IC Exclusive: Clear Skies Series Interview with John Rourke
In an exclusive interview, Clear Skies creator, John Rourke, discusses his upcoming movie, Clear Skies 3. He also speaks of the time and effort that goes into making the series, plus provides exclusive content for the upcoming movie.
John told of how long Clear Skies 3 has taken to create. It was clear that precision and detail has been an underlying principle throughout the process: "It currently stands at 75% done, and I've been working on it since August 2009. Writing the script and testing the new stuff that I'm putting into it, learning how all the new things work - that took up the first six months or so, so it's not going to take another half-a-year to finish (I hope), it'll be faster than that. In terms of elapsed time it's between CS1 (2.5 years) and CS2 (11 months) but in terms of effort put in, it's easily the hardest thing I've ever done. It's pretty intensive stuff, I'll spend 5 to 8 hours a day on it, if I'm not on shift at work or out having a life. The biggest addition to the toolset is motion capture, which has really brought things to life on-screen. It does however take a lot of time to record the acting and process it, so that's the biggest addition to the workload. Well, that and the fact the running time will be about 70 minutes this time."
Clear skies 1 and 2 became very popular amongst the EVE community, however John never expected such a dedicated following of fans: "I worked out that I spent at least 1500 hours on Clear Skies 1, and said to myself if, eventually, 2,500 people watch it, at 40 minutes long, that’s 1500 hours - I'll be happy with breaking even. There were 2500 downloads in 48 hours. I was astounded. I was expecting about 15 responses in the forum thread saying, "yeah, it's different, but it's not exactly EVE". Instead it generated possibly one of the biggest threads ever to hit the EVE forums and it still turns up on page one, three years later. So no, I didn't expect that, ha."
Upon John realising the popularity of Clear skies 1, he set to work on the subsequent sequel: "Clear Skies 2 I started after those 48 hours, I now knew what, "by popular demand" meant. I'd already got script ideas knocking around in my head anyway, so it wasn't too difficult. It all went quite well - relatively fast to create and I improved things in a couple of areas, like using widescreen and getting a much better setup for the voice recording. There was more action and more fun, and it upped my game a fair bit, but what I was scared of the most was, "I must not let down the fans"."
A clear picture was building that the Clear Skies series entailed a great deal of effort and time. John revealed how many individuals were involved with the creation of Clear Skies 3 and his response reflected his dedication to his creation: "The bulk of it is done by me, myself, and I. I'm in full creative control of the end-to-end process, from writing the script to making the actors act, to choosing sound effects and where the camera points for every shot. However, there are some things I can't do and a couple of things I could off-load this time, so those certainly deserve a mention. I have one person doing all the lip-synching work this time, for which I am eternally grateful - it is a long, horrible job. I have a guy who makes the sets; he's incredibly good at it, way better than me. I've got an animation chap who helps me with getting the motion capture data into the characters, a graphics design guy for skinning [dressing] the models and making some of the display screens you see in shot, and other people help in various creative areas as well - they are all credited in CS3. But 95% of it is my work. There are a few reasons for this - one, I'm a bit of a control freak, admittedly. Two, I need consistency across the whole film, so someone else creating the facial expressions or the acting or shooting the footage with their own style would clash with mine. Three, the way you create all this stuff involves several crappy bits of software that are difficult to use, complex, and buggy. By the time I've taught someone how to do it I could have done it myself. Finally, I've got the drive and vision to see through a two-year project to completion. I can't ask such madness of anyone else."
There has been little information released divulging the content of Clear Skies 3, however John was willing to provide us with a teaser of information about his development of the original crew: "There are a couple of interesting characters that turn up to kick the story off, they are the "bad guys" if you like. But no crazy people this time, they individually have good reasons for doing what they do. We have had two nutters so far, so Richie [my co-writer and voice of Solomon Burke] and I decided we had to move away from that. Otherwise, it's the old crew back again, some quite familiar faces. There was no story-based need to introduce anyone this time, instead I'm developing the existing characters."
John was then asked the ultimate question, when will Clear Skies 3 be released? A question that gave way to a prediction from John but no confirmed date: "Unfortunately it's "when it's done". It takes about 4 days of solid effort, minimum, to produce a scene. That's if I've got all the pre-requisites lined up front, like all the voice recorded, synched, the motion captured and processed, sets built, graphics done, and the choreography done. Then it takes 4 days to film, put in the effects, balance the audio and finalise it. There are about 9 scenes left to do this, so a while yet. I hope April but don't hold me to that. It's as frustrating to me as it is to everyone else, I really want people to see the great new stuff that's going on here - but not until it's finished. There is now, of course, a teaser trailer out [on EVE Files and YouTube]. A full trailer will be out by the end of March - premiering at FanFest."
Finally, we asked John if he had any comments for the fans of the Clear Skies series, "Thank you for all the support and all the nice things you've all said. This whole thing was a massive surprise to me, it made all my effort worthwhile, and then some. Every time I get down or start to lose momentum, I just have to look at the thread-naught on the EVE Forums and read a couple of pages, and I realise just how much all this is appreciated and enjoyed. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to entertain over 100,000 people - things like that in life don't come along very often. I really think you'll like Clear Skies 3, it's a massive step-up from CS2 in all areas - I'm as excited as you all are, I promise you that!"
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