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Director J.J. Abrams discusses his ultra secretive filmmaking methods and preserving "the magic"

01.08.2013

Entertainment Weekly recently sat down with director J.J. Abrams during a press tour for his show, Revolution, and got the elusive filmmaker to spill his thoughts on the secrecy of his projects.  Abrams has been known for his marketing shut outs, most notably during production.  It's very rare to get set pics or interviews or looks at costumes, etc., while Abrams is shooting, but once the marketing begins, it comes pretty steady, as is the case with STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, which has seen images, trailers, and a whopping nine minutes of footage shown in IMAX.

Abrams on "the magic":

“I will sit in a meeting before a movie with 80-some people, heads of departments, and literally say that all I ask is that we preserve the experience for the viewer,” Abrams says. “Every choice we make, every costume fitting, every pad of makeup, every set that’s built — all that stuff becomes less magical if it’s discussed and revealed and pictures are posted online. I just want to make sure that when somebody sees something in a movie they didn’t watch a 60-minute behind-the-scene [video] that came out two months before.”

Abrams on enforcing his secrecy:

“It’s not like there are threats, it’s not like we’re begging them every day,” he says. “We just say up front that all the work we’re doing is about making this a special experience for the viewer; let’s preserve that as long as we can.”

Abrams on behind-the-scenes before the premiere:

“Why do I want to see [a behind-the-scenes element of the film] if it’s something I don’t even understand yet?” Abrams says. “Let me experience it so I know what the movie is and have the opportunity to get sucked into that experience, and feel like, ‘Oh my god, that world is real, that ship is real, that battle is real’  … If I’ve [already] seen how ILM or whatever visual effects company made that look real, you’re ruining it before it even exists.”

Abrams on the fun of suspense:

“It’s only fun to keep things quiet when it finally comes out as scheduled, because then you feel like, ‘Oh I didn’t just spend six months ruining the movie for people,’” Abrams says. “It’s not fun during the experience of withholding. Because then you sound like a coy bastard … and you’re sort of being a jerk. It’s about making sure that when you see the movie — or the show when it airs — that you didn’t read the synopsis that came out of my fat mouth because I’m answering a question that I’m grateful anyone would even ask — which is, ‘What happens?’ I would rather people experience what happens rather than being told what happens and then have it confirmed.”

Abrams has been a filmmaker to admire in many respects.  For obvious reasons, he delivers some kick ass films that make it worth venturing to the theater, rather than waiting for video, and has demonstrated a measure of control over his work that is respectful to the audience and those who contribute to production.  Add in his recent gesture of showing STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS to a dying fan before his death and you've got a very respectable filmmaker who has a firm grasp on what going to the movies (or watching TV for that matter) is all about.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS opens on May 17, 2013.

Extra Tidbit: What type of film would you like to see Abrams tackle next? I'm pretty much game for whatever this guy does, honestly.

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