by Luke Hickman
Have you ever wondered where Blu-rays come from, how your favorite film goes from the big screen to your Blu-ray player with pretty little menus, specials features galore, and loads of behind-the-scenes makings-of featurettes? Meet Charles de Lauzirika, seasoned Blu-ray Producer and the man responsible for the recent fully-loaded and glorious 'Prometheus' Blu-ray.
Shortly after joining the High-Def Digest crew last April, I quickly made enemies by expressing my negative opinions of the 'Transformers' series. The comments were negative and any time that I mentioned 'Transformers' or Michael Bay, I was accused of "stirring the pot." Taking into account the current comment frenzy following my rave review of the 3D four-disc 'Prometheus' Blu-ray release, I'm ready to take the heat for stirring the pot – only this time I'm in love with a title that the haters want to get heated about. Even if the following interview with Charles de Lauzirika was conducted pertaining to a film that I didn't care for, I'd still enjoy the interview because it offers a quick glimpse at the "man behind the curtain" when it comes to Blu-rays.
Six minutes into the interview, technical difficulties arose, so I was forced to follow a different format for the second half.
HDD – Luke Hickman: Good morning, Charles. How are you doing today?
Charles de Lauzirika: I'm good. How are you?
HDD: I'm actually very excited to be talking with you because I'm quite passionate about 'Prometheus' – in a good way.
Charles de Lauzirika: (Laughs) That's good.
HDD: I've got to ask for clarification – what exactly is your title? Because you've done a lot.
Charles de Lauzirika: Well, uh – (Laughs) It kind of changes from project to project, but for 'Prometheus' I am the Blu-ray Producer and I produced and directed the documentary 'The Furious Gods.'
HDD: As a Blu-ray Producer, how much of the Blu-ray creation process are you involved with? Everything?
Charles de Lauzirika: Yeah. (laughs) Pretty much everything that's specific to the Blu-ray. I have some involvement in – or a lot of involvement in, depending on what aspect it is – documenting the making of the film and putting together a making-of experience – whether it's in the form of a documentary or other extras that go on the disc. That's the work of me and my team. I'm also involved in some degree with the menus, packaging and everything else that requires my input.
HDD: Forgive me for gushing, but I have to tell you that this Blu-ray is gorgeous in every way. From the packaging and the menus to the content and even the transfer, this is an amazing Blu-ray release.
Charles de Lauzirika: Thank you. I'm glad that you think so.
HDD: As a filmmaker – because you've made your own films before – is it hard to get the studio to allow you to give films the Blu-ray release that you want?
Charles de Lauzirika: Every project is different and I've never had the same experience twice on [Blu-rays]. Some turn out to be amazingly easy when you thought that they were going to be huge nightmares. Others, when you thought they were going to be a slam dunk, can be terrible. A lot of these are fun and the amount of studio support varies from time to time. In terms of 'Prometheus,' I was expecting it to be – you know, it's a very ambitious project with a lot of people with interest in it – I thought it was going to drive the direction that the project was going to go with it, but Fox really gave me a lot of freedom and a lot of support. To me, it was a lot of fun actually. The only thing that I wish we would have had was more time, but I guess that's a common complaint. All Blu-ray Producers wish they had more time.
HDD: The lack of time doesn't show, especially with your making-of documentary. Were you on shoot for the entire film to gather this footage?
Charles de Lauzirika: Oh, yeah. I started shooting well over a year before production even began. I was shooting around the offices of Scott Free [Productions] in L.A. and any other time that there was something worth covering. I went out for pre-production at Pinewood studios in England and when I couldn't be there, I had another camera operator named Vanessa White who would shoot in my absence – it was a long stretch to be out there. I would go, and them come, following the production as best I could. For post-production, we followed all the way up to the end at its release.
HDD: One attribute of the Blu-ray that I love is how expansive and how deep you were able to dive with your special features. Most special features shy away from mentioning the draft-to-draft evolution of the screenplay, but 'Prometheus' doesn't. It explains it all – included hints and nods to the other 'Alien' movies and even 'Blade Runner.' Going back to the studio involvement, was Fox okay with all this?
