Director Greg Yaitanes talks Children of Dune

Recently I had the chance to speak with Greg Yaitanes, the director of “Children of Dune”. Greg was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to grant this exclusive interview with SKNR.NET
GVK: How did you get into directing and what was your big break?
GY: The story goes that I was 14 years old and saw a camcorder for the first time. It was quite an operation back then. The recording deck needed to be slung over your shoulder, the battery pack on your belt. Long cord to the camera itself.
I begged my dad for one and started making short videos during high school. I also did public access.
I applied to film school and got into USC. Made a short film that got some attention. Two things happened at once. I got a job as Diane Keaton’s “visual consultant” which meant I designed the shots and staging of the actors for her movie Unstrung Heroes. During that time I landed my first film. A small action film called Hard Justice.
GVK: How much prior knowledge of the Dune series did you have coming into the film?
None. I had not seen the Lynch film or the mini. When I got the job, I choose not the read the books as a way to remain objective and make it accessible to anyone new to Dune. I think we did a good job at doing that.
GVK: Combining the 2nd and 3rd books into one film must have been tough, what were some of the biggest obstacles and greatest triumphs you experienced in filming?
GY: John Harrison did an amazing job at adapting the books into one cohesive and epic story. The scripts where riveting.
For me, the biggest challenge was maintaining a consistent tone between the three nights. Night one was self contained and nights two and three picked up sixteen years later and introduced a new cast and new story. I accomplished this with the style of acting and several visual cues…primarily within the vision sequences.
The greatest triumph was completing Children of Dune. I’m really proud of it and the great work the cast did.
GVK: How long was the shoot and what locations were involved?
GY: The prep was eight weeks and the shoot was sixteen weeks. Which is practically nothing for was is essentially three movies. Realize that Lord of the Rings trilogy and the new Star Wars trilogy had six years to prepare and shoot.
We shot entirely on sound stages in Prague, CZ. Because the world of Dune needed to be created, no real location would suffice.
Because I didn’t want the skies of Dune to be blue or like Earth. We even shot the exteriors indoors.
GVK: How would you describe working with Susan Sarandon, and what does she posses that made her the perfect choice for the role?
GY: Susan is a total pro and was a director’s dream. She was prefect for the role because of her enthusiasm and love of the material. Trivia: She was approached by David Lynch back in 1983 to play Lady Jessica but could not because of a commitment to be in The Hunger.
GVK: Taking something on the grand scale of Dune from the page to print would be an overwhelming task for many, did you ever have days where you thought, “How am I going to do this” and if so how did you attack the problems that arose?
GY: I took COD day by day. It was a massive project. Massive. Every minute of everyday was packed. Seven days a week. I love what I do. That makes it easy.
GVK: Looking back, if you could make any changes to the final version, what would they be?
GY: I am really happy with the way COD turned out. I am not a director who thinks longer is necessarily better. However there are a few small moments that I wish we had the time to expand. The special edition should restore those moments.
A small detail that I would like to change is to make Ghanima the narrator of all three nights. I love Julie’s work but saw Children of Dune as being told by Ghanima to Farad’n on the cliff.
I would like to refine a few visual effects that we did not have time to fully texture or detail.
Almost every visual effect sequence was twice a long. I’d like to expand those.
I’ve never been happy with Edric. I’d love to start from scratch on conceptualizing and animating him.
GVK: What’s next on your schedule and what can we look forward to seeing from you soon?
GY: Hopefully you’ll see a large scale Sci-Fi or fantasy film from me in the future.