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Brian Taylor

Outlaw at the Bleeding Edge

of Independent Cinema

Movies featuring the latest in high tech digital effects, eye-popping CGI environments and ear-splitting surround sound, are often described as “pushing the envelope.” But they’re mega-million-dollar productions that are delivered back to the studios by the filmmakers precisely as pre-ordered. Rarely is there danger of disaster, so what envelope has been pushed?

“Envelope-shredder” might be a better designation for Brian Taylor...

Who, usually in collaboration with partner-in-mayhem Mark Neveldine, has given the world such films as Crank, Crank: High Voltage, Gamer, Pathology, and recently Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Brian Taylor has chosen his favorite
Ghost Rider art for this article.

Road to Comic-Con 2012

These are movies that dance on the razor’s edge of what the studios will release, having already made “Neveldine/Taylor” jump through flaming hoops of Byzantine financing just to get them made.

These are movies keeping alight the torch of the best of DIY independent film storytelling – of providing us outrageous thrills and sardonic politically incorrect fun, and keeping one step beyond what “the suits” ordain as acceptable.

Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine are not graduates of the prestigious USC or UCLA film schools, but of the more modest L.A. Film School located on Sunset Boulevard. They entered the industry as camera operators before moving up as cinematographers, screenwriters, directors and producers in rapid time by Hollywood standards. This “know it/do it all” background shows in their films. There’s a “we can do anything” spirit that pervades every crazier-than-the-last action sequence and loopy plot twist.

As writer-cameramen-directors, they manage to tell the most preposterous story believably, show it to us convincingly, and guide us to the next level of madness seamlessly.

These are “do what’s never been done before” guys, necessitating them also being mostly “do it yourself” guys.

For example:

Mark Neveldine invented a device

allowing him to film while

rollerblading through the fight scenes.

The first Ghost Rider translated the Marvel comic book to film, while still “reading” like a comic book, i.e. its cartoonishness drained it of any genuine dramatic thrills. In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the Neveldine/Taylor team takes the helm and propels the story into another world with the stunning artistry in the transformation of the Ghost Rider into blazing skeleton as well as the fiery upgrade given his bike providing the visceral punch missing in the original. Neither the comic book sensibility nor the film medium’s magical ability to lend a “reality” to the surreal narrative is lost.

This movie, even at its craziest and most bizzare, looks and feels somehow real. The dramatic tension of a great "movie-movie" remains despite the surreal elements. The future of successful genre films depends on more storytellers learning how to mash-up and blend story elements and story styles of action films, comic books and videogames as inventively and seamlessly as evidenced in GR:SOV. I loved being launched into scope mode for a little MW sniper action.

With so much pre-tested pre-programmed confection coming out of Hollywood, it’s heartening to know there continue to be the DIY any way you can mavericks at the edges of the filmmaking community, artists striving to realize their visions without benefit of test-audience numbers. There have always been genuine “envelope-pushers” at the edge of the industry, risk-takers like Sam Peckinpah and Ken Russell, whose efforts sometimes fell to foolishness, but whose triumphs soared to the heights of transcendent holy madness.

Those “mavericks who dared” have passed their still burning torch of righteous outrage to new masters like Tarantino, Rodriguez and Neveldine/Taylor.

It has been quite an amazing ride so far. With Twisted Metal and CrankX 3D possibly on the way, this blazing train on devil tracks train has no signs of stopping for any of the usual stops on its way to hell.

An interview with:

Brian Taylor

How much of an overall design or look do you have in mind for a production before interaction with artists, in both on-screen art and ad campaign art?  And how much do you leave to the artists to blow you away with their own ideas?

We have almost no input on ad campaign art before the fact. Guys get paid big to come up with these campaigns. But once the first set of samples or options are generated, we have always been very vocal with our input. I have had detailed collaboration with the ad guys on everything from slogans to colors to font choices to layout and strategy. They don't always listen, and often they are right not to - but we give our two cents nonetheless.

In terms of the production itself, we always come in with a great deal of visual work done.  for instance, on ghost rider, the new, darker look of the title character was completely conceived walking in the door. We had texture samples, references and fully developed concept art. I also came with complex and detailed look books for each character. These documents and images became a bible for the production, a launching off point for the amazing work brought in by the various departments. Probably not all directors do this, but I can't imagine walking into a movie waiting for other people to tell you what it will look like.

What advice do you have for young artists intent on getting their work seen by producers, etc, and breaking into movies and videogame production?

