The Flix List: Four Best Film ‘Making-Of’ Documentaries

As a film lover and also a filmmaker wannabe, I love watching behind scenes stuff. It’s probably the closest thing for anyone to see what’s it like to be part of a film crew. Spike Lee once said in an interview, ‘had DVD existed when he was younger, he probably would never attended film school.’ He said you can learn so much from these behind the scenes documentaries that he recommended any film students to watch as much of them as possible.

My list contains the most in-depth look at how films were made and they’re at least 2 hours long, so you need to set some free time aside if you want to watch them. I’ll highlight the best part of each documentary.

1. The Making of Alien 3

This is probably the Holy Grail of behind the scenes docs, for years Fox kept it secret from the public because they didn’t want anyone to know what went on behind the scenes while Alien 3 was being filmed. The film was a box office disaster for them back in the early 90s and it almost destroyed David Fincher’s career.

You can find this documentary on the DVD version of Alien 3 or Blu-ray. I recommend you get the Blu-ray version because on the DVD, Fox edited out some of the segments where Fincher was bad mouthing their executives, while the Blu-ray version was uncut. It’s probably my favorite behind the scenes docs I’ve ever seen. They interviewed everyone who was involved in the project except Fincher, he disowned the film. Fox even invited him to come back and tell his side of the story but he refused since he didn’t want to re-live those ugly moments of his career.

Now if don’t have time to watch this documentary, you can read my earlier article of what went on behind the scenes of Alien 3.

2. The Making of Star Wars (Episode 4-6)

I assume if you’re a big Star Wars fan you’ve probably already seen the making of these films. Again I thought this was one of the best behind the scenes docs ever made, some of the highlights include:

  • Believe it or not, most of the Fox executives wanted to shut down the film because George Lucas was behind schedule. The film was set to come out in Christmas of 1976 but Lucas and his crew couldn’t finish it on time. Luckily for Lucas and film lovers everywhere, the president of Fox studios at the time was on Lucas’ side and told him to keep going and finish the film. Of course the rest is history but just think about how we came that close to never have seen a Star Wars film.
  • George Lucas had a heart attack during the shoot and he was only about 32 or 33 years old! He was so stressed out that Harrison Ford and the rest of the cast members tried to cheer him up every time they’re done shooting a scene. Lucas was constantly being pressured by the studio to finish the film and also had to deal with the harsh conditions of shooting in the desert.

    You can see some more behind-the-scenes pictures here.
  • The special effects team had to come up with new ways to shoot the space ships battle sequences. One of them said since there didn’t have stores like Best Buy, Dell or Apple back in those days, they had to build their own computers. Lucas hired a lot people right out of college, many of them graduated from MIT or Cal Tech.

Those are some of the good stuff you’ll see in the documentary, so if you have some free time I highly recommend you watch it.

3. The Making of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy

Another great in-depth look at how these mega budget films were made. You can find these documentaries on the DVD Extended Editions or Blu-ray. Some of the highlights were:

  • You get to see how Peter Jackson and his crew working together on the script and finding the cast for each roles in the films.

    Peter Jackson directing Viggo Mortensen
  • Jackson directed hundreds of people during the big battle in The Return of The King.
  • You can see how Gollum was created by the geniuses at Weta Digital.
  • My favorite part of the doc is when they showed Howard Shores score the films. I love the music of The Lord of the Rings films so to have seen how they created the music was so amazing. Below is one of the five-part video of the scoring process you can find on YouTube:

4. The Making of The Social Network

Another of David Fincher’s film made the list, only this time he was a willing participant. The Social Network was my favorite movie of last year and I thought for sure Fincher would finally win an Oscar for directing but he didn’t. Hopefully he’ll get the golden statue someday. This is probably the shortest documentary on the list but it was still an in dept look at how the film was made. Film students everywhere, I urge you to watch it. Here are some of the highlights you’ll see on the disc:

  • Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin had a couple of heated discussions about the motivations of certain characters in the film. They mostly fought about the relationship of Zuckerberg and his former best friend Eduardo Severin.

  • You’ll see Fincher directing his cast, it’s quite amazing to see how he listened to his actors and didn’t act like a dictator on the movie set. Usually a director of his status tends to be quite a mad man on the set and would tell his actors to do what he says or they’re fired.
  • The special effects crew showed how they placed Armie Hammer’s face over Josh Pence’s so they could be appear to be twins in the film.
  • Justin Timberlake talked about how he prepared to play the role of Sean Parker, even though he’d never met Sean Parker in person.

Well those are what I considered the best making of documentaries, have you seen any of them? Feel free to add any other documentaries that you have seen.

