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Thomas Jane talks about dialogue--and its absence
October 31st, 2012 8:52PM

For the last couple of Halloween seasons, I've been checking out horror movies and other frightening media as October rolls around. I'd literally just finished watching Eyes Without a Face on Hulu when a PR rep sent a digital copy of Dark Country, Thomas Ott's graphic novel tied to the movie and short story of the same name.

The first thing you notice is what you don't see: words. It was a bit of a surprise to realize it when I was done reading, but it works well that way. The short story is included with the graphic novel; reading it reminds you that telling stories just in images can be really creepy.

Thomas Jane, who directed the movie and, with Raw Comics partner Tim Bradstreet, oversaw the graphic novel, said he "stole a lot of his images" for the movie version of Dark Country from Ott. "He was a big inspiration for the look of the film."

Jane wanted to repay the favor with the artist, and Ott, taking a look at the original short story on which the movie is based, decided it was right up his alley. Jane headed off to Europe to work with Ott on the project.

"Ott's got a sort of signature style. First he does his scratchboard style, scratching a black board to scratch away the black," Jane said. The other part of Ott's style is the absence of dialogue. "It's kind of like a silent movie, very very creative. He's got quite a lot of fans over in Europe."

"Thomas' take on the graphic novel is pretty much his own personal style. It's a really creative way he can tell a whole story using just visuals," Jane said.

The movie, of course, wasn't silent, although Jane did concentrate on visuals.

"I think movies today rely too heavily on dialogue. When movies were silent, people had to be a lot more creative," Jane said.

Jane said he'd like to one day direct a silent movie himself, noting that Chad St. John, the writer of his The Punisher: Dirty Laundry short, has a no-dialogue script. "Not silent--no one talks. It's a brilliantly executed way of telling a story. Captivating.

"It really just depends on what the story is, if you find the right story."

The movie Dark Country was Jane's first feature as a director. "It was a great sort of student film to cut my teeth on. I bit off a bit more than I could chew." Dark Country was the first all-digital 3D movie, which required a lot of invention on the technical side. Jane acknowledged "a lot of mistakes in it" and noted that the studio asked for 10 minutes' more footage, which means it drags in places. However, he's been encouraged by the response at screenings at horror and comic conventions around the country.

Dark Country is the first graphic novel/movie combo Jane's been involved with, although Alien Pig Farm 3000, a previous Raw Comics title, was considered for filming.

Jane's second feature, The Magnificent Death, starts shooting in spring 2013. "A lot of people told me I should do a Western," he said.

As he preps, Jane--who is collaborating with Bradstreet on the movie--has been immersing himself in the old West, both on film and in books, to capture the feel of his 1879 setting. "It's the history of Westerns at my house every night," he said. Just recently, he's been watching Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dynamite, John Ford's Two Rode Together, Richard Brooks' The Professionals with Lee Marvin, and George Stevens' Shane. He's also been looking at the Western photography of Ansel Adams and Timothy O'Sullivan. He's also been going East--looking at the samurai movies which were influenced by Westerns.

For more on the movie Dark Country, check out Clark Douglas' DVD Verdict review here. Ott's Dark Country graphic novel was published by Raw Comics; other Ott works are Fantagraphics Books releases.

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