Many thanks to Dr. David W. Pravica for taking time out of his very busy schedule to answer my questions about the mathematics that underpin the Cube universe. While I can’t pretend to follow every twist and turn those numbers take, he’s helped me better appreciate the fact that math is indeed a character in the film. He also shared some notes that were made during pre-production (such as those presented here) that we hope to be including in the book.
Thanks to the “over sharing” culture we’ve developed over years of social media use, we often have the opportunity to follow the creation of films over time. Of course what we see is usually heavily sanitized by studios, investors and the creators themselves. Which is why having the privilege to go through the Cube notes of director Vincenzo Natali has been so eye opening. From Day One he has handed over a cornucopia of information with only one stipulation: Tell the story. And much of the story behind Cube comes down to one thing: the scripts.
Erasing the Lines
Having begun his career as a storyboard artist, Natali has approached all of his film and television work with an artist’s eye. (You can see a great deal of this in his recent Twitter posts.) In Cube, he began with the concept of a giant prison filled with Terry Gilliamesque creatures and contraptions, with a little Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Hellraiser thrown in. Over time, however, collaborating with co-writer Andre Bijelic, and later Graeme Manson, detail after unnecessary detail was erased, much as an artist erases initial pencil lines, leaving only the slick, final vision in its place.
Perhaps one of the greatest surprises: Two brief scenes in the shooting script that were never included in the final film – two scenes that would have drastically changed the meaning and tone of Cube. (And yes, you will find an extensive examination of the scripts and those two scenes in the book.)
Cube: Hell, Isolation and the Making of a Cult Film Classic, follows the creation of the film from the first glimmers of the idea straight through to Cube‘s release, based on exclusive interviews with the cast and creative team. Coming in 2017 to mark Cube’s 20th anniversary.
Many, many thanks to Cube director Vincenzo Natali for sending me an enormous stack of Cube storyboards, sketches, early scripts – basically anything and everything you could ever possibly want to see related to the creation of the Cube universe. Rest assured that much of it will make its way into the pages of the Cube book. Some will also be showing up here as well.
And if you’re not already following Vincenzo on Twitter, I’d strongly suggest that you do. He’s been sharing many, many storyboards and more related to all of his film and television work, from Cube and Splice to Darknet, Hannibal and more.
Just a short note to say cheers to Vickie Papavs for sharing with me her recollections of shooting “Elevated” – the short-film predecessor of “Cube” – that particular chapter will be all the stronger for it.
Hi gang. Just a few words on where we are right now. I’ve sent the first six chapters (as well as chapters 8 and 9) to Vincenzo Natali for fact-checking purposes, and I’m hard at work polishing up the rest. (Some background on how this process works can be found here.) Other people I’ve interviewed will also be getting copies of the rough draft to check as we go.
Recently I had the good fortune to get in touch with Vickie Papavs, who starred in Natali’s 17-minute short, Elevated – the film that was pretty much the dry run for Cube during his time at the Canadian Film Centre.
This is probably also a good time to finally publish a “proof of life,” a nugget from the book itself. These few paragraphs come from Chapter 2:
While [cinematographer Derek] Rogers and Natali are setting up the next shot, the film’s speechless Kazan – Andrew Miller – joins Hewlett and co-star Nicole de Boer (Leaven) in a spirited rendition of Modern English’s 1982 hit “I Melt with You.” The “‘80s Cube” has surfaced again, much to the crew’s annoyance. “That kind of rotated from cube to cube because basically we did it whenever we were bored,” Miller admits.
Hot and exhausted, Natali looks up from his notebook and laughs. This may not be the nihilistic vision of hell that he first dreamed up seven years before while scribbling out notes in a tiny little Toronto apartment in The Annex, but this is what he needs right now. This is his family.
As if on cue, co-writer Andre Bijelic wanders back to the set finishing off whatever he’s been able to cadge from craft services’ meager spread. Natali and Bijelic have been dreaming big together since elementary school; fellow oddballs Hewlett and Miller joined them in their late teens, completing the quartet – or the creative cube, if you prefer.
At that moment somebody curses, somebody else laughs, and without turning Natali and Bijelic know that the doors between cubes have gone wonky again. Second unit supervisor William Phillips thinks he may have that particular problem beat, but it’ll be days before they see what he’s come up with. In the meantime, the director will have to juggle the shooting schedule yet again.
However frayed the actors’ nerves, however much some of the crew gripe, Natali and Bijelic know something that the others do not. Had they gone with the former’s original vision, things could’ve been much, much worse.
I’ve noticed in recent days that many of the visitors to this blog are from France, which makes perfect sense considering the subject matter. Not only were the French the first to rally around Cube when it began playing the film festival circuit, there is something very French about the existential themes of the film itself.
So let me say “Bonjour mes amis,” and end my use of your beautiful language there. Though 9 years of French in high school and college allow me to understand a wee bit of what is spoken around me, I’m sure my writing of it would do it irreparable harm.
First let me get the customary “apologies for not keeping this blog updated” out of the way… You’d think I’d never kept a blog about a work in progress before, but I just can’t seem to get into the swing of things with this one.
On the plus side, this means I’ve been spending the time I normally would be online working on the book instead. And as you can see from the title of the blog itself, we finally have a name for the book (yay!).
I’m about 80% done with the first draft and have begun sending the completed chapters to Cube director Vincenzo Natali to review. While this is not an “authorized” book about the making of the film, I’ve developed a system over the years that allows interviewees to see the final product without turning the book in question into a glorified press release.
My philosophy has always been this: If someone has been willing to sit down and talk to you for a project you’re working on, the least you can do is give them a chance to see what it’s going to look like in print. After four books, I’ve yet to have someone insist on changing something before it went to press, even when it didn’t show them in the best light. In my experience, if you play fair with people, they’ll tend to play fair with you.
Anyway, I WILL try to keep this blog better updated as we get closer to publication. In the meantime, if you have questions about the book (or indeed the film), please get in touch at asberman813 (at) gmail.com, or in the comments.
Back to the Writing Cube….