| Clockstoppers |
|One day, when Zak is searching in the basement for junk to sell, he discovers what he thinks is just a cool-looking wristwatch. But this is no ordinary timepiece. When Zak slips it on and presses a button, everything freezes. |
In an instant, Zaks focus changes from cars to something way cooler than a set of wheels a device that allows him to enter hypertime, a speeded-up version of reality. People in normal time cant see people in hypertime because their molecules are moving so rapidly that they become undetectable to those in normal time. On the flip side, people in hypertime see people in normal time as frozen because their molecules are moving at such a slower rate that they appear to be virtually standing still.
Quickly learning how to manipulate the device, Zak tries it out on his new friend from school, the beautiful foreign exchange student Francesca. Rendering themselves invisible, the two venture into the real world and playfully romp through a series of pranks.
But Zak and Francesca soon discover they are not alone in hypertime. There are others there who will take extreme measures to get the extraordinary watch back.
For example, there is Henry Gates (Michael Biehn), the evil head of Quantum Technologies, who hired Dr. Earl Dopler (French Stewart) to develop the technology so he could take over the world. But Dopler hadnt perfected the device, and people in hypertime were aging years in a matter of hours. Desperate to please his maniacal boss, Dopler, a former student of George Gibbs, sent the watch to Zaks father, hoping that his old professor could reverse the accelerated aging process.
But thats not enough for the treacherous Gates. Realizing that Zaks father may be his only chance to achieve his wicked ends, Gates kidnaps George Gibbs in order to force him to fix the technology and give him what he wants control of the entire planet.
Now Zak must go after Gates, and with the help of Francesca and Dopler, he risks everything to save his father and the world.
ABOUT THE STORY
Clockstoppers is a sci-fi fantasy adventure intended to be a film the entire family can enjoy together, says producer Gale Anne Hurd. To appeal to a wider audience, we made the protagonists high school seniors, kids who are grappling with who they are now and who they are going to be in the future.
I really like that its a family movie that my kids can see, says director Jonathan Frakes, who directed Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection. Drawn to the project not only because of its sci-fi element, Frakes also liked the humorous bent of the film, adding, Its a wonderful story.
The film combines comedy, action, special effects and technology to create a character-driven adventure into a fascinating world in which reality is confused with a fateful game. With the added elements of an extraordinary technology that has the potential to be life-threatening in the wrong hands, Clockstoppers is also a classic tale of the struggle of good against evil.
The adventure begins when Zak discovers the watch among his fathers possessions, and innocently starts having fun with his new powers of invisibility.
At first Zak has a great joyride with this watch showing it off to his new friend Francesca, a beautiful exchange student, explains producer Julia Pistor. But soon Zak discovers there are some really bad people out there that want this technology, and who are really furious that hes stumbled upon it. Theyve even kidnapped his father, and now Zak, using the watch, has to track his father down.
With the kidnapping, the film takes off on a really high-speed adventure in which Zak has to save his father, interjects executive producer Albie Hecht. In the process, he reconnects with his dad and finds out that they actually have more in common than he thought.
Hurd observes that science fiction can either take audiences away to worlds far, far away, like Star Wars and Alien, or it can show people a way to look at their own world through new eyes.
Ive always been a fan of speculative fiction, says Hurd, and I loved the idea that Clockstoppers combines a sci-fi adventure with a comedic family tale, creating a world that Ive never seen before in a movie.
The reason Clockstoppers can achieve such broad appeal is due to the combination of Hurds producing credits (The Terminator, Aliens and Armageddon) with Hecht and Pistors producing credits in association with Nickelodeon Movies (The Rugrats Movie, Snow Day, Good Burger, Harriet the Spy). Together, then, Hurd, Hecht and Pistor, along with Nickelodeon, offer a very accessible sci-fi fantasy that offers both action-adventure and fine family entertainment.
But without the right director, Clockstoppers would never have become the mesmerizing film that it is. From the start, the choice was eminently clear -- Jonathan Frakes, who had already worked on science fiction projects and films in a variety of genres as a producer, director, and most importantly, as an actor.
Whats great about having an acting background is that you know how difficult it is to perform in a film with visual effects that require acting in front of a green screen or a blue screen, says Hurd. So because of his past in acting, Jonathans able to commiserate with the cast in a way that allows him to communicate the exact dramatic emotion he wants.
