Though he began his career in show business over 50 years ago, there are few filmmakers who embrace cutting-edge technology and industry changes as willingly as Ron Howard.
The Oscar-winning director and producer helped create a web-hosted short film based on ten photos chosen from 96,000 entries sent in by the public as part of Canon Camera's Project Imagin8on. The final result, "when you find me," a fantastical meditation on family life, was directed by his own daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, and is being shown on January 26th and 27th at Sundance Film Festival.
Ron is also behind the revived "Arrested Development" TV series and movie, which will be carried exclusively on Netflix, and is still working on bringing a multi-chapter adaptation of Stephen King's sprawling sci-fi western "Dark Tower" series to screens big and small. And to top it all off, he's a grandfather once again; Bryce gave birth to her second child last week. The filmmaker/grandfather spoke to HuffPost over the phone from London on Tuesday to discuss all his latest projects.
First of all, congratulations on the family news. How's Bryce doing?
She's doing great. I unfortunately couldn't be there. I was hanging around as long as I possibly could and she was a week and a half late. I'm getting down to the final weeks of prep on this film I'm starting here in London, and I finally had to leave. So naturally, 36 hours later, she had the baby. But my wife is there and Bryce is there. Everything is good.
You're doing Sundance screenings for "when you find me," right?
Yeah, they're having a couple of screenings, and there's also a really fun mini-version of the Project Imagination idea, where they're asking people to wander around and take their photographs and submit them. People are voting on them and they're having a contest there where someone can win a DSLR camera.
How have you found the reception to be?
It's been great. It was a very successful experiment. I'm pleased with what she did with it, and I'm also pleased with what the process demonstrated. It was aimed at underscoring the potential of creative collaboration with the public at large, or a large number of creative people, and technology plays a great role in it.
You're doing "Arrested Development" on Netflix, not TV, and that's another new platform. Why did you make that choice?
As the years passed, [series creator] Mitch Hurwitz began exploring where each of the characters would have gone. He wanted audiences to understand what their journeys had been, but he didn't want to express it in a joke or a sight gag. He actually wanted to let people know what had happened to each of the Bluths. And he's got such hilarious individual threads and story lines that the idea of doing ten half hours first, to get people caught up, became really a fresh idea, and a fresh way of building the audience of "Arrested Development," first for the movie and from there, who knows? At first, we didn't know who would distribute it.
I feel like all the mediums are blending. I continue to be interested in the possibility of "Dark Tower" functioning in a movie version and a television version. If I get to do "Dark Tower," there's also a video game element that would be a part of fleshing out the narrative of the Stephen King universe. I think it's time to be adventuresome, be bold, and sort of explore the ways in which people want to experience characters, relationships, settings and situations.
Do you think there will be more recognition for small films, cheaply made films and projects released on different platforms like Netflix and video on demand in the next five years?
Definitely. I don't think it's the death of professionalism, but it acknowledges that really remarkable works of art don't have to come from the studio system. We've known that for a long time, but it's inviting more and more voices to join in the process. It's breaking down all the barriers and obstacles. And I think that if you are a professional, it's both challenging and thrilling. You're not the only one with the Erector set anymore (laughs). If you're a person like me that loves it, wants to continue making my life's work, you have to keep looking around and challenging yourself, and it should keep people from ever contemplating going on autopilot.
Bob Zemeckis has always been bold and ambitious and progressive in his use of storytelling, and five or six years ago he said in an interview that the idea of visual spectacle alone, dazzling audiences as a central creative fulcrum for success, is over. That it's even more going to come back to story and the ideas being presented. I think you're going to see more and more that that's the case. And the Internet is also making it possible for these stories to find these audiences, so that's encouraging, too. So while it's upsetting the apple cart a little bit in terms of the mainstream economics of the film and television business, and certainly that has a ripple effect and presents challenges, it's also vibrant and really important and, more significant, inevitable. It's where the creative world is going. I find it exciting, and I don't think I have a choice but to find it exciting.