Neon is a 1993 science fiction film directed by Stuart Shertick. It was distributed by Gramercy Pictures, a joint venture between PolyGram and Universal Pictures. The world inside the film is influenced by steampunk, art deco and cyberpunk aesthetics, while the film's narrative style is filled with mystery, crime, thriller, noir, drama and action elements. It takes place in 22nd century in a fictional metropolis called Neo Paris.
It was one of the few pre-2000s films, if not one of the first, to not show any credits until after the ending. The background music in the credits is David Bowie's Heroes.
After a big marketing campaign, the film was praised by critics for the amount of dedication put into the movie, but bombed at the box office. The film gained a cult following outside of UK and United States over the years, especially in Germany, and there have been multiple attempts at creating a sequel, the infamous of which is Neon 2.0, by Universal Pictures.
Early stages of production (1974-1978)
Stuart Shertick started production on Neon when he was only 17 years old, with $750,000 he got from his dad and his previous job combined. He hired his high school friend Brad Evans to gather around some ideas for his then-uncompleted script.
Stuart soon came up with an "almost human" protagonist Ash and its androgynous, smug and sarcastic sidekick Laureline. The next day, he came up with a concept for one of the enemies, the double jointed Emerald. The character was initially planned as a female, although when David Bowie was cast, the gender was changed to male. Stuart was confused by the casting at first, but then accepted it.
Brad Evans discovered then-recently released Yamaha CS-80 (now famous for being used by the Greek electronic composer Vangelis for the score of Blade Runner) and decided to play around.
In 1976, Stuart Shertick and Brad Evans decided to pitch their idea to Stuart's new neighbor Mario Kassar, who just founded Carolco Pictures with his partner Andrew G Vajna.
During the time of the pitch, the original script was deemed to be too gory and sexual, and Mario Kassar became more concerned how greenlighting the film straight away would affect their reputation as a new studio. Shertick commented on it years later:
- "Looking back on it, I see it as sort of ironic. This was Carolco Pictures, the studio who went on to make The Terminator, Basic Instinct, Total Recall and Rambo, who told us to get out and make the script more friendly. We did accept the situation though and we re-did the script. It was, indeed, a new studio at the time."
- - Stuart Shertick, the director of Neon, in Cyber Dreams
Also in 1979, Stuart Shertick looked for investors and filming locations. He met Dino de Laurentiis and Run Run Shaw and they decided to produce and partially finance the film, in exchange for use of the Shaw Brothers studios in Hong Kong. According to the book about the production of Neon, Cyber Dreams, by 1984, Run Run, Dino and Stuart became close friends. Run Run even had an influence on the style and writing of Neon, citing then-in-production Blade Runner as an example.
Thanks to Run Run's investment, Stuart hired Salvador Dali, Ralph Turturro, Brain Froud, Chris Foss, Jean Giraud (Mœbius), and Maurice Sendak to do some post-production work, like draw and paint some concept art, such as backgrounds and locations for the movie. However, most of them went unused and are in Jamie Shertick's private collection. Stuart Shertick also hired Roger Birnbaum and Joe Roth as co-producers, but they left to found Caravan Pictures around the early 1990s.
In 1976, the casting was announced. David Bowie was initially cast as the villain, but left in order to focus on his musical projects and the production of Labyrinth.
In 1978, after only a bit of the casting was done, the first casting director was murdered by an unknown man. These murders have been connected to a bank robbing and a bombing that happened within the week before the murder.
Mid-production and limbo (1979-1987)
In 1979, Fred and Richard Greenberg, better known as the "Greenberg brothers" of Cinema '84, Norman Lear, Dino DeLaurentiis, Jerry Perenchio and Four Star International were brought in as financiers and executive producers. They operated through a partnership under the "Odyssey Film Partnership" name. This was eventually integrated under Rabbit Productions LP after its founding.
In 1982, Stuart announced the recruiting of following crew members:
- Colleen Atwood, a costume designer
- Dan Gilroy, a starting writer
In 1983, Stuart Shertick hired James Cameron as a special effects assistant and a storyboard co-writer, in case the film needed to be improved.
That year, while filming with the assistance of Mirisch Company's production services department, their set exploded and 4 crew members were killed. The production was investigated for a couple of months before ruling the deaths as accidental. In 1984, