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Bill Hollweg is offline
Join Date: Jan 2008
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"A Dimension of Sound. A Dimension of Sight..."
I started Planet of the Apes: The Forbidden Zone because I wanted to learn more about Planet of the Apes myself. I looked around the web for a good Apes site, but only found a couple of episode guides for the TV series. When I first started gathering information about POTA, I was surprised to learn that Rod Serling co-wrote the screenplay for Planet. Then suddenly it all made sense. "Of course! Planet is a two-hour episode of The Twilight Zone!"
That idea stuck in the back of my head ever since. Then with the recent advances in digital filmmaking technology and especially after reading about fan edits (particularly the couple of Star Wars: Episode I edits that surfaced), another thought struck me: "Wouldn't it be cool to take Planet and edit it down into a thirty minute episode of The Twilight Zone, complete with Rod Serling narration?" I knew the project would take a lot of patience to assemble the pieces, but once I got them together, it would be great fun to create the final product.
"Three Men Lost Amongst the Stars..."
The first step was figuring out how to do the narration. The obvious answer was to take the actual Rod Serling intro and closing footage from another episode or two and use them. I knew this would pose even more challenges, since many of the Serling narrations featured him on the set of that particular episode, or had swiping pans that could prove difficult to adapt. But before I could worry about that, I had to identify which ones to use and then see with what I had to work.
I went to my original edition of The Twilight Zone Companion, by Marc Scott Zicree (Silman-James Press; 2nd edition is available from Amazon.com), which contains synopses of every episode and transcripts of the opening and closing narration. Without this book as a reference, this project would have been stalled before it ever got started. It was an invaluable resource. I skimmed through episode after episode and soon found the perfect one for the opening narration. The episode was "Elegy."
Identifying the closing narration was tougher. The one for "Elegy" didn't work, so I narrowed it down to three others -- "The Midnight Sun," "The Parallel," and "The Shelter." "The Shelter" seemed the best candidate. I would probably have to see the episodes in order to be sure which one worked best. Having the opening from one episode and the closing from another could pose more problems. I hoped Serling wore the same suit in both (on Dragnet, Friday and Gannon always wore the same clothes to make continuity easier).
Unfortunately, I only had one episode of The Twilight Zone on tape -- "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," which was the final episode produced. It was a French film that they purchased because they didn't have enough money to produce another episode. I bought it on video years ago in a discount bin. So, how to get the episodes I needed? The Sci-Fi Channel shows them every night at 11pm. I printed up an episode list and started taping, looking for my episodes. Then I found that they have a searchable schedule on their website. I found "Elegy" pretty soon. I was excited to watch it, but surprised to find that it was just a voice-over in the opening scene. No on-camera Serling, which was actually fine because the Sci-Fi Channel is big for putting their logo in the bottom corner. There was a little bit of a spaceship sound effect over the first part, but the rest was clean. No music or sound effects in the background. It would work just fine.
Getting the closing narration took a lot more patience. The SciFi Channel had a marathon or two, but didn't show my needed episodes. Finally, I got "Midnight Sun." By this time, after reviewing the transcripts some more, I had already decided against "The Parallel." I watched "Midnight Sun" and immediately decided "The Shelter" was it. Eventually, I finally got that one, too, and was again surprised that it was also just a voice-over narration. Well, that solved the challenges of blending in the on-camera Serling. "The Shelter's" closing narration only had a few small sound effects (clinking classes, but barely noticeable), but it did incorporate the closing music. That was no problem, since the ending of POTA doesn't have any music -- just the sound of crashing waves. So, my biggest challenge turned out to be no challenge at all.
"Your Next Stop..."
The next task was to review several episodes of The Twilight Zone and figure out the structure. The show is broken down into the three acts, which each run about seven minutes long for commercial breaks in between. The opening and closing of the show both run about 30 seconds. Now, how to condense a two-hour movie into three seven-minute acts? The obvious path was to follow the film's three-act structure. I skimmed through the movie and did a mental edit. Act I looked pretty clear, Act II a little more muddy (too much good stuff), and Act III started out muddy but had the perfect "Twilight Zone" ending. I couldn't wait to see the Statue of Liberty in black and white with the Twilight Zone theme playing over it. It gave me chills just thinking about it.
