The Hitcher - Music Video Wire

 
Source: Music Video Wire
The Hitcher - Interview With Director Dave Meyers
January 2007
 
 
For the past several years, Dave Meyers has been the go-to director for
the biggest names in the music industry, directing videos for Janet Jackson,
Jennifer Lopez, Dave Matthews Band, Pink, and a number of other high
profile artists. Meyers has directed several videos for Missy Elliott,
including her “Work It” video, which won the 2003 MTV Music Video of the Year.
 
On January 19, Meyers makes his feature film directorial debut with “The
Hitcher,” an update of the 1986 slasher flick of the same name from the
production team behind “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The movie follows
a collegiate couple (played by Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton) who are
tormented by the mysterious hitchhiker (Sean Bean). MVWire recently
caught up with Meyers to discuss his new film and the direction his career is
taking.
 
Music Video Wire: What was the process of choosing a movie?
Dave Meyers: A lot of it centered around Michael Bay. I felt like for four or
five years I have been turning down different movies or pursuing movies
and then not wanting my ideas and stuff like that. So it was just uber
important to find an environment politically, especially for your first time
film, of people that understand your vocabulary … and Michael having
come from videos and commercials and having done the Texas (Chainsaw
Massacre) thing with Marcus and just sort of being a home for visual people,
I just felt comfortable and the next project up they had was “The Hitcher”
and they asked me what I thought of it.
 
MVW: Were there variations from the original script?
DM: There definitely was … I didn’t want to do a remake that was exactly
the same as the original. Basically, right off the bat we have two college kids
traveling across country—a girl and a boy—where in the original it’s just a guy.
It was like the original felt more like a Western and this is more like a date
thriller. Tonally the two are different, the first one was more eccentric and sort
of perverted, not in a sexual (way) but more eccentric. You know this one is
more rooted in reality and believability; that is what I tried to focus on. Those
two themes and those two realities sort of led the movies on different roads
even though when you look at the set pieces, the set pieces are pretty similar
and the twists and the turns are pretty similar. It adds up to a movie that is
inspired by the original but it is in fact a new experience.
 
MVW: What is the difference for you between directing a movie versus a
commercial or a music video?
DM: Even though we do our best to make the video special, but the thing
that is the center of attention is song and the artist and (in) the commercial
it’s the product and that carries all the drama of what it is going to be and is
the thing that is sold. With a movie it’s like you’re on the front line of creating
a product and it’s exhilarating, especially after doing videos and commercials
for so long. It’s like you’re actually in control of creating the thing that hopefully
people will enjoy. I feel the journey now of Missy and all the artists that I have
worked with in the past.
 
You know at the end of the day the audience they just come and watch for
two hours and it is what it is. I think a lot of what creates great performances
and great movies is the on set experience. I think when there are disconnects
on set, you can feel it in the movie and it doesn’t feel as special and where
there is the connection you get amazing things. I think we got some great
stuff with Sean Bean and some really great performances from our two kids
Sophie Bush and Zach Knighton. There is almost a love story that manifested
in the movie, everybody treated it as if it was real and I was able to help
create that environment for them. I think the movie, hopefully stands above
the others in its category. I’ll find out in a couple of days (laughing).
 
MVW: How do you like working with actors?
DM: I find it exhilarating working with actors. Their dependence on you in
some sort of way, that dependency is not something that you always feel with
the artist. The artist is the artist; they are not playing a role, they are not
becoming somebody. And so a lot of times you are a documentarian putting that
icon of an artist into a visual landscape. But with a movie you are right there on
the front line creating a character with an actor and so it’s sort of the offspring
of the actor and director is the character they play. It’s a rewarding relationship,
and it feels very special and I had a special relationship with Sean Bean because
of it. We had 17 layers of things we were talking about, just between his lines
of dialogue and you could see it in the movie, he has so much contemplation
in his face. It was so rewarding that I can actually talk to an actor about all
these abstract ideas and have them communicated through his subtleties.
That’s really not something you experience in videos.
 