Jonathan Frakes is an amazing conductor, a real leader on the set, adds Hecht, and because he was in a science fiction classic, Star Trek, he knows what real science fiction is and can be. In addition, he has a great musical sense, playing the trombone, and the knowledge of music and rhythm are so important to the pace of any movie. All that, and he has a charming personality as well. Its a combination that makes for a great director.
Finding the right cast was of course very important to the filmmakers, and one of the greatest challenges was finding the young man to play Zak.
Zak is very, very smart, but at the same time he has something of a slacker mentality, which is an interesting dichotomy in his character, explains Hurd. The actor who plays him needs to be charming, warm and funny, while at the same time, able to deliver a dramatic performance. It is difficult to find all that in a young actor.
But then, according to Hurd, she saw Jesse Bradford in Bring It On and came to the office saying shed found the perfect Zak.
I didnt even connect that Jesse Bradford from Bring It On was the same Jesse Bradford from King of the Hill, which is one of my favorite movies, says Hurd. But I came in one Monday morning and said Id found the star of the movie. Happily, when Julia [Pistor], Jonathan [Frakes] and the studio saw Bring It On they agreed.
The search for Francesca, the foreign exchange student, was a little more complicated, and according to Hurd, they hired a casting director in Mexico City to send casting tapes of young women from Mexico and South America.
MTV and Nickelodeon sent in a number of girls on tape, too, and Paula Garces came in and read on one of those casting calls in New York, remembers Hurd. Without the benefit of Jonathans direction, she impressed us enough that we flew her out to Los Angeles for the final screen test where we tested three actresses opposite Jesse. The rest is history.
The next step was to cast the films villains, and finding the right actor to play Dopler was also challenging because in addition to instigating the films conflict and dramatic action, he had to be very funny and provide occasional comic relief.
French Stewart is one of those actors that when you look at him you naturally smile, says director Frakes. I mean, the way he moves is funny.
Hurd agrees, adding that she had worked with French on Dick, and in that film, she saw a side of the actor that wasnt apparent to her in 3rd Rock From the Sun. It really made her want to work with him again, and happily, Clockstoppers gave her the opportunity.
Doplers malevolent boss and Zaks nemesis is played by Michael Biehn, whom Hurd had worked with previously as well.
I think that Michael Biehns career and my career are inextricably intertwined, says Hurd. The first film that I produced on my own was Terminator. We worked together on that film and then later on Aliens and The Abyss. In the past, Michaels played either a freedom fighter or a military person, but in this movie, he plays the head of a biotech company. Its a nice change that he is more than capable of handling.
The thing about Michael is that hes an actual actor, adds French Stewart. Hes the real deal, and Ive picked up a lot from working with him because he really knows what hes doing. He has this incredible focus, and in the role of Gates, hes genuinely scary.
Its fun to be a bad guy, declares Biehn, adding that after reading the screenplay, he felt it was something his nine-year-old son would enjoy. Actually, its fun for the whole family.
Zaks parents were another important step in the casting process, and according to director Frakes, Robin Thomas was the perfect choice for Zaks dad because he has similar features and characteristics to Jesse Bradford.
We were lucky to get Robin, says Frakes. Not only is he a wonderful actor, but he looks like, and has the speech patterns of, Jesse Bradford. So you really buy the two of them as father and son, which isnt often the case in movies.
Julia Sweeney plays Zaks mom, and her character according to Hurd, must show tolerance mixed with humor.
What really impressed me about Julia is that shes not just a comedian, shes someone who has so much heart, and thats essential for this role, explains Hurd. Zaks mom needs patience, because the family starts off on a difficult note. The audience is rooting for them to come together at the end. Julia brings strength, great warmth, sensitivity and wonderful comic timing.
Completing the family is Zaks younger sister Kelly, played by Lindze Letherman. On her way to becoming a veteran, the teenage actor has already been in an Oscar®-nominated feature film Bicentennial Man opposite Robin Williams, Sam Neill and Oliver Platt.
We pretty much started from scratch with the casting and ended up with a great company of actors, says Frakes. Im really quite thrilled to be working with them.
The actors return the praise wholeheartedly.
