Kerry Conran

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Kerry Conran
Born Kerry Scott Conran
(1964-11-06) November 6, 1964 (age 49)
Flint, Michigan, United States
Occupation Film director, screenwriter
Known for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Kerry Scott Conran (born November 6, 1964) is an American film director and screenwriter, best known for creating and directing the 2004 pulp science fiction film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Early life and influences[edit]

Conran was educated at the California Institute of Arts. He grew up watching such classic adventure movies and serials as King Kong, Lost Horizon, Metropolis, and Flash Gordon on a local television channel.[1][2]

He was impressed by the whimsy and imagination of these films. He explained in an interview with John Joseph Adams that the adventure films of the 1930s era were not limited by what was practical, but only by the imaginations of the creators. He stated that he found this element lacking in most modern adventure films, which he described as "almost too well informed... and more cynical".[3] As a result, he had aspired ever since his childhood to create an adventure film or serial in the same vein as the aforementioned escapist adventures of the 1930s. He spent much of his childhood making short super-8 movies.[4] Upon becoming an adult, he entered the California Institute of Arts. Although he was enrolled in a live-action course, he became enamored with the abilities of those in animation courses to create whatever was in their imagination. He realized that they were not bound by such things as practicality or the rules of physics, but only by their imaginations.[5] As a result, he devised the idea of making a film with live actors, but computer-animated backgrounds.[6]

Career[edit]

When he had fully figured out how he was going to go about making the movie, he enlisted the help of his brother Kevin and a few friends. At first, he planned to make a feature-length seven-chapter serial, which he would release independently. He eventually decided to make only a six-minute teaser instead, as it would take him several decades to create the backgrounds for a full-length feature. He set up a blue-screen in his apartment, and some of his friends acted in the roles. He created the backgrounds for the black and white short over the course of four years with his Mac computer. He could not afford a good computer or equipment, so he used equipment given him in payment for projects that he worked on, such as desktop publishing of articles. His computer (including the equipment he earned) was outdated and slow. He dropped out of society, and spent all of his free time creating the short, working only enough to support himself and his project. He later remarked that he "had no life", and would sometimes hide under his desk in a fetal position, feeling tempted to give up on his project.[7][8]

He modeled the tone and visuals of the short on the cinematography in The Third Man,[9] and based the look of the robots featured in the short on those in the Superman cartoon The Mechanical Monsters. The short took four years to complete. When finished, it was entitled Sky Captain and the Flying Legion In: The World of Tomorrow - Chapter One: The Mechanical Monsters, but it is usually referred to merely as The World of Tomorrow.

Kevin Conran invited Marsha Oglesby, a movie producer and friend of his wife, to look at the short. She was impressed by the scope and ambition of the short, especially as it was made entirely in Kerry Conran's apartment. She referred the Conran brothers to producer Jon Avnet, who agreed to help the Conran brothers make a feature-length film, and found funding for the project. Kerry Conran wrote and directed the feature-length film, entitled Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Kevin Conran served as the concept artist, production designer, and costume designer, and his younger sister Kirsten served as art director.[10] At first, Kerry Conran intended for the film to be a seven-part black and white serial, but Jon Avnet convinced him to make it without chapters, and in color. As a result, Kerry Conran and visual effects supervisor Darin Hollings developed a color style based on two-strip and three-strip Technicolor.[11] Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was filmed, for the most part, entirely on blue-screen, with backgrounds, lighting, and other effects added in post-production. However, due to time and budget constraints, one set was partially built, and another was fully built. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was released in 2004, by Paramount Pictures.[12] It was given fairly favorable reviews by critics,[13] but did not do well at the box-office.

Afterwards, Conran was slated to direct John Carter of Mars, an adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars, but left the project for unknown reasons. He also planned to work on an original project with friend and former schoolmate Robert Gordon.[14][15] He has stated that he prefers to adapt original material.[16]

Conran, who had replaced Robert Rodriguez, was replaced by Jon Favreau after leaving the project. Paramount executives decided not to continue with the project, citing their desire to put their resources toward the Star Trek franchise. Disney then picked up the option for Pixar's Andrew Stanton to direct.[17]

Kerry Conran directed a 2006 Christmas-themed Coca-Cola commercial entitled The Greatest Gift, on which Kevin Conran served as production designer along with other key Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow collaborators, including Eric Adkins and Erik Jessen.

In 2012, Kerry Conran and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow collaborator Stephen Lawes co-directed a short film written by Conran entitled Gumdrop. Sky Captain collaborators Jon Avnet, Marsha Oglesby, Sean Cushing, Todd Toon, and Kevin Chalk were also involved in making the short.[18] Conran also worked on the 2012 proof of concept short film Monster Roll, along with Sky Captain collaborators Dan Blank (who directed the short), Eric Adkins, Erik Jessen, and Takashi Takeoka.[19]

Legacy[edit]

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow has come to be considered a landmark in special effects, as it is the first major motion picture to be shot completely on blue-screen with computer-generated backgrounds (with the exception of the two sets built due to time and budget constraints), and is the film that brought this medium into vogue. Such films as Sin City, 300, and The Spirit are all influenced by Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in this respect. However, Kerry Conran has stated that he did not intend to create a new genre or medium, nor did he use his method of shooting on blue-screen as a gimmick. In his interview with John Joseph Adams, he stated: "I have always come at this from the perspective of filmmaking and developed the techniques used in this film out of necessity and never really sought to interest other computer aficionados".[20] However, he did acknowledge that his film had indeed become influential, albeit unintentionally: "That wasn't really the intention. Whether or not that what evolved from this maybe... which is a possibility. The intention was to tell that particular story with those particular visuals that we used.... and if history says it’s something else....".[21]

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