An Interview with SEAN AKERS, Part 1
IAFT Producing Mentor Sean Akers served as co-producer on the Robert Redford picture, ALL IS LOST. We sat down with him on October 25 for a talk about the movie, written & directed by J.C. Chandor.
IAFT: Tell us about ALL IS LOST.
SA: ALL IS LOST was shot for 10 million. It was three and half months of fun in the sun in Mexico. We shot in Baja Studios which is the old Fox studio where they shot Titanic. They actually built it for Titanic. Master and Commander was shot there. U2 prepped for a tour there…
We shot three months of time lapse, every minute was taken, so we could actually show the building of the docks and different things we built into the water.
The tank was 36 feet deep, several football fields across, and they turned on the water one day and little by little it filled up in one night. The tank is an infinity pool on the edge and the ocean is behind it. So you can shoot it at pretty much any angle and it will look like it matches. Sometimes you could see a seam, depending on where the sun was, but you could take that out in post. But a lot of times we weren’t shooting at the water directly. We could literally put boats into this tank and sail them around.
We also shot indoors a bit. There was a tank we did a lot of the storm sequences in, because you can’t control waves in a big space, and we also wanted to make sure we were protecting everyone involved—that when a boat was thrashing around and you need to have some scenes where Mr. Redford’s there, he gets splashed with water, and the next scene you take him out and put a stuntman in place to throw him over the side of the boat and see what it looks like, and see—would he be able to survive that? There were very specific things we wanted to do, and rocking the boat back and forth and making sure that it looked like it was actually on open water. One of my days I spent the whole day rocking the boat back and forth. I wish I could’ve done more of it because of the ab workout. I wish I could’ve done LESS because I couldn’t stand up the next day because of the ab workout!
But it was a fascinating experience. John Goldsmith, the production designer, was amazing. We had three different boats, they had to match identically, and then we had to build some of the set pieces inside, they had to be duplicated so that we could do interior shots without having to cut a boat in half.
There’s very little dialogue in the whole movie. A big part of our risk was—what do you do when you don’t talk? Can the audience understand the story when he doesn’t really talk? And the people who were brave enough to put in money up front—Universal and Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate—they’d distribute it and were on board from the very beginning. They are amazing—because this is clearly not The Hunger Games. It’s not a franchise with a guaranteed audience. You know, young people—and me!—who read the Hunger Games books and can’t wait to see what Katniss does next—they are a huge audience. ALL IS LOST is for people who are willing to put themselves through a struggle along with the movie, because that’s what you do. It’s about struggling with—and holding your breath with—the character. It’s not quite the same as your big comic book hero movies where it’s flash and crazy. It’s much more based on reality and what are the realities of risk, survival and nature.
What was it like working with Robert Redford?
He’s in such incredible shape, he puts me to shame. He runs, he swims, and he works out, and then he comes to work, and you’re like, Wow, I would not do any of those things AND I barely work at all!
Sean is no stranger to these pages. We blogged about a seminar he did at IAFT in 2012 on Crowdsource Funding, and then he followed that up with a book. Sean’s THE SECRETS OF CROWDFUNDING: A STEP BY STEP GUIDE is now available on Amazon. Check back here next week for Part 2 of our interview.