Quantcast Tibor Takas interview - THE GATE, I MADMAN

Tibor Takacs!!!
Who out there DOESN'T remember the 80's cult gem 'THE GATE'?! Well, for most of us who were lucky enough to be teens back then, you probably caught it at least a dozen times on TV. We were able to track down director Tibor Takacs, who not only directed 'THE GATE', but went on to direct 'I Madman', 'The Gate 2', and episodes of 'The Outer Limits' and 'The Crow'. Well, here's his first EVER on line interview! Read on & enjoy! - by Scott Goldberg, Robg. 4/06

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? Do you remember the first film(s) that had an impact on you?

My standard answer would have to be that I first experienced the horror genre on television The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone this is only part of the story. I think a more powerful impact that may have led to my career in horror films came years earlier. I can’t give you titles because these memories are just fragments or pieces of images and feelings and probably not from horror films. From around the age of 2 or 3 years old I have my very first memories of film.
A sort of fearful memory of being in a darkened movie theater and seeing a black and white moving image of some sort of giant skin folding over people. This memory is not very clear but the feeling that it evokes is one of a powerful dread. I’ve often thought about what the image could have been. It was probably some sort of wide, high angle shot of people running from dark silvery waves at a beach. The waves chased them; licking at their heels seemingly trying to eat them up like a giant mouth.
Another frightful more clear memory is from (Disney) Snow White the scene in the forest when Snow White is lost and all these eyes peer from the darkness. However this memory is also combined with a powerful sense of relief. I remember being very frightened wanting to leave the theater and then a rush of good feelings and relief as I emerged from the darkness of the theater into the daylight holding my mother’s hand, safe at last. I’ve probably been inspired by this dread/relief cycle ever since.

Can you tell us a bit about how you got into the movie business? Did you always consider a career in filmmaking early on?

I have been making films since I was about 12 or 13 years old, super 8 and video. My Dad bought one of the earliest portable consumer video setups. It was an Akai 1/4inch BW video recorder and camera. Reel to reel. We did a lot of experiments the video tape was cheap. As time went on the projects got bigger and people wanted to pay me to do it. For a while there was a detour into punk music and live theater. When one of the stage plays turned into a movie project it became a fast track learning experience in the film business.

How did you get the job to direct 'THE GATE'? And what were your first impressions of the script?

By the mid 80’s I had migrated to Los Angeles and was trying to be a writer/director. I had already directed a 35mm short that received some recognition and producers were taking notice. I was making the rounds promoting a post apocalyptic Sci-Fi project when John Kemeny a well-known producer of quality films asked me to read two scripts. I though he was just asking for an opinion from a genre fan. One of the scripts was The Wraith and the other was The Gate. I loved The Gate. He asked me if I wanted to direct it. This was my break. I asked about the budget and the schedule, “a little tight” I thought but with some careful planning anything is possible. I asked for and got some realistic prep time.
I soon met Michael Nankin the writer of the Gate and we became fast friends. We spent several weeks in his office getting acquainted and fine-tuning the film. During this time I searched all over for a talented, ambitious, hungry special effects person that would work with our budget. During the lengthy search I had the good fortune of meeting Randy Cook who was working at Boss Film at the time. Randy spoke of the possibilities and opportunities that The Gate script presented and not about the limitations of the budget and available technology. I’ve worked with Randy many time since and more recently Randy has been honored with several Academy Awards for his work on The Ring trilogy.

Tell us about how the casting process for the characters of The Gate. You had a talented group including Louis Tripp, Stephen Dorff, and Christa Denton? The Gate was Stephen Dorff's first big role, no?

Yes the Gate was Stephen’s first feature film. We basically had open casting in Los Angeles and Toronto Mary Gail Arts was our Los Angeles casting director and she had done a preliminary scout and presented us with the best she had found. From that group we selected several kids for screen tests. It took several months many of the kids were great actors the choices really depended on a balance of types and looks. I remember the lead role ending up in a runoff between two very different kids Stephen Dorff and Joshua John Miller (The River’s Edge).

It’s pretty much impossible to find interviews with you about two films, which have become cult classics, The Gate and The Gate II. What are the memories that stand out for your experiences on those two films? Were there any problems during the production of 'The Gate'? Technical or otherwise?

As I mentioned above there was a financing delay that really made a difference to the film. Since we had a low budget; to pull off a very ambitious film the extra time gave us the chance to really storyboard and design every effect in the film. You’ve heard the old saying about Fast, Good, and Cheap and how you can only have two of those things at a time on any given film, On the Gate we had Good and Cheap. Each major effects shot would take several days to set up because they were done in camera. Randy’s knowledge of traditional techniques and attention to detail allowed us to pull off effects that were way beyond our budget. I always like to say that on The Gate we used a whole encyclopedia of effects.