Comics are a great place to start - even self published. The movie business is still a sucker for anything with panels. Also - directors these days are so much more accessible than ever before via social media. Why not create a portfolio of concept designs or storyboards based on a director's past movies and send it to them? Most guys I know would think that was pretty cool. If the work is amazing it could land you anything from a retweet to a job.

What was the biggest challenge for your artists in trying to amaze audiences with Ghost Rider 2? How do you exceed audience expectation when they’ve already seen the burning-skull rider in GR1?

The first GR fell flat for many people largely due to the design. The rider didn't look real, or scary. Tthis was despite a lot of very talented - and even Academy Award winning - people involved in the final product. If there is no passion and point of view in the design stage, it's never going to get there. So the big challenge for us was to create a new GR that was more visceral, realistic, weird and terrifying.

Can you talk a little bit about the over all art direction of this film?

We are not big fans of sets. We prefer to take real locations and repurpose them if necessary. A classic example of this is in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner - the ultimate movie in terms of design - where they reimagine LA's union station as a police headquarters. Aalong the same lines, on Gamer we turned a remote New Mexico gypsum mine into a futuristic prision. There were no structures, just endless miles of pure white carved out of the earth. After all, where would the prisoners go? This concept of repurposing, I believe create more natural and lived-in environments. They look like useful places.

We took a similar approach on GRSOV. The art direction was inspired directly from the real Eastern European and Turkish locations we shot in.

What is the most important attribute an artist can cultivate when working with directors on films?

A great film designer is always walking a line. The most important thing is to understand the director's point of view and vision for the movie. Your job is not to build your reel, but to help them to make the movie they see in their head and feel in their heart. Sometimes this means giving them exactly what they ask for, even if it's not your personal taste. But the great ones are able to really understand a director's concept and take it farther - you are giving them what you know they want, even if they don't know it yet.

What is your special connection to comics, videogames, action & genre films, and all generally cool things?

My life revolves around this stuff. And it seems like every year the line between them gets fuzzier. Comics, movies, games and the internet are quickly becoming one. The challenge to stay at the bleeding edge is everything.

How useful are short animated productions in catching the eye of movie and videogame producers? How important is it for young artists to get their work onto the web. Is there a good way of making that happen vs. already obsolete ways?

Producers are always on the lookout for the next genius out there who can create incredible images and tell stories for no money. If you've got a computer and talent, it has never been easier to get access.

Who are the most exciting filmmakers working today? Whose next movie are you always excited about seeing?

Fincher, Trantino, Rodriguez, Payne, Wright - The Usual Suspects.

Movies featuring the latest in high tech digital effects, eye-popping CGI environments and ear-splitting surround sound, are often described as “pushing the envelope.” But they’re mega-million-dollar productions that are delivered back to the studios by the filmmakers precisely as pre-ordered. Rarely is there danger of disaster, so what envelope has been pushed?
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eliejulz11 Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2016
Invaluable analysis ! I was fascinated by the info ! Does someone know where my company would be able to grab a template IE Revenue Form TR2 document to use ?
midnightwolf2302 Featured By Owner May 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
cool! thats awesome
kaboomduck Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is the power of independent movies. THEY're the genre-defying, envelope-pushing films that give us unique and oftentimes mind-bending films. Big-budget movies don't necessarily mean that they're good, especially nowadays, what with all the pointless explosions and monotonous stories they're feeding the audience.

Thank you for sharing this with us :) People need to know more about indie films, 'cause rarely does anybody know about or even watch them. These are the films that deserve knowing. I've just recently watched Bellflower, a great work of film made only with a budget of $17,000 when most movies nowadays need millions of dollars!!! Just like Mr. Neveldine's roller-skating/camera device there, the director, Evan Glodell, customized his own camera with old parts and stuff to allow it to give the distinct feeling the film has. He even played as the main character in the film, and created most of the main props (re: a flamethrower, and a flame-spitting muscle car)! Same goes for another indie film, Another Earth, a movie that I must say is more sci-fi than anything the big-budget movies have given us recently.

