While the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many parts of Hollywood’s movie-making apparatus, from closed theaters to delayed (or even outright canceled) productions, a number of much-hyped blockbusters forged right ahead. One of the biggies: Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which endured both production delays and rejiggered release dates, and now finally arrives in theaters more than a year after its original release date.
As Trevorrow’s trilogy-capper readies for a massive theatrical release, the filmmaker admits to being both pleased for this film, and a little worried about the theatrical landscape in general. For a guy who got his start with a popular indie feature that debuted at Sundance and rocketed him to stardom, those concerns seem both well-founded and very personal indeed.
He continued, “To me, there’s something uniquely moving about being able to provide friends and families with the opportunity to return to the movies together. I think it’s an important part of our civilization to go watch drama as a group. It’s something we’ve been doing for at least 2,000 years. For us to change that, to suddenly only watching drama alone, feels like it’s dismantling something that’s been part of who we are as human beings for a very long time.”
Trevorrow first rose to acclaim with the 2012 sci-fi dramedy “Safety Not Guaranteed,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Waldo Scott Screenwriting Award. At the fest, FilmDistrict picked up the film for an estimated seven-figure deal (the film was made for under $1 million) and released it later that summer, making over $4.4 million in box office returns.
FilmDistrict/courtesy Everett Collection
The success of the film propelled Trevorrow and writing partner Derek Connolly into Hollywood, and their followup to the festival gem was a giant one: 2015’s “Jurassic World,” which Trevorrow directed and the pair wrote together. But while it’s the kind of meteoric rise that used to play out often, those days are waning. So is the possibility that a film like “Safety” could break out on such a large scale. Trevorrow knows that.
“I think you and I can probably commiserate on the lack of diversity of the kind of films that are released in theaters now,” he said. “I wish that we could return to a time when a movie like ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ would get a theatrical release. I don’t know if that would happen anymore. For me, it’s frustrating, especially thinking about how short a period of time has passed since [then]. Actually, it’s the 10-year anniversary of ‘Safety’ the weekend this movie comes out, and over the course of those 10 years, the opportunity for a young filmmaker to go to Sundance and succeed, and then have that movie come out in theaters, has become extraordinarily rare. That’s something I’m mourning a little bit, to be honest.”
Trevorrow’s post-“Safety” path was, to put it mildly, a weird one. Three months after “Jurassic World” arrived in theaters (total box office take: $1.6 billion), the filmmaker was hired to direct the ninth film in the newly-relaunched “Star Wars” franchise. More than two years later, in September 2017, Trevorrow was removed from the film. (At the time, the buzz was that his firing was due to the the critical and box office failure of his passion project, “The Book of Henry,” released in 2017.)
Ultimately, he returned to the “Jurassic World” fold and signed on to direct the third film in the franchise, after previously saying that each entry would be helmed by a new filmmaker (J.A. Bayona directed the second film, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” which Trevorrow co-wrote and executive produced.)
He’s enthused by the response to the film, which opened last week internationally to strong box office. “It has all been very positive, but also … I’ve been hurt before,” Trevorrow said. “I’ve found that filmmaking is a process of intentions versus perception. As I’ve made every film, I feel like I’ve gotten better and better at my intentions matching the audience’s perception of what I’m trying to communicate. I feel like this is a film, based on what I’ve seen so far, that people are really watching the same movie that I watch and they’re feeling the same way about it that I feel and that all of us feel.”
Despite the film’s status as a mega-blockbuster — while the film’s budget was estimated at $165 million, Trevorrow himself said it was a “$200 million-plus” feature — Trevorrow said the experience of making it actually reminded him of his indie roots.
The film started shooting in February 2020 but was temporarily shut down a month later due to the pandemic. Filming resumed in July 2020 but hinged on tight protocols and an extended quarantine period for the cast and crew. Inconvenient? Yes. But there was something special there that Trevorrow seemed to have been missing.
“It’s also the first time probably, since ‘Safety Not Guaranteed,’ that I made a movie this way, that we have this sense of a real shared ownership over the story we’re telling, all of the actors and I,” the director said. “I know it sounds kind of crazy that an experience of a $200 million-plus movie would be the same as a $750,000 movie, but in both cases, we were all living together in a hotel and eating our meals together and practicing and trying to make the best movie we could.”
Asked about what’s next for him, Trevorrow again got reflective about decidedly smaller-scale affairs. Maybe the blockbuster boom is over?
“What I’d like to do, and what I’m doing, is spending some time producing and giving younger filmmakers who I believe in the opportunity to show what they can do,” Trevorrow said. “There’s a real creative energy to that first film, where you’re proving to the world that you have something to say and a voice that should be heard. I remember that moment in my life. I can’t think of anything more satisfying, both creatively and just as a person, than giving someone else that opportunity. So that’s what I’ve been focusing on. I have a few things that, hopefully, we will be able to get onto a theatrical movie screen. We’ll see about that part.”