My first rough edit was transferring the videotape footage to my miniDV camera. In Act I, I already knew I was cutting out the whole journey across the Forbidden Zone, and I figured I could use the river to tie in the water landing with the bathing scene.
Act II was tougher. Since I was doing POTA, including the "Get your stinking paws off me" scene was a must. But the footage beforehand was a big long chase scene full of continuous background score that would be hard to edit. Still, that footage also told you the fate of Dodge, so that was necessary, too. But as exciting as the "stinking paws" scene is, it's just the middle of the film. The true climax to Act II is after the "monkey trial" and the discovery of Landon's lobotomy. Plus, the monkey trial scene is pure Serling -- aside from the ending, it's the most Twilight Zone-ish part of the movie.
Act III basically needed to cover Taylor's escape, shaving off his beard (since he's clean shaven in the final scene) and of course, the big shock. Lots of little pieces to be stuck together into, hopefully, a coherent whole.
The final pieces of the puzzle were the show opening and closing. I took the opening from "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." The only footage I took from "The Shelter" was the stars that fade in after the climax to the classic theme. I would have to create all the visuals for the end-credit sequence.
Now that I had my basic footage, it was time to really edit.
"You Cut Out His Brain, You Bloody Baboon!"
I imported all of the footage into a Mac G4 with iMovie. Using iMovie created some challenges later in syncing up the audio at the end (iMovie 3 doesn't handle multiple transitions well, and I ended up using several), but overall it met my needs.
Editing Act I was fairly simple. I cut it down to just the basics for the crash and, as planned, used the river to connect it to the bathing scene. The transition was amazingly smooth. Act I ends with Taylor seeing a Gorilla on horseback and fades to black. Perfect! Just like the show. The run-time was perfect, too. Far easier than I expected it to be.
Act II started out as the most challenging, but turned out to be the easiest. The more I skimmed the rough footage, the more I realized that there was no way I could boil this down to seven minutes. Plus, with the "stinking paws" and Landon's lobotomy, there were essentially two climaxes. However, the monkey trial and Landon's lobotomy runs about eight minutes. Close enough for the correct run-time. Problem solved. I sure hated to lose the "stinking paws" scene (and learning about Dodge's fate), but it was the only solution, and the storyline still flows pretty smoothly. Since I also cut the scene where Taylor is shot in the throat, going straight to the trial works great. As I said, it's pure Serling.
Act III clearly had to start with the prison break. With that established, it was easy to just go straight to the scenes on the beach and Taylor shaving his beard. Obviously, I had to cut out the whole cave sequence, which posed the biggest challenge yet. After Taylor shaves his beard, Zaius and the Gorillas show up. Cutting around them was tricky and not as successful as I wanted it to be. While Taylor is saying his good-byes to Cornelius, Zira, and Lucius, his horse mysteriously appears and there are Gorillas on the rocks behind them. Still, the dialogue in these shots was necessary, and the horse's sudden appearance isn't too jarring. After cutting in the shocking conclusion, it came in at eight and half minutes. Close enough.
"Tonight's Small Exercise in Logic, from The Twilight Zone."
I had already put the show opening in when I started Act I. After seeing the classic opening with the Twilight Zone theme that faded into a black and white version of POTA, I knew that the end product would be great. The music transition worked out perfectly, from the Twilight Zone music to the Jerry Goldsmith score. Lucky, with all the edits I made, I was able to cut around his score just fine. Adding Serling's narration to Act I was quite a thrill. After that point, I knew this would work. I couldn't wait to see the finished product.
Act III was, again, the most labor-intensive part of the project. The ending narration fit in just fine, as did the transition of the final shot to the starry background. After tracking down the correct font, I created stills of each end credit card which, in true Twilight Zone fashion, is shown over a final image from the episode. I used QuickTime Pro to convert the credit images into QuickTime movies and inserted transitions between each one to get the proper fade in and out of the text as on the show. Once I completed the credit sequence, I was able to finally add the closing music. Now the moment had finally come where I could watch the whole thing.
Watching it on my computer was really cool, finally getting to see POTA as an episode of the Twilight Zone. But the real thrill came after I exported the finished product back to my MiniDV camera and watched it on TV. Then I was felt like I was really seeing an episode of The Twilight Zone, starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, and Kim Hunter. Now I'm excited to be able to share it with everyone else. I hope you enjoy seeing it as much as I enjoyed making it.