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Full Metal Jacket Diary: From Book to iPad
By Ted Hope
Today’s guest post if from actor and filmmaker Matthew Modine. His latest project represents a nice example of how filmmakers can encourage collaboration from other members of their team and extend their work into new realms. In this case, even after the death of the filmmaker.
While making Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, I kept a diary. I was portraying a combat journalist, so it made sense to both Kubrick and myself to take some notes along the journey. Sometimes between set ups, Stanley would ask me to read out loud what I had entered in my small cloth-covered book. Being put on the spot like that made me realize that I’d better keep a detailed, accurate, and hopefully, entertaining description of the film’s events. Stanley also allowed me to photograph the filmmaking process. No snapshots would do on a Kubrick set. I used my beautiful 2 1/4 x 2 1/4-inch Rolleiflex camera. I made prints of a number of photographs and gave them to Stanley and the other actors as gifts. Once the filming was over, I returned to my home in NYC and put the photos and my diary in a box.
After several years, I began to think about exhibiting or publishing the photos, but only if it would be something Stanley was in concert with. At the time, Stanley had begun pre-production on what would become his last film, Eyes Wide Shut. While he was busy preparing, I was compiling the photos that would be used in my book of FMJ photographs. I had found a publisher, who loved the photos, but felt the images needed a narrative context. So, I began transcribing the diary I had kept while filming. The result of this effort eventually became the limited edition hardcover book, Full Metal Jacket Diary. I only wish I had begun the book earlier so that Stanley could have seen and held it. You see, It was my goal to make it something he would be proud of and possess the integrity of his own work. The first edition of FMJ Diary was limited to only 20,000 laser-etched numbered copies and featured, literally, a metal book jacket. Upon release, it was well reviewed, awarded a prize for its design, and sold out rather quickly. For years now, fans of the film and Kubrick have been asking when a paperback edition might be released. The fact is, I wanted the 20,000 copies to be collector’s items and I never intended to publish a paperback version.
Last spring I was gifted an iPad. It’s an interesting device. I downloaded a couple of iBooks and different apps. It’s pretty cool. I also owned a Kindle, but wasn’t enthusiastic about the experience of reading on it. My friend and I were talking about the experience of reading on electronic devices and imagined that if a developer could make the experience more cinematic and interactive, then digital books could take the reader on a unique journey. I realized then, that my friend and I could do just that and the iPad could be the perfect platform to re-release my book. My friend became my design partner and the producer on the FMJ Diary app. Now we are creating an immersive interactive experience which includes not only my text and photographs, but audio, sound effects, and original music. As with the book, it’s very important to me that we create something Kubrick would be proud of and want to own.
In August, 2010, we began recording the diary. It was amazing to read out loud. It brought back memories and I realized how much I’ve changed since the life-altering Kubrick experience. With almost two hundred pages of text recorded, our sound editor really has her work cut out for her. In addition to adding sound effects, I hope to have Stanley’s daughter, Vivian, compose original music for the app. She composed the original FMJ score (as Abigail Mead) so it would be great if she completes this part of the audio book experience.
With this FMJ Diary app, I will be including photographs that I didn’t put in the hardcover book. We’ve been looking through folders of scanned photos and sifting through original contact sheets and negatives to find bonus images that will further enhance the app and make it unique from the book. I want owners of the book to have a new experience; one that takes them deeper into what the two-year Kubrick journey was like. What seems amazing is that, Full Metal Jacket continues to be as relevant today as it was when it was first released. Many of my photographs from the film set look like they could have been taken today in Iraq or Afghanistan. I believe Kubrick was saying, with several of his great war films (Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove) that war is war. While the dates, uniforms, and places change, the outcome is always the same. Stanley was a peaceful man. I’d say, from my time with him, that he felt that if we could not find a way to solve our problems and our differences with peaceful solutions, the outcome would be, because of the proliferation of more and more powerful weapons, the recipe for absolute disaster.
I’m thrilled to be working on this new iPad app project. You can follow my progress on the new FMJ Diary website (www.fullmetaljacketdiary.com) You can sign up for updates and also purchase limited edition fine art prints of six iconic images (more may soon be added). I will be using this site, along with our FMJD Facebook page and Twitter account to include people in the creative process going forward.