The director sets the mood on a set, and Jonathan Frakes sets a beautiful mood, says Jesse Bradford. He keeps it light and makes everybody feel like theyre doing a good job. It just makes an actor want to work that much harder.
French Stewart agrees, adding, Jonathans been acting for a long time, and he can speak to an actor in a shorthand thats just delightful. Hes really an enjoyable guy to work for.
But perhaps relative newcomer Paula Garces sums up what Frakes lent to the atmosphere on the Clockstoppers set the best a sense of excitement.
A shot never became old for Jonathan, says Garces. Even if we did the same scene a thousand times, he was always excited.
And thats likely what audiences will feel throughout the film a fresh sense of excitement, and certainly something theyve never seen before.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS OF CLOCKSTOPPERS
The wristwatch Zak finds is actually a top-secret device developed by one of his fathers former students, now working for the high-tech company, Quantum Technologies. The device speeds up the molecules of whoever wears it, thus rendering him invisible. Perhaps more important, the watch also allows Zak and Francesca to have some fun changing things in the world without anyones knowledge. For example, theres the rave scene, with four hundred extras at a DJs dance party.
Its a hip, funny sequence with great special effects, explains producer Julia Pistor. The really fun part is watching the kids help their friend Meeker (Garikayi Mutambirwa). Using the watch, they slip into hypertime to jazz up his scratches and his dance groove, with no one the wiser, including Meeker remember, they cannot be seen while in hypertime.
The fun of being invisible in hypertime can, however, be unexpectedly stopped.
With a device that dispenses liquid nitrogen, people in hypertime can be frozen, thereby slowing down their molecules and bringing them back to real time, explains executive producer Albie Hecht. Zak, Francesca and Dopler create a liquid nitrogen shooter by adapting actual paint guns which they get from Meeker, who works in an extreme sports store. I think its a terrific way to maintain a sense of jeopardy and adventure in the film, and yet not fall back into the easy thing of getting out an AK-47 and blowing away peoples heads. The creation of the adapted paint guns is a good way to bring the technology to a level that any audience can understand instead of shooting paint or bullets, they shoot frozen liquid nitrogen.
Jesse Bradford relished his special effects scenes in the film.
Were doing some really cool shots like they did in The Matrix and Charlies Angels, says Bradford. Theres a camera moving around us in the middle of a stunt as were leaping or kicking.
Visual effects supervisor Michael Fink recalls one scene in particular that requires Bradford to dive for a valve.
Jesse has to jump, and we have to get him really far very fast, so we put him in whats called a fly rig, explains Fink. Its a harness apparatus operated by the special effects guys that allows an actor to jump and be carried on a cable. We then surround him with still cameras in a large semi-circle so that we can look at him from a range of 180 degrees.
Its a really complicated array shot, adds Hurd, using over ninety cameras to create the effect. I think it will really astonish audiences.
You get those sorts of shots in commercials or music videos, but you cant normally do that in the middle of a feature film because it just stops the reality of the situation, adds visual effects producer Jacqui Lopez. But the sci-fi premise of Clockstoppers lends itself to a very stylized visual look. It was really exciting to try to figure out what that would look like, and what wed want to see by stopping time.
The onscreen combination of people simultaneously in hypertime and normal time was tricky to manage, and the club scene is a prime example of just how difficult the process is.
Usually we can shoot someone against a blue screen, along with someone else on the set, and do it as a composite shot says Lopez. But in this instance, the invisible actors had to work with a third visible person in that Zak and his girlfriend had to actually manipulate Meeker into cool dance moves. We did this by having Meeker remain motionless while Zak was walking around normally, and to achieve the hypertime effect, we manipulated the speed of the film, normal to fast, starting at twenty-four frames per second and then speeding up to three hundred and sixty. It gets complicated, but the effect is pretty cool.
Clockstoppers was filmed in mid-winter, 2001, in Los Angeles and Orange County locations that included Long Beach Airport, the city of Orange, homes in Pasadena and Altadena, the Verizon Building in Westlake Village and the Biltmore Hotel. The production also employed the Boeing facility in Downey for various visual effects and to stage the clean room set, which is the high-tech science lab where the climax of the film takes place.
Release Date: 11 Oct 2002
Running Time: 94 mins
Take a look back at October's inaugural event.
The film is expected to continue without Mendes' involvement.