MVW: ... and the crew, how did they help you achieve your directing goals?
DM: The DP came from my videos and commercials … the distinct approach
I had to the film was to deconstruct me and … do what’s right for the movie
and make a very real story. The real unstylized raw film that I felt like “The
Hitcher” could aspire to be required me to deconstruct some of my devices
because I can tend to go very well composed, slick. I hired Michael Mann’s
camera operator to do all the handheld camera work, kind of let it go
sometimes when skies are blown out, they were not always blue and … sort
of embrace the rawness of the open road. I think that we found a realism
in that approach that matches with the acting performances.
 
For a very unbelievable story… it actually plays like it could have happened.
For the people that have seen it, it plays as the relentless kind of escapist
thrill ride. You take two regular kids from college on this extreme adventure
that is not filled with bullshit calls, “Oh hell no, that would not have happened.”
I really tried to be sensitive, I feel like in this genre that’s the one thing that
sucks in almost every one of the films, is that you could call “bullshit” 10
times over in a movie nowadays. You have to understand your audience and
well that audience is me, I am that guy, I hate calling “bullshit.” And that’s
how I kind of navigated through it. What situation would make people believe
this unbelievable thing and then I would construct how it could possibly
happen that it could go down like that and create a navigation for that. I
think that’s why the movie works, I strongly believe that; it makes it acceptable
to people. I think my thought process on how it could happen is what makes
people enjoy the ride because they can actually go on the ride and feel like
the story happens naturally and feels real.
 
MVW: Talk about the editing process.
DM: I created a nice strong directors cut, screened it for the studio and
everybody loved it. I think this is a good thing and true for every last film
on the planet but suddenly then there is the onslaught of comments. In
particularly in Michael Bays’ case, he helped me with some pitfalls, there
were some parts of the edit that he helped improve just by his experience,
he had been through so many test screenings of his own; there were a lot of
conversations. He just really took me under his wing at that point and helped
the editing along. There were a couple of things on set where there were script
things they would not let me change and I was able to tell Michael, “Michael we
really need to re-shoot to make this thing better,” and he was like, “You’re right,
let’s do it, we are going to make it happen.” He sort of became my hero in post
(laughs). And gave me the tools to put the finishing spin on the film. And then
the studio really came through and bought me an amazing soundtrack – NIN,
Dave Matthews, David Gray, American Rejects etc. it’s a pretty huge soundtrack
for a genre horror film. I feel very blessed and supported by the studio.
 
MVW: You were able to get the rights to all those artists for the film?
DM: They told me no up until the last two weeks of finishing the movie. I didn’t
think I would get any of the music. Then as the momentum kicked and they
hype started building the studio got more confident and Michael got excited
about some of the song choices. Dave Matthews was really the first to support
me, he gave me a great deal on a song I actually listened to in conjunction
with this one scene in the movie for like the prep. To get the song at a price
where the producers could not say no… when that happened then everybody
starting realizing that this movie could actually be bigger than just some
teeny bop song. One after another, David Gray… Nine Inch Nails, Trent
Reznor signed off, we didn’t think we were going to get it and then he
signed off a month later, literally the last couple of days in the final mix.
The studio came in a played the music composer’s music and I played NIN …
they shook their heads and said, “We can’t tell you no, Dave, that song
blends perfectly with that scene.”
 
MVW: So did you end up surprising the studio heads with how you directed the
movie?
DM: Well, yeah, because it started out as just a cookie cutter. They started out
thinking, OK Michael Bay makes these certain movies, the studio wants to start
doing horror films, there is a calculated budget; you know it’s all very business.
You know I am a video guy that is controllable, throw him in there, Bay will
control me etc. etc. etc. and here is a manufactured remake that is pretty
much the same as the original. I just took it like a football and ran, as far
as they would let me run.


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