It's these dedicated filmmakers that go to lengths to make a film, just because they want to make a movie. You don't need a degree in filming, a connection with the big-guys at Hollywood or any of such sorts to make a movie. Indie Filmmakers like these, like Mr. Taylor here, showed us that all you need is a will, dedication, and of course, creativity, to make one. :)

I'm looking forward to the day when movies are made without such big budgets, and when innovative filmmakers are finally realized and given a chance to work on a box-office movie. And I surely hope that day is coming.
midnightwolf2302 Featured By Owner May 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
you write??
kaboomduck Featured By Owner May 9, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Write, as a hobby, yes (at least for now =p). I'm also a movie-enthusiast. ^^;
midnightwolf2302 Featured By Owner May 9, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
me too. What about? I'm working on the plot for a book now... :D
kaboomduck Featured By Owner May 11, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Well, I mostly write short stories and poems, but soon after this school exam I'm having, I'm gonna plan on writing a novel too! :highfive:
And there's also two unfinished playscripts...You can see that it's a scattered list...=p
midnightwolf2302 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
ironically i have a good lead on a book that im writing.... and it picks up at the middle of the 2nd book in the series. lololol. i left the journal im writing it in at my friends and im waiting for it back.
kaboomduck Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:D Ideas come randomly at any point of the story...You should get the journal back soon then!
DoodiemMedia Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is very impressive! :o
Alf-Alpha Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Wow...being a movie fan,I gotta say that was a whole new perspective to see at things in the movies! There are pro'bly always a hundred people working on a movie and it all comes out for just 2 hours or less! The audience doesn't even know or care about how many people worked hard for making it work! Damn the viewers who say any movie is bad enough not to watch!
Lorekeeper-Felkyr Featured By Owner May 5, 2012
Do you have any idea how much art I have to look at now from this...
dreamhome Featured By Owner May 5, 2012  Student Digital Artist
ss24 Featured By Owner May 5, 2012
AtlantaTerry Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2012  Professional Photographer

You wrote, "For example: Mark Neveldine invented a device allowing him to film while rollerblading through the fight scenes".

So WHY IN THE HELL would you put those words OVER the part of the production still that WOULD show what you are describing?


Terry Thomas
* Cinematographer
* Director of Photography
Atlanta, Georgia USA
kevinroberts Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Professional Photographer
I actually invented a device for filming basketball players on the street based on an wheeled office chair rolled backwards at high speed by an assistant. I think I deserve my own movie too!!! Oh, wait...
AlfredoOchoa Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2012  Professional Photographer
Thanks to Brian Taylor and $techgnotic for sharing this with us. The glut of predigested rehashes is truly stifling. It's inspiring to see Nevin and Taylor reap success and uncompromisingly create, assemble, and share what they visualize with the crew and with us. It's authentic and real and alive. This is what I've been missing from Hollywood. It's something you can't fake.
i-am-who-iam Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2012
i like this as much as i like my own drawing of Ghost Rider!
xNeonVeins Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2012
Johnny Blaze! <3
drumthrasher4hr Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Hello Mr. Taylor,
Great stuff and super accomplishments, cheers to you! :highfive:
If it's not much trouble, I've been online here, there and almost everywhere, and don't really care of work critiques, but I think you might have an interest in something I've done, and maybe you are the person I need to view it and let me know your opinion or ideas because it seems like a project that's in your area or 'ballpark' as it were...we have all seen certain frustrations and slow motion movie varieties in the film industry, but lately I've seen a good pick-up starting to happen somehow.. ['Ghost Rider' 'Immortals' 'Wrath of the Titans' etc..]
Click the links below and let me know your thoughts...if not it's cool, I just got a feel after seeing this page about everything involved with you.
Thanks and have a great weekend!


John Michael Piper

1st Link: Viking -Ship Of Death ( [link] )
2nd Link: The Ship Of Death ( [link] )
3rd Link: My Website ( [link] )

LauraChan3 Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
this is really interesting!
LeeSeikou Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012
"Ear-splitting sound" is what pushed the envelope [too far]. I will say that I skimmed this article once I read about the rollerblading through fight scenes part, and I must say congratulations to the people who work so hard to make the movies people enjoy, but I feel I must voice something.

The last few times I went to a movie theater, I ended up leaving before the movie started because the sound was turned up to the point where I (and several others judging by the shouts behind me) was gagging and almost passed out. Staggering out of a movie theater with a food item I had just bought to enjoy during the events of "John Carter," I decided not to see movies in theaters any more. Be it the theater's fault for having the movie operator working under poor judgement (drugs, alcohol, general stupidity, etc.) or the movie company advertising how loud and amazing the next film(s) will be [and thus setting the bar higher and higher for the audience's tastes], I cannot subject my being to any more of this nonsense.