Guest Post – From Vision to Film: ALIEN 3

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Happy Friday all! It’s been nearly three months since we got a Vision-to-Film post from guest blogger Ted S. Last time we got the story on Superman Returns, and now we’ve got David Fincher’s Alien 3. I’ve been saving this to coincide with his recently-released Facebook movie The Social Network, as well as the upcoming Blu-ray release of the Alien Anthology coming on October 26th. The piece below could also be called the David Fincher story 😀

After the success of James Cameron’s Aliens, 20th Century Fox wanted to bring [the lead character] Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her nemesis back to the big screen by the summer of 1992. First they offered the project to Renny Harlin, but he had wanted to do Die Hard 2. So they brought in Vincent Ward to write and direct the picture instead. Before Ward came on board, there were several versions of the film that were pitched to the studio, in one version it focused entirely on Hicks, Bishop and Newt. The story would tie up loose ends from the preceding film with Newt returning to Earth to live with her grandparents, as well as Hicks and Bishop and a new team of Colonial Marines battling a rival faction of planets who use the Alien as a bio-weapon. Of course the studio didn’t greet light that version, probably because of budget concerns and the fact that Ripley was absent in the story.

In Ward’s version, the story involved a wooded planet and a group of monks who thought they were living in post-apocalyptic dark ages, and had a middle-ages lifestyle. The group refused all kinds of modern technology, and when Ripley and the alien crash-land on Earth they would blame Ripley for the alien attacks. Ripley was to be impregnated by the alien “the old-fashioned way” rather than through a face-hugger, and therefore being impregnated with a human-alien hybrid. According to the storyboards, she would dream of half human-half alien hybrids. Other storyboards included horse-alien and sheep-alien hybrids. Ward left the project after the producers insisted that he change the monks to prisoners and drop the wooded planet idea. In the documentary about this film, which is available on the special Alien Anthology edition released on DVD a few years back, the crew in London actually built sets of wooden planets for the shoot. A month before the shooting date, the studio told the crew to stop working while they look for a new director and rewrite the script.

David Fincher

So in order to make the summer of 1992 release date, Fox and the producers were scrambling to find another director, at one point Walter Hill (one of the producers of the film), was going to take the directing gig himself. But luckily they found the up and coming young director David Fincher. Around this time, Fincher had done mostly music videos, so he was affordable and would practically do whatever the studio tells him. Or so they thought. In the first meeting with the executives, Fincher pitched his own version of the film and said that he wanted to expand from the original script. Rumors been going around for years that Fox actually has Fincher’s version of the film in storage somewhere but refuses to show it to the public. Those rumors turned out to be false because had Fincher actually shot his version, the budget would’ve tripled and the film wouldn’t have made the release date. Also, in the special edition DVD, Fox included the director’s cut of the film which is much better than the theatrical version. They even asked Fincher if he wanted to come back to work on the film before it was released on DVD. He declined the offer since he disowned the film years ago.

Anyways, after Fincher met with the studio people, he thought he was going to make his version of an Alien film. Well, apparently he was in for a big surprise. On the first day of shooting, he wanted to shoot a big sequence, but the producers on the set told him that he couldn’t do that. Fincher had no idea that he was being monitored by the studio from the beginning, they actually hired a guy whose job was to keep an eye on Fincher’s every move and report back daily to the executives. Believe it or not, this guy got credited in the film as an Executive Producer. About a month into shooting, Fincher finally realized that he wouldn’t be able to shoot his version of the movie and that he basically got screwed by the studio. He then left the project before editing began.

Fincher and Sigourney Weaver on the set

The film made its May 1992 release date and earned some money. But considering it had cost around $60 mil to make and it only made about $50 mil back, it was a huge disappointment for Fox. Also, this was the summer of big franchises – Batman Returns made big money, so did Lethal Weapon 3. So I’m sure Fox executives weren’t too happy how the film performed that year. Fincher didn’t do much better himself. After the box office disappointment of Alien 3; his directing career seemed to be pretty much over. He was to blame for the lack success of the film, even though it wasn’t his fault. He was simply here to finish the project that Fox should have cancelled from the beginning.

But then three years later, Fincher made the classic thriller Se7en, and has since directed The Game, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the recent hit The Social Network. Now he’s one of the top directors in the business today, and now currently filming the Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As for the Alien franchise, well Fox decided to come out with another sequel, the awful Alien: Resurrection follow by the even more awful Alien vs. Predator films. Currently Ridley Scott is working on the prequel to Alien, this one will take place several years before the event of the first film. Let’s hope Sir Ridley can finally make a good Alien film again, I guess we’ll find out sometime next year.


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What do you think of this story and/or Fincher? Are you a big fan of the film?