Director Adrian Carr joined the Tex Murphy crew as the director of The Pandora Directive and has been a permanent member of the team of Chris Jones and Aaron Conners since then.Adventure-Treff: Hello Adrian, after doing various interviews with Chris and Aaron, it’s a pleasure to welcome another member of the gang here on Adventure-Treff. When did you know that you would be a director one day and what left such an impact on you that you came to that conclusion?
Adrian Carr: It was in 1969 in secondary school – I was 16 at the time and my art teacher, John Eagle, asked if anyone was interested in creating a 16mm film as part of the curriculum and I volunteered. Remember this had never been attempted in general education other than the two Film Schools operating at the time in Australia.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. had a big influence on me in the mid 60s and we shot a parody called The Man from N.U.C.L.E (the Newtork for Utter and Complete Lunacy in Espionage). That was the beginning of it for me, long before videotapes and DVDs – it’s nice to know that today filmmaking/media is taught in schools in Australia.
A-T: Was there maybe a key moment like some other directors had them?
Adrian: Yes, actually. One morning I went to collect the bottles of milk at the front gate and in the mailbox was an envelope with my name on it. Inside was AUS$200 with a note that simply said “I hope this little sum will help you to live your dreams“. To this day I do not know who left it for me but I have been living that dream ever since.
A-T: What was your first involvement in professional filmmaking and what do your memories look like?
Adrian: My first professional job was working in the mailroom at the ABC [the Australian Broadcasting Commission]. Within three months I transferred to the editing department and spent the next three years cutting my teeth on news and documentaries, I even directed a promo spot that was to air one night but ran six weeks. At the same time I studied photography three nights a week and to understand actors better I trained on weekends in the Stanislavski system for two years with the late Shayna Hevron. This helped me as an editor (and later as a director) to better understand truth in performances.
I left the ABC and went to work for Crawford Productions the largest production company in Australia at that time. I worked as an assistant for two years then was promoted to editor when I threatened to leave to study film in the U.S. So impressed was the head of production that I was promoted to editor on their flagship series Homicide and edited the movie length episode Stopover which won several television awards.
Four years later I joined Fred Schepisi’s Film House and went from editing 16mm film to cutting on 35mm. At Film House I edited the feature films Harlequin and the box office hit The Man from Snowy River. After four years cutting commercials I decided it was time to go freelance.
While editing Cheryl Ladd’s movie Now and Forever I was asked to take over the directing reins when the director was let go two weeks into production. This is not how I expected to become a director but I stepped up to the plate and completed the movie on schedule and under budget. It was on this production that I realized I was ready to direct but first I needed to learn more about script writing.
A-T: Please give us a brief overview of your career as a director – aside of Tex Murphy – and point out movies that you are especially proud of.
Adrian: After Now and Forever I went back to editing features such as the U.S. movie D.A.R.Y.L. In 1989 I directed the action flick The Sword of Bushido starring Richard (Big Jim Slade) Norton then edited Quigley Down Under and served as 2nd Unit Director.
I moved to America in 1992 with my wife, Rosemary (who plays the English voice on Tex Murphy Radio Theater), and directed the pilot and first few episodes of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I directed five episodes of The New Adventures of Robin Hood in the late 90s.
The 2000’s have been spent developing screenplays for several features. My best work as a director is yet to come. The project I am most proud of is an award winning short film I directed called Blood Makes Noise.
You can view some clips on my youtube playlist.
A-T: Let’s get to the Tex Murphy series now. How did you get involved after Chris and Aaron directed Under a Killing Moon themselves?
Adrian: Casting director, Catrine McGregor, introduced me to Chris and Aaron and they trusted her instincts and the next minute I was on a plane to Salt Lake City to direct something that was completely alien to me, no pun intended. They wanted me to direct only the scenes that had Hollywood talent in them. After one day of shooting they asked if I would direct the entire live action portion of the game; I said yes.
A-T: Did you play Under a Killing Moon before you decided to direct Pandora? If you did... what were your thoughts on the game and the direction of it?
Adrian: No, I have never played UAKM – I was literally thrown in at the deep end. Most I’d ever played was Space Invaders and Phoenix in the early 80’s. I was shown a few scenes from UAKM with Chris interacting with Margot Kidder and Brian Keith; it looked a little stilted to me.
Chris was quite candid about being anxious when working with professional ‘Hollywood’ actors, not that he couldn’t pull off Tex it was just he didn’t want to let them down so he would shoot all his moments separately – if you notice Tex talks then freezes then Margot talks then she freezes while Tex talks again – there was no interaction.
