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Paul M. Sammon Interview

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N: Sequels aside, do you think anything like BR will ever be made again, given the industry's apparent preference for CGI as opposed to "hands-on" SFX?

PS: Well, technically speaking, contemporary SF films mix digital effects with "real" miniatures and other hands-on effects all the time. Attack of the Clones is the first example that springs to mind; everyone's gone on and on about the CG work in that movie, but Clones also used model cities and special makeup effects, you know.

The wonderful thing about Hollywood is that occasionally, despite all efforts to the contrary, an intelligent, thoughtful film manages to slip through the back door and into your local multiplex. So sure, something approaching Blade Runner's quality is bound to come along. And don't forget, Hollywood isn't the only filmmaking entity - there's also the American indie and international filmmaking communities to consider. Those groups produce quality work all the time. To take one example, look at Japan's recent spate of smart, stylish horror films. Cure, Ring, Audition, Ghost Actress (which is also titled Don't Look Up), Pulse… I mean, each of those is a pretty damned impressive piece of work.

Then again, do I think we're likely to soon see a new spate of big-budgeted American projects like Blade Runner? A popular series of movies which would weld the bottomless resources of a major studio to the deeper sensibilities of a low-budget art film? No way. I mean, BR did that, but it was a fluke. So don't hold your breath.

N: A couple of years ago you said, "I'd really, really love to have an expanded edition of Future Noir out in bookstores by 2002, to tie in with the film's twentieth anniversary." And we would love to read it. Will we be seeing it? With the 300 excluded pages reinstated? And updates on all that has happened since, including the making of the Special Edition?

PS: At this point, nothing's definite. I have begun work on an expanded edition, which includes most of the previously deleted stuff along with a great deal of new material. Including, as you say, information on the making of the Special Edition.

The problem seems to be, at this point anyway, that certain departments within my publishing company need to be convinced that okaying such an expanded work would be in their best economic interests. I happen to think it would. So do a lot of other people. But… Tell you what. You really want to see an expanded Future Noir? Then write a letter or send an email to HarperCollins in New York. Or circulate a petition. Publishers do listen to their readerships, you know - especially if they hear enough noise from them. In fact, a certain level of insistence from fans of the original Future Noir demanding an expanded edition just might carry enough weight to tip the scales in my favor.

Anyway, in the meantime, I continue to explore the issue at my end. I'm rarin' to go, believe me.

By the way, if you don't mind, since we're talking about publishers, I'd like to put in a good word for my United Kingdom publishers, Orion Media. Orion has just been a super company to work with. Friendly, supportive, extremely professional. They've also, in my opinion, designed the best dust jacket of all the Future Noir foreign editions; I mean, the book's been reprinted in Japan, Spain, Italy, the USA and so on. But Orion's the only company that's come up with a cover that, I feel, does justice to the film and my book. So not only are they great to work with, Orion also has taste! They published the Alien and Aliens screenplay books I edited a couple of years ago. So buy Orion books! I can't say enough good things about those people.

N: In some ways, the forced excising of chunks of your book parallels what happened to Blade Runner. Given that there are further difficulties now that look likely to delay the release of the Blade Runner Special Edition DVD set until 2003, it seems the complications continue. Could you explain the BR rights situation to us - we're very confused.

PS: You're not the only one! (laughs) BR's rights situation has always been something of a quagmire. You have a major studio involved (Warner Brothers), a major production company (Scott Free), and a separate entity called The Blade Runner Partnership. There's also some interpersonal friction going on. The good news is that various attorneys from these three entities are still talking to each other. So maybe we're moving forwards, towards a final resolution on this issue.

But you've also brought up something I'd like to correct. You see, I think there may be a misperception about how Future Noir's 300 pages went missing. HarperCollins never arbitrarily said, "Cut this! Cut that!" In fact, my editor on Future Noir, Caitlin Blasdell, was uncommonly supportive of the book while I was writing it. The problem was, I turned in a manuscript you could have used to ballast an oil tanker. So the edits I made came about from the result of a mutual understanding - I and my publisher both knew that, if the manuscript had been kept at its original length, HarperCollins would have had to jack up the price of Future Noir far beyond its present cost. It's simple economics - more pages, more paper. Which costs more money.

So FN's "missing" 300 pages basically came down to a financial issue, as do most things in America. Which was upsetting, if legitimate. I do understand and respect the business end of publishing/filmmaking, you know, far more than some might think. It's only fair, right? I mean, if you're in business with someone who's willing to bankroll your project, then part of your responsibility is to be as fiscally responsible as possible while you're creating that project. I'm not saying you should tweak your creative elements because some MBA doesn't like or understand them.What I'm saying is that it's both wise and fair for you to explore the most cost-effective ways of conjuring up those elements. After all, I didn't pay the bills for Future Noir - HarperCollins did!

But…! (laughs) You knew that was coming, right? Anyway, the near-crippling problem I had with this massive pruning job was the time frame I was given to accomplish it in. That was very, very narrow. Future Noir would be a far better book, in my opinion, if I'd had more than a few days to finish the necessary nips and tucks. That's why I always cringe a bit when someone compliments me on the book. I had to cut appendices and compress chapters and rewrite material so quickly that the end result, I fear, more closely resembles a first draft than a finished work. Now, don't get me wrong - I do think that I'd done a man's job on Future Noir, as Gaff would say. Particularly considering the last-minute curve ball that was thrown at my head. But that's another reason I so want to do an expanded edition - in my opinion, the original still needs work!


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