Zack Snyder Breaks Down Army of the Dead's Epic Opening Titles | Snyder School | Netflix

Zack Snyder Breaks Down Army of the Dead's Epic Opening Titles | Snyder School | Netflix

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- I'm telling you in advance how the movie's going to feel or be, but you're not maybe consciously clocking that in the moment that it's happening, but you look back on it, you're like, "Oh gosh, it was all there in a way." (explosion) That's the real power of the title sequence. (ominous music) So in this episode, we're going to talk a little bit about opening sequences of some of my movies, the title sequences in particular, and the title sequence for Army of the Dead. And we'll break it down, and I'll tell you about the how and the why's of it. The opening sequence has a lot to do with just how you are going to experience the movie. I think it is a kind of under-exploited aspect of movies in general. There's a lot of cool stuff that can be done within the constructs of a title sequence, so... I'm going to design this title sequence
01:01
within the parameters of a song in the construct where we learn a bit of history, or we learn about the contextual reality of where the film takes place, and we're going to learn about the characters that we're going to see. You know, it's kind of like, it turns into like an overture, or some kind of like, prologue to the film. You look back like that. (explosion) It's a conceit, right? The title sequence is a conceit, but there's a part of the movie where we see the names of the people that worked on this fake reality, so there's an amazing kind of suspension of disbelief that occurs. The title sequence is kind of refreshing. Mostly, it's no dialogue. It's this sort of six-minute silent film where I'm telling a pretty complicated story within the context of that. And I think the real power of cinema and the real power of our individual form is that it has the ability to sort of make you dissolve into the world. [Man] Action!
02:01
(gunfire) (yelling) That's good. If you look at the history for me of the title sequences, I try and approach each one as their own thing, you know, like Dawn of the Dead. One of my favorite elements of that is, you know, the graphics, like the way they blew the blood with a straw, and created this kind of high-contrast look. Then we put it together with stock footage and, you know, so it had a very kind of documentary feel if you will, which is different from the style that I normally shoot in. The reality of the title sequence helps us believe in the reality of the fall of the world into a zombie apocalypse, and then also the Johnny Cash song, you know, "When the Man Comes Around" is really iconic, and you know, it was perfect. And then when we did it was so informed by the graphic novel, which is a graphic novel that I love, and the drawing style that I love. It's beautiful, and it's graphic, and it's like,
03:03
it speaks to the graphic novel, it has like, incredible, like, everything kind of uses some of the cinematic style that we kind of coined in the movie of these big ramping, like, slow motion, blood sprays. Really kind of painting with these big graphic reds. And then of course Watchmen, well, let's, let me look, let's look a little bit at Watchmen, because I think it's a really good example of just how, where is Watchman? This is Watchman, and then Army is I drew digitally, so just like with the photography, we've moved from analog to this. So, you know, if you're familiar with the movie, this is Blake's happy face pin bouncing, and then we drive into it, and we drive directly into the black. This was the origin of Batman.
04:07
The concept is that Night Owl is sort of saving the Waynes from dying after an opera, and so there's no Batman. Watchman is the first title sequence that I did that took us like, a week to shoot. We shot a lot of it in prep, and we would just go, you know, do these really meticulous, impossible shots. You know, when we're shooting, like, you know, the Andy Warhol bit, and we had to, like, we had a Capote and a Warhol, and the naked guys walking around, and tinfoil on the walls, and it was really cool. Even Justice League, the opening title, even just the way DC when the lightning goes through it and the camera moves. Like I put all that in the drawings, you know, pretty early on. Here we go, guys. We're rolling. (clapperboard snaps) When we were writing the script for Army, I knew I was going to do a cool title sequence to kind of tell the backstory
05:08
of our main characters, sort of frame the world. And just also, I was really interested in this, the tonal relationship between genre, and how... the audience's relationship to genre, in that the audience is going through the same experience on a micro scale that they'll go through with the entire movie. They're fresh to the movie. They don't know what it's about. Liberace, you know, tells them, you know, "Are you ready, boys?" and then we begin. So the reality of those moments are more symbolic... and I do think it's useful to kind of get a sense of laying it out a little bit in your mind, so you can understand graphically where the titles might go in the shot. You know, like you might want to leave a little space on the side for a graph, like sometimes I would look at the monitor, and you know, you can take a grease pencil and just kind of make a block, like a box, and be like, "Oh, put the title over there."
06:10
