DVD Commentary for Filmmakers (Series) – The Machinist

My producing partner and I have been watching a lot of indie psychological thrillers lately because it relates to our current project. First, we want to make sure that their story is not too similar to ours. Secondly, we want to see if we can get some useful production information from their film’s DVD Commentary. You know – the essential information that every indie producer wants to know: how they got financing, their budget, how they attracted the actors to the roles without any money (especially if they have a star) that kind of thing. You’d be surprised at what you can learn from this info. This is going to be a regular series on this blog. I realize that this isn’t exactly a new release, but I’m going to start with The Machinist. [IMDB info]

The Machinist (a.k.a. El Maquinista) (2004)

Directed by Brad Anderson [IMDB info] – Written by Scott Kosar [IMDB info] – Produced by Julio Fernández [IMDB info]

The story is about Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) [IMDB info] – an industrial machinist who hasn’t slept in a year. As a result of his extreme insomnia, he’s paranoid, hallucinates, and freaks out. Good movie.

Here are the DVD commentary highlights that I feel are useful and interesting to filmmakers:

+ The script described the Reznik role as walking skeleton. Christian Bale lost around 60 lbs. (according to IMDB 63 lbs.) – weighing in at about 120 lbs.; he ate an apple a day and smoked a lot of cigarettes; incredible feat since he had to bulk up quickly to shoot Batman Begins [IMDB info].

+ The film was shot in Barcelona, Spain even though the story was originally set in Los Angeles; the compromise was that the setting was supposed to be in a non-specific metropolitan American city; it was difficult to hide the Spanish landmarks in Barcelona during the exterior scenes; the best locations in Barcelona that emulated American cities were in the seediest of neighborhoods; there’s a driving scene where you’ll see a couple of real junkies on the street.

+ The reason why the film was shot and produced in Spain is because that’s where director, Brad Anderson was able to get financing through a company called Filmax International; Anderson thought that it was such a successful endeavor that he’s working with them again (Transsiberian (2007) [IMDB info]).

+ The compromise to shooting in Spain was that they had to use a required number of Spanish actors and crew; some scenes had to be dubbed because the actor’s accents were so prominent; Filmax gets several subsidies from Spanish & European film funds; they must demonstrate an inherent “Spanish-ness” of the production to be eligible for these funds.

+ Brad Anderson hurt his back during the production and directed the film from a gurney for most of the production.

+ Pros & Cons for shooting in Spain with Spanish crew: The pace is slower but the producers allow the director more flexibility in the creative direction of the film. No union restrictions – less safety precautions.

What we’ve learned –

  • Christian Bale commits hardcore to the roles that he’s passionate about.
  • Every independent filmmaker should give great consideration to the financing opportunities in Europe and abroad (check out Filmlinker’s Financing Links Directory).
  • Unlikely foreign locations can be creatively cheated for American cities.
  • Brad Anderson can direct a good movie lying down.

Additional links about the production:

+ Official Film Site
+ Variety Review
+ CHUD Interview with director Brad Anderson