the film snob

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Friday, May 05, 2006

A Chat with "Kingdom of Heaven" DVD Producer Charles de Lauzirika

For the past year or so, I have been writing film and TV reviews at Here are synopsis' and links to those reviews.

Charles de Lauzirika is a multiple-award-winning college journalist and magna cum laude graduate of the USC School of Cinema-Television (Production) who has worked in various capacities for such high profile companies as Scott Free, Lucasfilm Ltd., Lightstorm Entertainment and Silver Pictures. He has also written and/or directed several short films, commercials and music videos. His primary job is supervision and production of Ridley Scott’s special edition DVDs, including The Alien Quadrilogy, Gladiator, Thelma & Louise and Black Hawk Down. In addition to Scott Free productions, he has also produced the bonus features for Die Another Day and Spider-Man 2, which garnered him numerous awards.

Recently,'s Brandon Fibbs sat down with the award winning DVD documentarian for a discussion about his work, the upcoming DVD release of Kingdom of Heaven and the theatrical debut of Tony Scott’s latest film, Domino. Thanks for sharing some of your valuable time with us today, Charles.

de Lauzirika: My pleasure. Before we get into the film, Kingdom of Heaven, I’m interested in what drew you to DVD production following your graduation from film school.

de Lauzirika: Well, it’s funny. I wasn’t really drawn to it so much as sucked into it. I was really into DVDs from day one and I happened to be working on development at Scott Free Productions. Right around the time Ridley (Scott) was getting ready to shoot Gladiator in late ‘98, the first Alien DVD came up and I stepped forward and said, “Ridley, you gotta do something special for this DVD. It’s is the hot new thing—you gotta do it. The film fanatics will love you for it.” He said, “I’m going off to do Gladiator. Will you be in charge of it while I’m gone?” And I said, “Sure.” So I kinda just stepped into it. It was a trial by fire with that first one, but I got hooked. It’s not something I expected to still be doing. I hoped to do two or three and then get out, but it’s paying the bills so I can’t complain. Well, looking at your resume…you’ve done quite a bit.

de Lauzirika: (chuckling) Yeah. I’m kinda dismayed to look back and see all that actually! It’s been an interesting little side trip of 6 or 7 years. I went to USC film school wanting the best film education I could get and I kinda came out of it feeling like I knew less than when I went in. So DVD production has been a godsend—being able to watch these big-time, A-list directors and see, not only how they put a film together and make it, but also how they deal with the studio and all the little minutia of production. That’s gold. To be able to deal with that as well as see what goes on off-camera has been an amazing amount of access. When you’re directing the special features, are you frequently on set personally?

de Lauzirika: It depends. It’s case by case. Sometimes the budget or schedule won’t allow for it so I have to rely on other film crews. But for the real nuts and bolts and intimate moments, yeah, that’s generally me with the camera. What do you like best about the DVD production side of things?

de Lauzirika: Street date! I love going to the store and seeing it on the shelf! Seriously though, my favorite part is probably dreaming it up. When I’m told what my job is going to be, I like to just sit back for a day or two and think about what would make the ultimate disc. It’s this imaginary zone where I ask myself, if I had unlimited resources and money, what would I do.

The first time it drove me almost to insanity was on Alien Quadrilogy because I realized we could start this whole thing over from scratch and really create something truly comprehensive even while dealing with four very different films, directors and styles. How do you bring all of that into one consistent experience? It was the most simultaneously daunting and intoxicating time in my DVD career. What a weird thing to say…DVD career. (chuckles) The shooting and the editing and the graphic design—that stuff is all fine—there are fun moments and not so fun moments—but ultimately, when it’s all together and authored and you’re sitting there, in this room, QC-ing the disc and you see it all come together—that’s the best. What’s your least favorite part of the business?

de Lauzirika: Getting creative and legal notes back from the studio telling me to cut things out or change things…any kind of interference. Creative interference is never fun for me. I don’t take it very well. (Laughing) Some guys roll with the punches, but me, I don’t do so well. But I’m getting better. Well, you must be doing something right because you have a whole slew of awards to your name for a bunch of fantastic films on which you’ve worked. Are you consistently looking for ways to improve DVD presentation or interactivity?

de Lauzirika: I don’t know if I’m constantly looking for it, but if an opportunity presents itself, I try it jump on it. I hesitate to say it, but in terms of standard definition DVD, we're kinda at the end of the exploratory phase and what can be done with interactivity. I think now, everyone has their eye on HD or Blue Ray and whatever else is next. That’s the big question mark. For me, I started with DVDs wanting to be on the cutting edge—interactive, multi-angle, seamlessly branched coolness—and now I’ve gone totally old–school. I just want to tell good stories about the making of the film. Isn’t that the truth. Sometimes simpler is so much better.

