(PRWEB) October 16, 2012
WAR OF THE WORLDS THE TRUE STORY, a new movie, will play one night only in select theaters across America this October 30th, Tuesday, the night before Halloween, on the 74th anniversary of the famed Orson Welles 1938 radio broadcast.
WAR OF THE WORLDS THE TRUE STORY, based on the most beloved alien invasion story of all time by Father of Science Fiction, H.G. Wells, assumes the world knows there was a war between Earth and Mars in the year 1900 and is presented as the eyewitness account of Bertie Wells, the last living survivor of the Earth/Mars War as he struggles to find his wife amidst the destruction of humankind at the hands of terrifying alien invaders.
There has never been a movie like this and to fully appreciate its scope a little background is helpful. In 1938, the night before Halloween, young director Orson Welles stepped before the microphone to produce a live national radio show, based on the 1898 novel by H.G. Wells, (no relation), The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles was clever. After a brief announcement that his company, The Mercury Theatre, was performing the show, he played several minutes of orchestrated music. The gap caused listeners to forget a drama was in progress. And many Americans tuned in late, missing the announcement altogether.
At a certain point, Welles’ voice broke in as if a true newscast was in progress, announcing that a cylinder from space had crash landed in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. After a few details, he returned to the music performance, already in progress. Soon again he broke in, revealing that the cylinder was opening, and then back to the music show. With an increasingly intense frequency, his, “news interruptions,” began to reveal that the cylinder was actually the first spaceship in an alien invasion from Mars. This was a time before television, when the only news sources were the radio and newspapers, and as it was the evening, newspapers would not be delivered until the next day.
Terrified Americans nationwide believed an actual Martian alien invasion was in progress, thus changing the world forever as the human race woke up to the power of what media could do, how it could reshape the reality of information out of context. Congress enacted laws forcing media to clearly identify at intervals when a broadcast was a drama, as opposed to actual news. But the genie could never go back in the bottle. From then to this minute, daily reality is subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly reshaped and represented as fact when it is fiction. One need only tune in during an election season to see and hear the reshaping of reality in commercials, dramas and talk radio.
Flash forward to the present day. On the anniversary of that famed broadcast, this upcoming night before Halloween, where in a one night event, a new feature motion picture, WAR OF THE WORLDS THE TRUE STORY will play in select theaters across America. Director Timothy Hines and producers Susan Goforth and Donovan Le have reinvented the classic Wells novel as a mock documentary, in a world where we all know there was a war between Earth and Mars in the year 1900.
Told through the eyes of the 86-year old last living survivor of the Martian Apocalypse in an interview filmed in 1965, the footage was stored and later found in a vault with hours of previously secret film reels of the actual Earth/Mars War and the aliens themselves. Also found in the vault were reels of the actual battlefield conflicts between the Martian’s ten story high three-legged war machines fighting turn-of-the-century battalions of horse drawn artillery. The picture intercuts with interviews, declassified British Ministry of Defence documents and flashes of aging newspaper headlines from the era.
20 weeks of live-action footage were shot and thousands of hours of archival footage were combined with modern special effect wizardry to bring early swarms of real soldiers together to face off directly with ferocious alien towering machines of destruction.
“It was a several year process to create the effects,” producer Susan Goforth, a seasoned special effects and CGI artist, helps to explain. “There was a laborious process to select original war footage for story context, then it had to be stabilized perfectly where effects were combined and then returned to the original shaky and flickery state.” Goforth goes on, “That was only part of it. Virtually every shot was reframed, panned to redirect the viewers focus in service of the story. There is not a single shot that we just picked up and put in the movie. Everything had to be carefully processed to support the memories Bertie Wells was recounting.”
Director Timothy Hines says, “Many hundreds of pieces of war footage, were split screened or blended into other war footage and then composited with heat-ray wielding mechanical alien fighting machines in the same shot. On top of this we had to recreate the aged look of film from 1900.”
Producer Donovan Le adds, “It wasn’t just adding scratches and shaking the camera like you see when a local news show wants to quickly replicate old footage.”
Hines continues, “We did extensive research, recreating what most film historian restorers spend thousands of hours trying to remove and clean up. Things like cinching and mold, splotches, sprocket hole tears, tape splices, fading, high contrast and grain. And it’s not all the same. We had a chart for things like how many times a particular piece of footage would have been viewed. If it was war footage, presumably, it would have been looked at a lot, handled much and reprinted many times, raising the contrast and degradation for each generation. Whereas if it were footage, say of people sitting at a table eating, there would not have been much interest in viewing such material and it would have labored for years unviewed, creating a different set of anomalies, like mold, flaking and shrinkage. Each shot was subjected to the chart to see where its archival state would have fallen. It was a labor of love, but one the audience will appreciate as true to the eye, even if they don’t know the enormous work that went into it.”