I'll show you a little bit the way I put together Army. Now Army, I work on this program called Paper. It's a the way it works is like, you have all your different folders, and the reason I like it is because it's a great sketchbook. So, for an example, you have something like here's a, this was a piece of, like, concept art that I was working on for the end of the sequence where they're building the wall, and at this point, the wall was made of concrete. You see, like they're dropping this slab of concrete in, and it was only after we thought about it that I went to this idea, which was containers. And I thought, "Wow, that's a much smarter way to build a wall around Vegas quickly than to try and really put concrete wall." You can see that like there's New York, New York, and I think at this time, okay, there's guys on top of it. Anyway, so there's a bunch of that concept work. And then this is the title sequence as I drew it. So you can see this is Elvis getting crushed.
07:12
We see the missiles hit the Eiffel Tower, and then falls on him. (airplane roaring) (explosion) I added this little portraiture idea, because I wanted this one-second abstraction outside of the construct that you would sort of view as the reality of making the movie. Here we go, and hold the fan. We're going to go to the 20 mil, standing by. Keep going, keep going. Because the image is meant to come in such stark contrast to what they're doing now, that's why, like, we felt like Soccer Mom is just, that speaks for itself. Really the idea is that these guys aren't special forces. They're not like, you know, "I'm Dark Ops, so I'm going to go in and kill some zombies." It's "No, I'm like a soccer mom that like, over the course of sort of immersing myself in this world,
08:13
I became this other thing." And then we go to the wall and then, you know, Soccer Mom makes it, you know, here to the last, to the opening, and then just gets finally caught, you know... and her daughter won't leave her. I love the expectation that the audience has that the little girl is gonna make it, and that it won't all be for naught, and that, you know, when she doesn't, you know, there is this little bit of like, "Oh, okay, okay. I see, I see what kind of movie I'm in now." (explosion) And then we do the big, you know, the camera drives up over the wall, and we reveal all the zombies down below. And then we did this really tricky thing where when the camera tilts up into the sky, it's the same sky, and one of the black clouds is actually just the smoke that's coming out of the chimney of the Lucky Boy.
09:15
For me, the script is a guideline, and then when I draw it, it really is, that's what I'm going to film. On the day when we shoot, this is a pretty much a handheld movie, you know, super organic feeling, you know. And it's not that we don't, you know, that on the day, or we see something that we can change things, because we can. This is a good example. If you pause it there. Now, originally when he hits his jackpot, it said "Army of the Dead" on the (clicking sound). That was where the title of the movie came, but it just, I guess for me in sort of the rhythm, it just came into slightly the wrong spot. And that's one of those things that you design, that's a hard design, that is to say that we're shooting the title of the movie, which happens legally, in the breakdown of the title sequence, and so it created a weird rhythm for me. I was constantly kind of looking at some of the shots we've made from the title sequence after we had made them, and kind of playing with putting, you know, a different font, but different type and different
10:18
sort of sizing and stuff, messed around with it. And then I was like, "You know what? Maybe it's cooler if we just put it over them, just mauling the guy." And I also was really in love with the new font, because I just thought it was ironic to have this pink font with this subject matter. You know, the dead are walking around, you don't think pink normally, but I thought it was cool. And for instance, our actor who was going to play Liberace, I didn't know we would record him. Like, he just happened to be an amazing Liberace. In between takes, he was messing around playing, and doing his thing, and I was like, "Oh my God, we should film this," you know? And so those are the kinds of things that you're like, "Okay." Well, you have to be nimble enough not to let your storyboards stop you from, you know, finding something cool on the day as well. So the sprinter gets the cables and then, "Oh, shit, behind them!" (gunshots) If you've decided to make the title sequence for your film,
11:20
and you figured out all the why's of it, like, "I want to do it because it's going to help the audience get into the world. I like the idea of some sort of tonal visual that's going to help people understand what my take is on the movie," you, the director, then I think the title sequences could be really useful tool. So if you've worked all that out, then you find yourself back at, "And is it going to be musical? Is it going to have a musical element? Is it going to be score, is it going to be dry? Is it going to have a needle drop?" Like, what are you going to create a song? Like we kind of did a cover. Those are other questions that you have to figure out. But to get to the, what you would do in your sequences, really, I think the beginning, middle and end, the storytelling part of the title sequence is really a crucial element to the why of it, and how it will work. You know, the title sequences for me have been amazing little canvas within this larger canvas. I'm obsessed with tone, and I just think tonally it's has huge value, because the tone is so important,
12:22
and for me, I really like what it does. All right, well that wraps up the title sequences of my films, and you can check out a pretty cool one in Army of the Dead on Netflix. You're the prism. Boom, boom. That the thing goes through. (suspenseful music) (yelling) (grunts) (explosion)

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