de Lauzirika: Yeah, exactly. I find it interesting that you’ve done so much work with Ridley Scott, seeing as how he is known as the Father of the Director’s Cut. What is it like working with him?

de Lauzirika: Um…wow…um…what a loaded question. Let me preface this by saying that when I was a kid, my mom took me to see Alien at the Egyptian in Hollywood and I instantly realized that movies can be more than just stories told on film. They could be other worlds, fully immersive environments. And even though, at the time, I didn’t know who Ridley was or who any of his crew were—to me it was just a big monster movie—I still felt, even as a kid, that there was a tremendous sense of realism and design at play. It opened my eyes to this whole other part of filmmaking. I look back and think that as a kid I was so impressed by what Ridley was doing and now I get to see exactly how he does it. To me, it’s been a very interesting journey, and in a strange way, very appropriate that I’m in this position where I can actually pay off that moment of inspiration I had when I was a kid.

It’s always a fascinating experience and I’m always learning something and I still get excited when I see the guy who helped inspire me to be a filmmaker. You’re on battle stations cuz here comes “the man.” It’s like if Kubrick or Spielberg walked into the room. It’s still exciting.

Blade Runner is still my favorite film. That’s the one that knocked me on my ass when I was a kid. I’ve never told Ridley that and I don’t know if I ever will. I want to keep that sort of a distance in a way, you know? I don’t think about what it’s like to work with him very much, I just do it. There’s always so much work to do and the need to focus on the task at hand that that’s what keeps me going, not how great it is to be working with him. Well, I have to ask, since you brought it up…

de Lauzirika: No! Don’t ask that question—I know where you’re going! You’ve done all these films for Ridley…where’s the Blade Runner Special Edition?!

de Lauzirika: I knew that was coming! I’m with you. That’s my favorite Ridley Scott film.

de Lauzirika: You know, right now I’m in fingers-crossed mode, hoping it’s going to happen. We’ll see. When or if it happens, I want that to be the one I retire with…the last one I do with before striking out on my own. More to topic then, what affected you most about working on Kingdom of Heaven?

de Lauzirika: I think the most interesting thing about it is how it so eerily reflects our current situation. You know going into it that if it’s a Ridley Scott epic, it’s gonna look beautiful, be visually spectacular, have amazing sets and costumes and cinematography—you know all that. So it’s like, what don’t we know? And what we don’t know is the story, the characters and the history that the film is based on. That’s what I was most interested in—the message of the film, what angle Ripley was going to take, how is was going to walk this very delicate line between hostile extremes in two different faiths. I think he navigated that minefield brilliantly. I think he did an amazing job and presented a film that shows good and bad and all shades of gray in between on all sides. I can’t say I’m surprised he did it so well, but I am impressed. So I have another loaded question for you... what is the favorite film you’ve ever worked on?

de Lauzirika: Um… Seeing as how you haven’t worked on Blade Runner yet.

de Lauzirika: Yeah, right. Um, well, I’d say Alien is right up there, obviously. Wow, that’s a tough one because there are lots of the little ones that I love as well, like Duelists or Miller’s Crossing. If you’re asking what are my top-tier favorites, aside from Blade Runner, it would have to be Alien. But that is a far different question than asking what are my favorite discs that I’ve worked on that may not be ranked very high but with which I am very happy. Some discs I am exceedingly happy with and on others I so wish we could have done more. Well, you’re doing terrific work. I love some of your latest work, especially what you did on Spiderman 2. You did a great job with that one.

de Lauzirika: Thanks. That was a tough one to do but I’m glad it turned out. That was one of those projects where you get so lost in the creation of it that you wonder what you’ll end up with. I was relieved that people really seemed to like it. So what’s the future hold? Do you still hope to someday break into feature films?

de Lauzirika: Oh, absolutely. I’m gearing up as we speak. I’ve got a couple scripts that I’m attached to. I’ve already directed music videos, commercials and a few shorts. In fact, I was getting ready to put together a really low-budget independent feature when the first Alien DVD came up and I got stuck on this side track. Then again, I was flat broke back then and needed the money. Now that it turned out to be financially good for me, I’m trying to get back to where I was—getting a feature made. I’m hoping to do that later this year or early next year. And now I have so many more resources, so many more people who are willing to help out. I think now is a good time. I couldn’t agree more! Well thanks so much for your time, Charles. Keep up the fantastic work and all the best for your future career. We look forward to Kingdom of Heaven.

de Lauzirika: Awesome. Thank you so very much.

To read the full interview, click here.


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