Doc Looks at Michael Giacchino’s MCU Debut
Dec 18, 2022
Just before Halloween, Michael Giacchino took the Marvel Cinematic Universe by storm with his hair-raisingly fun and refreshingly new approach to the superhero franchise. Werewolf by Night was met with high praise from audiences and critics alike who welcomed his outside-of-the-box and distinctly human approach to Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal) and Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Connelly), and Director by Night follows a similar path in breaking the mold and stepping beyond the expected making-of documentary.
The first Marvel Studios: Assembled launched in 2021 following the finale of Marvel Studio’s first Disney+ series WandaVision, and each new series that followed was accompanied by glossy behind-the-scenes specials that provided a deeper look into all aspects of production. Instead of following that familiar format, Giacchino’s brother Anthony—who happens to be a documentary filmmaker—was brought onto the set of Werewolf by Night to document his brother’s MCU directorial debut. Even still, Director by Night is a far cry from what audiences have come to expect from an on-set documentary, as it’s not just a glimpse behind the curtain on the film, it’s a deeply personal look into Giacchino’s life and the people who helped transform him from a hobby filmmaker into an award-winning composer and eventually into a director for one of the largest studios in the world.
Director by Night opens at an unconventional point in the filmmaking process—it starts at the very beginning of Giacchino’s life, in New Jersey, in his childhood home, which would eventually become his very first soundstage. Anthony meets with their mother Josephine Giacchino to go through the dozens of boxes filled with cassette tapes and 8-mm tapes, containing everything that Michael produced as a child. Both brothers, as it seems, had a keen eye for capturing every life event (both monumental and mundane) and those childhood passions set them on a path for where they are today.
Image via Disney+
RELATED: ‘Werewolf By Night’ Director Michael Giacchino Shares Behind-the-Scenes Video of Hallway Fight
Unlike previous specials, this documentary contains very little behind-the-scenes footage from the production of Werewolf by Night. Sure, there are a handful of great moments with Bernal and Connelly, and a few endearing clips of Giacchino living out every monster lover’s dream in the Creature Shop, but what makes this documentary so unique is how lovingly Anthony has approached his brother’s lifelong passion and showcased how his teenage movie making has directly influenced his first Marvel feature.
In a lot of ways, Anthony’s documentary also feels like a loving homage to every aspiring filmmaker who turned their kitchen into the scenes of fictional tragedy, and learned how to manipulate footage to make it look like an epic shoot-out taking place in their bucolic suburban cul-de-sac. Giacchino’s origin story deviates from the typical Hollywood story. He went to school for filmmaking, while studying music at Julliard for fun, and it was his musical talent that landed him a gig working on video games for Steven Spielberg projects, and then composing for Alias and Lost. From there, his star continued to rise as he began composing for massive films like Spider-Man, Inside Out, and Star Trek—which got him in front of the right people, including the clandestine conversation he had with Kevin Feige.
Image via Disney+
Beyond the serendipity of showing audiences the nearly identical shots from Giacchino’s teenage archival footage that ended up becoming pivotal moments in Werewolf by Night, Anthony’s documentary does a great job of taking viewers onto the set and showing how incredibly normal it is. Instead of sticking around to see Bernal and Donnelly act, Anthony sets out in search of the sound stage bell system, because he’s curious about the differences between the different bell sounds for cameras cut, rehearsing, and rolling. He’s not fixated on the broad, glamorous elements of filmmaking; he sees the beauty in the minutiae and seems focused on bringing a degree of realism to his presentation. For anyone who might be a few years removed from the 16-hour workdays on film sets, you might even find yourself feeling a twinge of nostalgia watching Director by Night.
Anthony Giacchino’s Director by Night is the perfect companion to Michael Giacchino’s Werewolf by Night because both show what the MCU is capable of when they let creatives take control and bring to life their own particular visions and styles. The documentary isn’t about the making of the film, it’s about the making of the filmmaker—which is a far more compelling story to pair with one of the best projects Marvel has put out in recent memory. Werewolf by Night already felt like a love letter to fans who cherished Marvel’s off-beat monsters, and Director by Night confirms that Giacchino’s vision for his corner of the MCU is one for the weird kids who carried around cameras everywhere they went and found comfort in the allegories about monsters and men.
Director by Night is now available to stream on Disney+.
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