Charles de Lauzirika: To be honest, when working on a Ridley Scott production, it's Ridley Scott who allows me to do it. Basically, I have a long relationship with him, so when it's appropriate, he lets me come in, document – with 'Prometheus,' we all knew that it was the type of film worth documenting and doing a real treatment of [what we shot]. He was not only the one who said "yes,' but he said, "Come on in and start cracking," so I did. I literally shot just as much as I could.
HDD: There is so much work that goes into the Blu-ray process that - if you'll forgive me for saying so - that doesn't get recognition, which is why it's really exciting to be speaking with you.
Charles de Lauzirika: Yeah, it's great. I'm kind of fortunately, actually – I've been doing this for 14 years now and I think – (laughs) I agree with your opinion about the recognition. I find it interesting the people come up to me and mention a commonality between making movies – pre-production, production and post-production – that rarely changes significantly. For me, it's the stories – the human stories – from film to film that change. And that's what interests me. That's what makes it fresh and new every single time I start one of these.
HDD: Speaking of these unique human stories, is there any single one in particular that you're especially proud of on the 'Prometheus' discs?
Charles de Lauzirika: For sure. The thing that I'm most proud of is the primary documentary, 'The Furious Gods: Making 'Prometheus.'' It's over three-hours and forty-minutes –
At this moment in the interview, my computer – which I use as a recorder – froze entirely. I couldn't view IMDb or my notes, so the second half had its flaws. I hoped that it was still recording the audio; afterall, I could still hear and speak, but it didn't. Luckily, I takes notes while conducting over-the-phone interviews, so I can relay a paraphrased version of the remainder of the interview.
Charles de Lauzirika went on to talk about how privileged he felt to have been given the opportunity to make 'The Furious Gods' documentary. It's rare that a Blu-ray Producer is given so much access to a shoot. The result is well-documented footage from the entire filmmaking process, including the good and the bad. His job isn't to promote the film, but to show the history of how it came about. For Charles de Lauzirika, a job like 'Prometheus' is a dream come true.
One of my favorite features on the Blu-ray set is the interactive second-screen Weyland Corp interactive app. If your Blu-ray player and your mobile phone or tablet are connected to the same wireless internet service, then your device syncs with the playing of the film allows you to customize your viewing experience, even allowing you to "flick" some of the deleted scenes from your device to your TV at the appropriate part of the film where it would appear had it not been deleted. You can see the trailer for the app here:
When I expressed how much I enjoyed this function, de Lauzirika explained that this app was Fox's trail for mobile syncing. He didn't have much to do with the design and creation of it (mostly because of the technicality of it), but he believes that apps much like it will be a big part of Blu-rays in the future.
I closed out our conversation asking about other titles that de Lauzirika is especially proud of, titles that offer him great satisfaction. The first and most fond of them is 'Blade Runner.' De Lauzirika not only produced the Blu-ray, but also produced the film – which is why he considers it his "most fun and in-depth" of them all. Other collaborations that he's enjoyed were those with David Lynch on 'Twin Peaks' and anything with Tony Scott, Michael Bay, and Marc Webb. When de Lauzirika was producing commercials, he actually hired Webb as an editor. Starting with '(500) Days of Summer,' the two switched roles. Webb became the boss, de Lauzirika the employee. Charles de Lauzirika produced the '(500) Days' Blu-ray for Webb and has just wrapped up production of Webb's 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Blu-ray. When I asked for a hint of what to expect from 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Blu-ray, he told me that he's especially proud of a 3D tutorial with Marc Webb.
If you look into the Blu-rays that Charles de Lauzirika has produced, you'll notice that they all share one attribute – they're all meaty and full of actually-special special features. When I asked which titles he'll be producing after 'The Amazing Spider-Man,' he informed me that he's not allowed to talk about them yet – but if there are any upcoming titles that you love, you can only hope that he will be the brain behind them.