My first suggestion was for Chris to act opposite the other actors in a scene and use their interaction. It was this interaction that engages the player emotionally.
A-T: Did you have negative thoughts about doing a video game as someone who came from the traditional movie industry or where you rather excited about the possibilities that new medium offered?
Adrian: Actually I was excited to explore this new medium - this new technology because I didn’t even know what a CD-Rom was, shows you how ignorant I was. There was no preproduction period for me. Having been a film editor for 20+ years certainly prepared me for the task ahead. Little did I know that I would be working with the cream of Adventure Games talent.
As I recall it was Easter… I flew out to Salt Lake City on Thursday afternoon and met Chris and Aaron for the first time. On Good Friday they gave me a crash course in Adventure Games. Saturday was spent learning how to look at the 3D sets in wire-frame views and understanding how the lighting within that world worked. It was imperative that I could use interactive lighting on set so Tex would look natural in his environment – Sunday was spent storyboarding all the Malloy scenes featuring John Agar and the opening Black Arrow Killer sequence. Aaron and I had dinner with John that night to discuss the character and preparing him of what to expect when shooting on a blue screen stage. Monday we were off to the races.
The biggest challenges for me were…
i) not being allowed to move the camera at all
ii) ii) I had a limited colour palette of 256 colors
iii) iii) the image would be eventually played back at 10 fps, which is what causes the stepping effect vs normal motion
iv) iv) everything was to be shot on blue screen with just a handful of interactive props.
v) OH and the studio, which was NOT soundproof was directly at the end of the Salt Lake City International Airport runway!!!
The Interactive Conversations were very intriguing because the script was not in the conventional format but in the form of a FLOW CHART. At times I had to be aware of several answers to one question depending which PATH you were on and the subsequent three choices to any one line of dialogue and the following reaction. Even the ‘movie reward’ scenes had slightly different dynamics depending on which path the player was on. For me, Pandora Directive was the closest one can get to an interactive movie game.
A-T: Please talk about further memories of directing The Pandora Directive and share some anecdotes.
Adrian: So many memories… to this day I marvel at what we achieved on a 20’ x 30’ workspace on the blue screen stage. I like to run a fun set and with Chris and Aaron there was more fun to be had than any other set I have worked on, their enthusiasm and wit was infectious.
One of my favourite moments is when Kevin McCarthy growls “Pods! Pods! I hate pods” I had asked Kevin McCarthy to improv a call back to his classic movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Aaron incorporated it brilliantly into the script on the spot.
One of the most poignant moments was on the dark path, the noir path where if Tex slept with Regan he ends up as a clown, there was something magical in that scene.
I pushed Chris to allow me at least one shot with camera movement, he reluctantly agreed. I never realized at the time but this was a big deal because of the amount of computer memory it would eat up. The shot I had in mind was the first scene with the Black Arrow Killer, a simple tracking shot along a sleeping girl to the BAK searching her room. [see attached storyboards] Once I had established camera movement it looked I had elected to not move the camera again.
A-T: Which actors did you like working with most on the Pandora Directive for what reasons?
Adrian: The late Kevin McCarthy and the late John Agar – they were old school – total professionals with a great respect for the written word. John would often apologize when he blew a line and call me “sir” out of respect, a hangover from his John Ford days I expect. Kevin McCarthy would crack jokes or tell an anecdote one second and then slip into Fitzpatrick the next; he was amazing to work with.
Tanya Roberts was a hoot, she was so easy going, a total joy to work with.
Barry Corbin was total pro having flown from Seattle straight to Salt Lake and was on set by 11 am and in character, even Chris was nervous when he was interrogated by Jackson Cross. Bill Bradshaw who played Archie Ellis was so affecting in his scene with Barry Corbin (spoiler) shoots Archie dead that Chris and Aaron wrote a new scene where Archie survives on PATH A, surrounded by babes on some exotic island.
And then there’s Suzanne Barnes who reprised her role as Chelsee Bando – what a talent and such a wonderful spirit. Her chemistry with Chris was essential for their relationship to work otherwise we were doomed. She played off Chris so well that your heart aches because Tex can’t see what a friend he has in Chelsee – well depending on which path you chose that is.
And Tex… I was a little unsure of Chris Jones’ acting ability before we met and after ‘take one’ of the first shot I breathed a sigh of relief – he is Tex. For the CEO of a Software company to step up to the demanding task of running a company, developing an adventure game and acting every day with the responsibility that its success or failure rested on his performance is a testament to his professionalism. I can only imagine the pressure Chris was under but he delivered Tex day after day and held his own with the Hollywood professionals.
And not one actor had a stand-in on Pandora Directive or Overseer!