Film Crew: J.J. Abrams & Bad Robot / 10 Cloverfield Lane

Recently, J.J. Abrams had the job of a lifetime, introducing a beloved series to a new generation and (almost) re-imagining it for the older ones. The crazy thing about this is that sentence would make just as much as sense in 2009, with that other Star series, as it does today.

J.J. is the son of a television producer and an executive producer, and because of this, he grew up on sets. At a young age he was aware of the magic of behind the scenes. Before he wrote scripts for the legendary Mike Nichols (Regarding Henry) and the prolific Michael Bay (Armageddon), he composed music for a film called Night Beast. After his turn in writing, he began his big career in television producing such big shows such as Felicity, Alias, and Lost, just to name a few.

In 1998, Abrams founded Bad Robot. Their first production was Joy Ride, which also had J.J. Abrams helping with the writing duties. After that, Bad Robot didn’t produce anything until the 2006, Abrams-helmed, Mission Impossible III. Since then, they’ve seemed unstoppable.

In 2007, attached to Michael Bay’s Transformers, a mysterious trailer was released.

Looking back, we now know the trailer is for the great found-footage film (a statement rarely uttered) Cloverfield. Typically, with other monster films, like either Godzilla (1998) or Pacific Rim (2014), our protagonist usually has a connection to the monster, or is the one who must fight it. This time the “regular joe” is merely celebrating a promotion with friends before the monster attacks, and with the handheld camera, we are with the characters throughout everything. We are only aware of what they know, and find out what little information is offered as they do. The film has “shaky-cam” (which arguably has hit-or-miss appeal) because Hud is terrified, and Hud acts as the audience stand-in. Everything we feel is how he reacts and vice-versa. Cloverfield is an extremely immersive and intimate take on a monster film. It was written by Drew Goddard who previously wrote on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Lost, and Cabin in the Woods, and was just recently nominated for an Oscar for his work on The Martian.

Cloverfield was the start of one of the best viral marketing campaigns for a film. Other films worth mentioning in this category are The Muppets, for their trailer spoofing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trailer, and the upcoming Deadpool.

In May 2010 this trailer was attached to Iron Man 2.

I remember being in the theatre and watching this trailer for the first time and being both absolutely terrified and excited to find out whatever was arriving. A few weeks after the trailer was released, I found news that they were just about to start casting for Super 8. The film didn’t start production until September. This blew my mind. At the time, I couldn’t fathom the idea of a film trailer being released before production, let alone casting for the film.

This leads me to why I started writing this.

This weekend Michael Bay’s latest film 13 Hours was released, and one of the trailers attached to it was this.

Unfortunately, the title of the video spoils the reveal of the film’s title, but bear with me for a moment. 10 Cloverfield Lane stars John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr of Short Term 12. This is an extremely intriguing trailer that makes you ask many questions about what exactly is going on. It’s incredibly well edited and constructed, sporting a three-act structure, of sorts. At first, we have an upbeat song to establish all is well with the small “family”. As the song begins to distort, we are shown they are in a bomb shelter and things seems to get worse. We start seeing Goodman’s character as a type of antagonist who’s holding the other two against their will. At the same time, Goodman might not be all that bad, as something worse might be outside of the cellar. In Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s eyes we see absolute fear. Then, the reveal of the title. The bigger reveal, however, is afterwards, with the release date: March 11th.

There’s been a lot of discussion over the internet lately regarding whether the film is a legitimate sequel to the original, or simply a “blood relative”, as J.J. has stated. Keep in mind, he also said that Khan wasn’t in Star Trek Into Darkness. Even if it wasn’t directly or indirectly related to Cloverfield, I was already sold on the concept, look, cast, and crew. This film is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, who previously directed a great short film, Portal: No Escape. Also, Damien Chazelle, who wrote and directed Whiplash, has a writing credit after doing an apparently extensive re-write.

All of that is enough to be excited, but at the same time its imminent release date is simply remarkable. Living in today’s society which is so obsessed with technology and social media, this film somehow flew completely under the radar. When the Marvel and DC (and every other comic book film or big release, for that matter) films are in production, it’s hard not to find at least a few dozen on-set photos. This is why when those films are in production, they usually film under a different title, like “Freezer Burn” for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There were a few synopsis that were released for 10 Cloverfield Lane, but while it was under its original (or working) title “Valencia”. This is why this comes as such a shock. Talk of the film was out there, but because of the big title and Bad Robot behind them, it changes how the film is seen.

As I’ve said, we’re living in a world that uses technology to an absolutely excessive amount (I include myself in this), that when something like this big surprises us, it’s refreshing.

Finally, I remember when the short was released, and how big a deal it was. Dan Trachtenberg was in talks to direct an adaptation of Y: The Last Man. The rights were eventually released back to their rightful owner, and Trachtenberg, unfortunately, didn’t direct it. [Editor’s Note: Thank God.] Instead, he got this film. I wonder how he feels knowing now that his directorial debut is this anticipated by so many people.

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