What was the most challenging sequence to pull off?

It’s hard to think of the most challenging sequence because the film is so full of extraordinary effects that all had their particular challenges. The sequence that included the workman falling over and breaking up into the minions had to be the most problematic several tricks were used all happening at the same time with no cgi. Randy Cook would take several days to line up the more complex trick perspectives and was so prepared that we were able to shoot the shots that included kids in only 10 minutes which is about all we had left because of their limited working hours. Working with kids and their limited hours seemed to pose the biggest challenge.
This was solved by exact framing and the extensive use of doubles that needed careful scheduling. We had a very good veteran first AD Michael Zenon. Another difficult aspect was building the oversized sets for the forced perspective shots. (That is how we made our Minion actors look small) these sets took up an incredible amount of space. All this required careful calculations and a lot of studio space on a small budget. Bill Beeton our great production designer made it all happen on time for us. Also a gigantic backlit blue screen had to be built for a price. At the time I remember someone said that it was the biggest Blue screen east of the Mississippi.
Considering The Gate hasn't seen an official "Special Edition" release as of yet, fans have so many questions. The following are among the most popular fan questions for you: Who was the band that Terry played backwards on the record player to open ‘The Gate’? And how'd you go about infusing this fictional band with the story of 'The Gate'?
The main voice in the song is actually the voice of Carl Kraines who played the Workman in the wall and was dialogue coach for the kids. The music was provided by friends who were in a band called The Carboard Brains.

How long did the shoot take?

I think we shot for 32 days.
What was the film that was playing in the background in The Gate when Terry and Glen go watch TV in the basement?

That was a clip from a rock video also from a friend who was in a band.
Tell us a bit about 'The Construction Worker In The Walls'? He was such a memorable and visual character in your film. The little demons are also so memorable. Who was the make-up crew you worked with & how'd you go about the designs for all the creatures we see thru-out the film?
Randy Cook designed all the creatures and Craig Reardon did the special make-ups During the prep Randy and I spent a lot of time on coming up with a look to the creatures that would tie them together as if they came from the same universe and planet by that I mean they all seem related and come from earth. Also that their muscle to mass ratios jive with our gravity. Sometimes in horror films the creatures seem to belong to another universe especially when there are a lot of creature to design. I always felt that the designs had to feel earthbound to be believable.
You followed up 'The Gate' with another great little horror gem, 'I Madman'. What's the one thing that sticks out in your memory about that production?

Jenny Wright and what a great job she did playing Virginia. The interesting choices she made as an actress.
How'd 'The Gate 2' come about, and where did the story for it evolve from? Did you always know that Louis Tripp would be the only returning cast member?

One of the givens at the beginning of development was that we wanted a real sequel and that having all the same characters would make it harder not to repeat ourselves.

You've also done a lot of television work on such productions as 'The Outer Limits', 'The Crow', 'Sabrina The Teenage Witch', and 'Red Show Diaries'. What are the biggest differences between working on television and full length film projects? Do you prefer one to the other?

I really enjoy both. They both have advantages one is more collaborative than the other. In television there are usually a lot of people that have helped bring the project to the point where I’m about to direct it, one has to respect all that came before. It can get tricky when the chain of command is not clear but experience has taught me how to make the best of everyone’s contributions and end up with a clear vision that supports the story being told.

You used a lot of practical effects, as well as stop motion animation on your earlier films. ('The Gate', 'I Madman') What are your thoughts on the constant use of CGI effects in movies these days, as opposed to the older way of doing things practically?

These days for budget and schedule considerations a combination of practical and CGI is the best way to go. Stop motion is too labor intensive and requires very special skills to make realistic. The audiences seem to want realism as opposed to the stylization that stop motion gives you. I would love the opportunity to use stop motion again. I like the idea of rotating the types of techniques used in different scenes as a film goes on so the audience is always a little off balance not knowing what to expect but at the same time you have to keep the effects looking like they came form the same universe or reality.

How do you feel about independent horror films of today? Are there any films you've seen recently that you really enjoyed - in any genre?

I like a lot of different films. Horror remains my favorite genre. I love the way horror has been co-opted by the mainstream a lot of suspense TV or Film now has horror elements and trappings that years ago you would only find in a fringe low budget Horror film. These days mainstream actors are also willing to do more horror. I’ve enjoyed some of the recent crop of Horror - The Ring, Saw, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and most recently Hostel.
What are you currently working on and what can we look forward from you in the future?

I’m not supposed to tell!

If asked, would you ever return to 'The Gate' and do another film/continuation?

Sure I’d love to do another!


Thanks to Tibor & Scott!

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