Daniel Kleinman, SKYFALL’s title designer, explains how the credits sequence was created.
What was the first Bond film you worked on?
That was GOLDENEYE. I did the LICENCE TO KILL music video for Gladys Knight which was a slight homage to the Bond opening sequences, of which I was a great admirer. It looks a bit clunky now, but it was cutting edge at the time and well received. That was seven years before GOLDENEYE, and during that period quite a lot changed in the Bond world, including the lead man. They gave me a call and asked if I was interested in pitching some ideas, which of course I was happy to do.
The 80’s were the dawn of computer technology. Did you embrace it with open arms?
It was an interesting time, because it was the end of the era of film opticals and the beginning of the digital editing suits. The machines are a double-edged sword though; they don’t have ideas, all they do is try and bring yours to life.
What’s the process of bringing a Bond title sequence to life?
My process is that I start with the script and come up with lots of visual images that I think will be relevant, then make the animatic – a comic strip of what will happen – then film the titles. Then comes the editing process, which is the most technical part. On GOLDENEYE, we did it all on analogue, which meant I was able to move things around. I could say, “OK, I want that statue there, and smoke there and make that figure bigger.” Then we would give it to other people who would convert it all to high resolution, which was a long and protracted way of doing things.
How does that compare to the digital process?
Well we didn’t have to do it again in high resolution, but once I had decided where everything should be, a button was pressed and the computer started work. Back then it took days and days, and when the sequence came out, there was no way of going back and changing it. But now, especially with SKYFALL, the computing power of the tools that I use are so fast that I’m almost back to where I started. I can try stuff and if it doesn’t work I can have a second go and tweak things.
How collaborative are you with the film director?
It changes with each film and each director as to the level of involvement they want. Sam Mendes was very interested in what we were doing. He gave me broad stroke notes and I went away and did it with my guys.
Do you do all your work once the actual filming of the movie is completed?
No, my work runs parallel with the filming of the actual film. This is obviously very time consuming for Sam – there’s no way he could be hands-on with us the whole time – but he had very useful notes to give me as we went along because he had an overview of the atmosphere and feeling that he wanted in this movie. But there have been previous films where the director has just left me to it.
That’s a tremendous leap of faith isn’t it?
Well it is in a way, but I work as a slightly autonomous unit and there are various analogies: a writer doesn’t always get involved with the cover of his own book. But its very important to me that a director is happy with my work, and that it fits in with the movie and works with the atmosphere and the narrative.
How early on in the process do you hear the Bond theme song?
I don’t get the music until very late so it all starts from reading the script and talking to the director to get his thoughts. Then I do the initial drawings and designs and storyboards, and then I have a film crew and props department to do the actual filming. Then, when the rushes come in, I edit the pieces together and when I get the song I make it all fit in a way that I like. At that point it gets handed to a post production company who have many men in many rooms with all the high spec digital machines capable of bringing my rushes to life.
Has there ever been a moment where you have finally listened to the title song, looked at what you’ve done and thought, “These two aren’t going to go together”?
Well it’s never happened to a devastating extent. What happens is I get quite a way down the process with the ideas, and then I get a demo of the song, so I’ve got something rough to work with. Then later on that song is recorded properly but not mixed, and then it’s mixed but not edited, because it’s a five minute song, and it can’t be five minutes in the title sequence. Then I get the final edit which is just under four minutes, and at that point I put it with what we have been doing. Usually it doesn’t marry up exactly and I have to rearrange things. It’s a little bit hair-raising.
You took over designing the titles from Maurice Binder who invented, amongst other things, the classic “Gun Barrel” sequence. Are there any other sacred cows when it comes to Bond?
No one tells me what I must or must not have in it. Saying that, Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYALE director) was keen that there were no girls in the CASINO ROYALE sequence which made total sense because it was the rebirth of James Bond. On the whole there is no list of rules on what must be in there. But having grown up with Bond I am very aware of the history and those magic elements that make Bond be Bond and not just another action film. Those moments when you are in the cinema, the theme tune kicks in, the hairs go up on the back of your neck and you think, “Great I’m off on another Bond adventure.” You can’t get rid of everything. One can refresh stuff, and one can reinvent things but I would never completely lose what is the heritage of the language that was invented by Maurice Binder.
No one wants to give away the ending of any Bond film. Does that complicate your work at the beginning?
Yes, because the sequence can’t just be a jumble of surreal images that mean nothing. I like to bring a suggestion of story element, but I’m very aware that even though people have watched the first ten minutes, they haven’t seen the film, so I can’t give away what’s going to happen, I can just offer hints and create the right atmosphere. I’m quite aware that fans will see this film many times, over many years, and I like to think that even once you know the story, one realises the relevance of the sequence even more.
SKYFALL is available to buy on BLU-RAY/DVD now.