through turgid fare like Wolverine and Hitman, he seems chronically incapable of writing a decent line of dialogue. The sloppiness is summed up when Woods misplaces the entire city of Grenoble.

So this film bellows along punctured with predictable outbreaks of inconsequential action. A simple game can offset the boredom – the second Willis walks into any room guess how long it’s going to take before gunfire reduces the set to ribbons. Or predict which surface is going to inexplicably explode first. Throughout, the action is expensive rather than impressive. There is no tension, ingenuity or intelligence to how any fight begins or ends. And just to quench any notion of hope you may have, the middle of each fight is blandly uninspiring too. In fact, those are the worst bits. Where once exposition was skilful in this series, now it amount to characters walking past a swimming pool. Oh, I wonder if that will prove useful. The daftness never gets endearing either but culminates with Willis jumping in one window only to jump back out of it seconds later.

The increasingly convoluted titles are symptomatic of how awkward and forced these sequels have become but I’m honestly a huge fan of the first three films. Die Harder was the runt of the litter when there were only three but with each passing instalment, its’ stock grows. In my favourite sequel Die Hard with a Vengeance,  the action played out across the entire city of New York but still felt tense and important. This film is terse in terms of running time but there’s no tautness at all. Or personality. Wit, charm and heart have left the building and they ain’t coming back at this rate.

 

James Phelan


15A (see IFCO website for details)

97 mins

A Good Day to Die Hard is released on 15th February 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61UqRmDjwgc

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DKIT student wins internship with ‘Die Hard’ director

blaine rennicks

blaine rennicks

 

Blaine Rennicks, a 4th year student on the BA (Hons) in Video & Film Production has won an internal DKIT competition to spend 2 weeks on the set of the new Die Hard film, shooting this summer in locations across Europe. Blaine will join John Moore as the director’s intern on the set of the film in Budapest for 2 weeks from June 18th to July 2nd. John Moore, native of Dundalk, is director of Hollywood blockbusters such as Max Payne, The Omen & Behind Enemy Lines.

The selection process for the internship called for the students to submit a short showreel of their work thus far, along with an essay that examined the issue of political complacency and the spread of social media. John was very impressed by the standard of the showreels submitted by the students. The shortlisted students were then required to participate in a Skype interview, before Blaine was chosen as the winner.

 

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John Moore confirmed as ‘Die Hard 5’ director

Digital Spy have reported that Dundalk man John Moore has been confirmed as Die Hard 5 director.

Behind Enemy Lines director John Moore has been confirmed as the director of Die Hard 5.

After being linked to the movie earlier this year, it has been revealed that Moore was chosen after a long deliberation process by both 20th Century Fox and Bruce Willis to replace former director Noam Murro, who had to depart due to the high demands of making 300 prequel Xerxes.

According to Deadline, Willis was reportedly won over by Moore’s love for his character John McClane and his experience of shooting practical, non-computer-generated action sequences.

Die Hard 5 will see hero McClane team up with his son to foil criminal forces in Russia. The new script has been created by X-Men Origins: Wolverine writer Skip Woods.

Other directors previously believed to be linked to Die Hard 5 included Attack the Block‘s Joe Cornish, Fast Five director Justin Lin and Drive‘s Nicolas Winding Refn.

Filming is scheduled to begin in Russia later this year, before Willis moves on to shoot a Red sequel. He is currently also searching for a director for this sequel, with Breck Eisner among those linked to the project.

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Die Hard 5: Look of the Irish

20th Century Foxs Tom Rothman and John Moore at Max Payne Premier

It looks like the next installment of the iconic torn vests may be courtesy of an Irish man – director John Moore (Max Payne). The film was to be the baby of Noam Murro but apparently the strain of creating the 300 prequel has forced him to leave the project.

The script is by writer Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and centres on John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he teams up with his son when the Ruskies get up to their old tricks again.

So how many times can a man die hard? Willis plans to retire gracefully, vowing that 6 will be the magic number: “At the moment, I can run and I can fight on screen. But there will come a time when I no longer want to do that. That’s when I’ll step away from the Die Hard films.”

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