To me movies are no different when viewed on a home monitor as compared to on a theater wide-screen when talking about story presentation. The only differences when you are in a theater is that you cannot pause the movie if you need to use the restroom, you need to deal with people talking and eating around you and potentially causing other kinds of disturbances (texting, calling, etc.), you can not control the volume if it is too loud or quiet for your tastes, and you cannot rewind the movie if you feel you missed something and need to go back. In these respects I think that home viewing is much better than paying to view things on a large screen.

People bragging about surround sound, huge TVs, or any other thing are just looking for people to think of their personal status as better for having bigger or more powerful things than the one they are talking to. More power does not equate to better entertainment, just as being louder does not equate to sounding better. If someone were to take a piece of music they like and make it louder, that does not make it better. It just makes it more audible. Now, if someone were to take a piece of music or a picture they had drawn and added more notes to the song or changed something about the picture, that might make it better, or it could make it worse, depending on the viewer/listener's perspective. I have sensitive ears, so I feel that what I have said comes from knowledge and experience due to my perspective being different from most other people's. Too long, didn't read? Too bad. go back and read it. Off topic? Nah, it's about movies.
NiteOwl94 Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think you're wrong about a few things.
I have surround sound, a huge tv and a decent HD setup.
I brag about it because I'm proud of the money I spent.
I believe its been well spent.

Avatar for example. A movie that boils down to special effects.
It was cool in theaters, but better in Blu Ray.
It was detailed at an insane level of clarity. It was immersive.
Would I have got the same effect from a 15 inch tube TV with only right channel audio? No.
Its not about power for me. Its about being immersed in the entertainment.

I like crisp audio, not loud audio.
Theres a difference.

I hope sincerely someone buys you a huge TV, a 5.1 surround sound system, a blu ray player, and a score of BD movies. Then you will understand how awesome it is. Its not about the size or the volume.
Its about getting the best looking picture, and the clearest sound.
If I was a millionaire, I'D personally buy you this stuff.
Unfortunately, I'm not.
I just hope you don't judge the people who're genuine HD nerds.
The guys who only have the TV's for personal image preening can go suck a lemon. But please don't toss all of us in the same basket.
SpyxedDemon Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012
I really like Ghost Rider. If i would need to choose between all marvel characters, I'd choose him. :)
I'm very excited for the next movie. I liked the first one a lot too.
ajCorza Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
I loved the art in the movie and I'm a huge GR fan but the second one was so poorly written and executed. I was so disappointed I almost walked out of the movie and the last time I did that was during Get Shorty. The first GR movie was at least fun. The second one was so ham handed and just bad. The only characters I even cared to watch was the guy that ended up being brought back from the dead with the corrosion power and Johnny Blaze and even JB was hard to watch cause GOOD LORD did Nick Cage go WAY beyond even HIS over the top performances.

I honestly didn't give a damn about the kid or his mom. Sad to say.

And honestly, I don't know about pushing the envelope it seemed like pretty standard blow em up horrible story line fair to me. Even the art, which again I loved, seemed a bit reminiscent of the artwork done in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 but that didn't bother me so much cause I loved the art in that movie also.

I think now days that pushing the envelope would actually be delivering a movie that has a decent story and isn't just pretty. Don't get me wrong, pretty is nice but it gets boring real quick.

This movie almost made Sucker Punch look good. (ALMOST) and that movie BLEW!
devilxgirlxangel Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2012  Student Artist
wow thanks 4 the inform there .
Kousuke18 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2012  Student Artist
Fantastic !!!
deviantART muro drawing Comment Drawing
0archangel Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I actually found the new Ghost Rider movie to be MUCH more cartoony and comic book like than the first one, just in the way he moved, and some of the shots they used. Especially when seen in 3D, the way everything was focused and whatnot made certain shots very reminiscent of comic book panels. That being said, aside from that point I thought the way you analyzed the new one on it's own, and in comparison with the first to be very correct, it was much more entertaining all around.
Marvsamune Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
nicholas cage... the worst thing that could happen to Ghost Rider
The-last-art Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012  Student General Artist
thats true, the guy just wasnt the better choice
Marvsamune Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I would have given the paper to Thomas Jane from Punisher (directed by Jonathan Hensleigh This Movie sucks) I think it's more his type of role because his face is not shown
The-last-art Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012  Student General Artist
agreed! u can imagine this guy beeing ghost rider, not Cage
:P i think Cage doesnt have many expressions, you know? like, his face... it's not an interesting face, that can be manage to show something different. *my opinion*
Marvsamune Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
damn right!!Cage is not made to do comics roles!
The-last-art Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2012  Student General Artist
J-BIRDSPRINGS Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Evil-In-Ink Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2012
awesum sauce!
Haseoskeith72 Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
shanepeters Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2012
About the description to this, I'd say rarely is there the chance of success. MOST of these big money movies end up losing money, or barely making enough profit to ever generate sequels.

