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Kevin Kutchaver Talks to UK Tremors (5/8/2003)

Kevin Kutchaver Talks to UK Tremors (5/8/2003)
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We contacted Kevin Kutchaver, president of HimAnI Productions, Inc, (the company behind the CGI from Tremors) to find out about his experiences working on Tremors.

UK: Could you tell us about your involvement with the project?


KK: I was a big fan of the original Tremors (and Tremors 2 as well) and felt that smart, modestly budgeted films were becoming a disappearing resource. I grew up watching Ray Harryhausen movies, and felt that there would always be a place for these kind of fun, fantasy films, but as the studios got bigger and bigger, the budgets for movies grew and grew, and weekend box office reports of $35 million dollars were deemed "disappointing", I felt I would do whatever I could to help these smaller, smarter films get out there and get seen. It's one of the appealing things that led me to start Flat Earth Productions and get lots of effects on television with Hercules and Xena, and it's what made getting involved with Tremors 3 so inviting.

UK: You created over 100 shots for the film. Do you consider any of them to stand out as the best?
KK: Well, my tongue in cheek answer would be "The ones I got paid for", but that really needs an explanation. It was hoped at the start, that the film might contain around 24 CG creature shots, and maybe 20 or so simple composite shots. My budgeting was originally for the 24 creature shots, knowing they would mostly be "AssBlaster" sgots, and maybe several "Shriekers" for the opening. It was hoped that many of the shots would be accomplished with on set puppets and animatronics being done by ADI. I was the new guy, just starting HimAnI Productions after closing Flat Earth Productions (again, working for Universal on Herc and Xena) and was in a long line as FX budgets came in from other companies, even as big as Cinesite. However, when the dust cleared, no one's budget was even close to the amount of CG money that could actually be spent on Tremors 3 given that it was a direct to video film with an extremely tight and ambitious shooting schedule. I sort of won the job with 20% enthusiasm to show off, and %80 default. Problem was, by the time the cut of the film was together, we ended up with the need for around 100 FX shots. A large number of shots were needed to complete sequences and make them as exciting as possible, partly, as I mentioned, because of the tough shooting schedule and the slim FX budget we, and ADI were working with. Some people might say those shots should be trimmed and the show re-cut, but what's the point of making a monster movie if you can't show the monster? Anyone who says it's spookier to leave it to the audiences imagination is a cheap bastard! Monster POV = wanky crap. I think the budget increased very slightly, but massively disproportionate to the work that needed to be done. I can't get into numbers, but since the show still had a film finish (meaning I had to deliver negative of the CG shots) the extra shots ended up costing a lot of time, but also hard costs of scanning all the extra shots out to film. HimAnI went into the hole on the film a bit, and I don't mean into profit like most H'wood execs see it, I mean into pocket. Was it worth it? Absolutely, I mean imagine the film with over half of those shots gone! So, back to the question, there are about 30 or so shots that I'm extremely proud of in the show, such as the AssBlaster breaking down the door at Chang's Market or some of the Shrieker death scenes in Burt's Argentina opening. There are more that work well enough in context with the film and, yes, there are a bunch I wish I could grab and do over. I consider those the free ones!
UK:As you say, you were a big fan of the first two films. Does that make the job easier? Was there any part that was particually hard?

KK: If my degree was in business instead of the fine arts, I never would have taken on Tremors 3 just from a bottom line viewpoint. However, being a fan not only of the Tremors films, but also the style of film making Steve and Nancy and Brent at Stampede employ (my friend, FX supervisor Linda Drake has known them for years). We could actually sit and look at the cut of the film and try to do the best we could to get the money on the screen, and if that meant adjusting the cut a little bit, that's what we did. Tremors 3 was a film making experience for me. Working any other way is just a job. That's why we all pushed as hard as we could to get everything possible into the show.
UK: You have worked on a lot of stuff over the years, was there anything about Tremors 3 that stood out from the others?

KK: I may have answered this a bit in the last one, but having done this for over twenty years...Let me point this out. I haven't just been in the business like some for twenty years, moving from PA to coordinator to line-producer to whatever...I've been doing this specific job of visual effects for that long, and after answering the same questions over and over and over again from production to production (No it's not finished, that's why it's labeled "temp") I look for jobs where I'm lucky enough to work with people whose work I admire, and where I can come away with some new knowledge and good experiences. The key word is work "with", not work "for". I was happy and lucky to work with the group at Stampede.
UK: Will you be working on any Tremors in the future?

KK: Did some tests shots on the TV series...Didn't land the job, but I happily came back to Universal for Tremors 4. I can't say anything about it until it's released, but I think people will be pleased with it and I was happy to work on it. I used to think Stampede was just a quaint cowboy name for a group of people enamored with the appeal of the old west, but for me it should also stand for the sound of people clamoring to work with them. They are the best!

UK Tremors thanks Kevin Kutchaver for the time he spent on this article. Check out the HimAnI Productions website - http://www.himaniproductions.com/

Tremors 3: Back To Perfection is distributed by MCA/Universal Home Video, Inc. TM and Copyright 2001 Stampede Entertainment.