“Also,” reflects Goforth, “the recreation of newspapers and declassified documents are carefully recreated. Deep attention was paid, right down to the fine print of the news stories. We didn’t just Photoshop in headlines, but actually wrote and rewrote the articles in the newspapers as well as the side stories. If the viewer could freeze frame the movie and zoom in, they would see that the actual article claimed is what is printed on the page. Every side story is written in the style of the time, such as interviews with astronomer Ogilvy about the nature of the flashes seen on Mars. And the same care that we put into recreating aged film was put into creating the aging of the-turn-of-the-century newspapers and documents. They were subjected to similar candle tests of fading, molding, tears, flaking, water damage etc. While we were in production, we called such document cutaways in the movie, ‘proofs,’ as they help show that the Earth/Mars War really happened.”
“And then there was the live mechanical special effects,” says producer Donovan Le. “Tim insisted that we do everything live either full scale or with miniatures. There is some computer generated effects, like the heat-rays, but all the Martians and their fighting machines were real, as in you could walk up and touch them or handle them. The full-scale multi tentacled living creature from Mars was created by effects technician Ultrakarl. And he performed it like Jabba the Hut from Star Wars. Well, him and eighteen others at the same time. The crater crash site of the cylinder in the English countryside known as Horsell Common, for example, was a massive over-scaled miniature that was dug out and dressed in an actual sand pits of a rock quarry. There were highly detailed miniatures and real flames live on set. The cylinder hatch unscrewing is actually operated from within by effects technicians.”
The design and building of the fighting machines went to effects artist Ezra Hamill.
“It was a huge honor and privilege to be given the opportunity to create what was one of the first examples of alien technology in Western literature,” says Hamill. For the Martian fighting machines in WAR OF THE WORLDS THE TRUE STORY I had long conversations with Tim. The primary thing Tim wanted was that it be mechanical, not organic. He was clear that it be a machine and though advanced in design, also primitive of mind in a Bronze Age sort of way.
“I took my inspiration straight from the book. These descriptions are in brief snatches and impressions and had to be pieced together. I made a point of including all the components which he describes: the mechanical arm with the heat-ray which pivots around and cooks everything in its path, the long cylinder which fires the canisters of deadly black smoke, the creel-like basket on the back which is used to store human victims captured for food, the cowl-shaped shield which surrounds the head, the cockpit in the front where the controlling Martian sits. All in all, the very nature of the style of the movement known as Steampunk.”
Timothy Hines adds, “It was important that the fighting machine reflect the ‘life’ of the controlling Martian from within. When the Martian creature is angry, the Machine is angry, when the Martian is ill or injured, the fighting machine reflects that, the same as a drunk driver would improperly operate a car.”
Ezra Hamill concludes,” Once we had the footage we needed, it was painstakingly composited together with altered and manipulated historical footage of battle scenes and destruction from the early 1900’s. It was such a thrill to see the end product of the fighting machines I built walking through this antique war footage and wreaking havoc. The end result is phenomenal and totally realistic. What we’ve done with this film is unprecedented and unique and you really have to see it to believe it.”
The movie was scored symphonically by composer Jamie Hall.
“It had to be symphonic,” says composer Jamie Hall. “Everything about the turn of the century nature of this movie said symphony. But since the movie is depicting ‘actual events’ (from Wells’ perspective), the music couldn’t be as quite as jaunty or adventurous as, say, the music from an Indiana Jones film. It had to reflect the gravity of actual soldiers fighting a real war against alien invaders and it was a delicate challenge to strike the right balance. Also, Tim was laying in some extremely sophisticated sound effects to bring life to the otherwise silent footage, and we spent a lot of time making sure the sound effects and music fit well together. I worked very hard creating and producing the score and in the end I think everyone involved with the film is very happy with the result.”
And how has the picture been received thus far? In theatrical test screenings of the movie up and down the West coast of the U.S., the fans have been riveted and broken into spontaneous applause at the end of shows. Director Timothy Hines and producers Goforth and Le, secretly sitting in on one of the test screenings, overheard a couple of teens saying to their parents that they didn’t know that this was real, that they had no idea we actually had a war with Mars.
“It was a strong moment of contentment after all the hard labor,” Hines reflects.
“I think we finally brought Wells’ tale to life in a way he would have been pleased with,” says Susan Goforth.
“The spirit of Orson Welles and H.G. Wells are smiling down on us, I believe,” adds Donovan Le.
“And it’s absolutely true. It really happened. There really was a war between Earth and Mars,” Hines says with a wink and a smile. “Or at least you will believe there was after you see the movie.”
In celebration of the anniversary of Orson Welles’ radio broadcast, the movie WAR OF THE WORLDS THE TRUE STORY plays one night only in select theaters across America, the night before Halloween, Tuesday, October 30th.
Go to http://www.waroftheworldsthetruestory.com to see a current list of nationwide participating theaters.