EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has moved Infinite from its August 7 date to May 28, 2021. The studio believes that the Antoine Fuqua-directed and Lorenzo di Bonaventura-produced film has the goods to slot into what likely will be a crowded Memorial Day holiday corridor. The film, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor, is an adaptation of the D. Eric Maikranz novel The Reincarnationist Papers and Wahlberg plays a self medicated near suicidal man haunted by having skills he never learned and visions of places he has never visited. He is rescued by a group called “infinites,” who unlock his past life memories, in hopes he can thwart a member of the group with a terrible plan for humanity.
The film, which completed production Christmas Eve after stops in London, Wales, Scotland, Thailand, Nepal, the Alps, New York City and Mexico City, has been under the radar. It stayed that way after plans to show a high-octane teaser reel at SXSW and footage at Cinemacon was canceled when the world shut down. I’ve seen some footage, and it looks from here like state of the art sci-fi tent pole stuff.
I spoke with Fuqua and di Bonaventura, who are 11 weeks into assembling a director’s cut and who said that they will proceed as though they were still racing for the August 7 date. They provided a glimpse into the complexity that likely every film in post production is enduring right now, with the principal voices trying to collaborate while operating from isolation at home.
“It has been an extra challenge because we’re all in different places,” di Bonaventura told Deadline. “It’s an inescapable truth that one of the things that happens in the editing room is the three of us, me, Antoine and our editor Conrad [Buff IV], will be standing there and we’ll make changes. And then one of us will come in later and as those other people are watching, it affects you. If it’s too slow, you feel it. You can feel the other person’s experience. That’s the part we’re having a hard time replicating. You might think it’s the perfect length, but you find ultimate judgment in the room, together, and that’s hard to do with phone calls. It’s weird, but when if Antoine and I have a whole bunch of ideas and we try them with the second editor, Conrad comes into the room and he doesn’t have to say anything. Because you know he’s watching and it makes you judge your work harder. So we now have more time, but we are dealing with a slower process.”
Fuqua said it was “a frustrating but enlightening experience about filmmaking. The need that we all have for each other in the creative process and the different perspectives we all bring into a room. In this case, you don’t get to bring all that into a room together and it can be tedious and frustrating. Lorenzo’s there, I’m here and Conrad’s at his place. We all watch it separately and then try to collectively come together on the feeling and experience of it. You have to be so zeroed in being home, because if we give Conrad our notes, it takes almost a day or two before we can get back into that particular scene. Normally, it’s immediate; we walk out of the room, Conrad does his work, and me and Lorenzo come back in and we experience it immediately and have a reaction to it. Now, it takes days. And god forbid there’s an internet connection issue to the system. Everything freezes, you have to wait and when we jump back on the call, it’s the next day and the urgency and the feeling and the excitement in the immediacy of the moment, sometimes gets lost. And we have to get ourselves ramped back up again while dealing with this real life we’re all dealing with. Kids, and online school, all the other stuff. You’ve got to zero in again, reconnect with each other, to be honest about what we’re witnessing and feeling.”
Both believe they feel it more on a movie that has the emotional charge of their first film together at Warner Bros, Training Day, and the action set pieces of mind-trip movies like The Matrix, which di Bonaventura also managed at Warner Bros.
“This movie has real depth and it asks questions and it’s kind of a mind-fu*k in the best possible way,” di Bonaventura said. “It really makes you think. So when we enter into conversations, you’ve got to stay in it, because to restart it is tricky. This movie is probably different than others, in that its ambition is such that it is timely in this moment, asking the kinds of questions that we are all asking ourselves sitting at home.”
Fuqua said there are also security issues that come with conducting post production while self isolating. When we read about 12 step meetings on Zoom being hacked, who feels safe sharing proprietary information about feature films studios have invested fortunes into?
“You have to be so careful,” Fuqua said. “We don’t do a lot of that Zoom stuff while editing because you can’t take the chance that your work will get out there. The FBI just said that they were hacking Zoom. So you can’t do a lot of that. We’ll do a visual effects meeting with our guy in London, and that we can see on the screen and they go away and do the notes. Editing is different because it’s a storytelling process happening in real time. That’s us, looking at it separately on our own system they have set up for safety, and then getting on a conference call. There’s no watching it on a screen while discussing it with Conrad as he’s editing. That’s dangerous, if people can hack into those things. We won’t take that chance.”
Said di Bonaventura: “That’s a good example why we won’t allow the entire film to be put on any one system. That’s not an ideal way to watch these things. They’ll tell you, these different companies the studios are using, oh there’s no way, it’s 100% safe…our answer back is, Apple has been hacked. Nothing is 100%. So we watch reel by reel, take it down, talk. So, getting a sense of the overall pacing is the next thing for us. As soon as we can get into a room together and not get fined or hauled off or show a bad example for everybody, that’s the first thing we’re going to do, is watch it all in continuity.”
The filmmakers realize full well they were lucky to have completed photography before the pandemic began, and they know every other film in post production is experiencing the same challenges.
“If you are somebody who is halfway through shooting their film, that’s got to be hard, trying to get all that re-started,” di Bonaventura said. “For us, a little extra time is a good thing, if you manage it correctly. And Antoine and I made a commitment to stay on each other and act like we are keeping that same date, to keep up the passion and the intensity. If you don’t manage it correctly, what can happen is you start cutting for cutting’s sake, and you can take the life out of something, without even realizing you have done that. It’s a real discipline, to not over-utilize the extra time we have.”
While Fuqua has delivered his share of hit pictures, he said this one is a different opportunity for him, and so keeping his passion high isn’t a burden.
“We have to act like we’re still making the movie for that date even though we’re not,” he said. “We have to motivate each other to stay in the zone. I get very excited when I see things coming together, the big visual effects. I haven’t had that opportunity to do a film with this kind of money and ambition. It’s exciting to be working with Lorenzo again, and he’s the guy who [oversaw] The Matrix, and that’s sort of the bar, to be as creative and commercially successful as that was. I try to stay in that zone, which helps because of the nature of the film. But it’s tough to stay in that world. What happens for me is, whenever we do see reels or have the visual effects meetings once a week, and see how things are coming along, you get excited all over again. We haven’t taken our foot off the gas; me and Lorenzo committed to stay on top of each other. We’re that way anyway. We are acting like we are keeping that same date, as much as we can. “