Even a movie like John Carter, which has had some success outside of the states, is a massive, massive bomb. (Financially speaking.)

The more money that goes into a movie, the more likely it is to be a bust.
WERAQS Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
stop the harassment! [link]
DHexed1 Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
The Ghost Rider is my God, Spirit of Vengeance the New Testiment. Mr.Neveldine and Mr.Taylor are the prophets. Keep spreading the Word!!
uwedewitt Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Hey Brian! Thanks for using my Ghost Rider pic as an inspiration. I'm feeling cool and honored about it and got a lot of comments and likes on my illo. Thanks! In case you need artwork, storyboards, concept art, moodboards or anything for the next movie, feel free to contact me! ;-) Cheers, Uwe!
Rodney2x4 Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012  Student General Artist
Nice! Its nice to see some people make movies with so little, yet they turn out pretty well (though Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance was kinda... weird, it was pretty damn fun). Its rare for low budget films (or films with an independent production) to be really good.
Soulburned Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Technological and aesthetic splendor seem to be the only "traditional film empire" envelopes being pushed. The rest really does rely on story and story-telling ingenuity and even then the only time it's considered pushing the envelope then is when something actually catches mainstream public interest. Everyone has their own opinion of what's "edgy".
Humourbee Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I really love Ghost rider

and th einterview wid Brian taylor is simply so...INFORMATIVE!!!!
marquiswyld Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
well hurrah for Hollow-Wood...

Don't get me wrong - I like the OTT full-on-ness of Crank (yet to see C2)... HOWEVER, when it comes to story lines... it's no Romeo and Juliet, or Sucker Punch for that matter... which despite my misgivings about the whole "reality of the mind" POV the film had - it was done quite well (despite the thought that the characters were very underplayed and was done from a single person's perspective).

Anyhow - still feel this is a bit of an "aren't we great" kind of article... fair enough, good effort, done more films that I have (or will for that matter) and all that; but one does feel that the whole notion of their work being "dangerous" and controversial fall flat when they talk of Hollow-Wood block busters. Hollow-Wood is a place that has a reputation of 'hedging' their investments to ensure the Studio's return on any investments are big... meaning that they don't really go for people that are truly exponents of 'envelope shredding' and is most likely the main reason why Hollow Wood's output is mainly about bums on seats and ticket sales.... leaving the real 'ground breaking' to others.
MakedoN-Dominikos Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012  Student General Artist
very beautiful and funny work)))))
deviantART muro drawing Comment Drawing
Master-of-the-Boot Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Personally I just started laughing when they called Sam Peckinpah an envelope pusher. Guy made me fall asleep.

Go see a foreign film, all the best ones are
marquiswyld Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
got to concur with your POV on that one a little TBH... I jumped from watching an Asian action film to something made in Hollow-Wood... and I had to check if the DVD player wasn't playing in slow motion, such was the difference in pace and action.

Same goes for much of the horror/thriller films... watching something like the remake of 'The Grudge' and then seeing the original after... well there's not really a connection other that they have the same plot.
On the same subject, has there EVER been a Hollow-Wood film that comes close to the pervading sense of dread and build up of tension that is 'Audition'? Even thought Black Swan came close in atmosphere, the end sequence still leaves most of Hollow-Wood's so called shockers looking a little calm...IMHO
Master-of-the-Boot Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Yes indeed, foreign cinema offers so much. Nothing should be remade unless it's a bad movie.

I've never seen the audition, nor Black swan unfortunately but I heard they were great.

Now, American cinema has produced some real greats, like Twelve Angry men (who today would do a movie that took place in only one room?) and No Country for old men. Now those were classics.

I've never seen Ghost Rider: spirit of vengence, but that's really hardly the first thing I think of when I hear about pushing the envelope. Is it any good, or is this guy just being overly sunshine-filled?
marquiswyld Featured By Owner May 2, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well, the first GR film was okaaay - but I do think that they got a little carried away with the successes in the article...

And I agree with you about 12 angry men and No country for old men.
Both are excellent films, the main thing about both of them that sets them apart I feel is the depth of characters in them... they have range and substance, which is SORELY lacking in many a Hollowood blockbuster
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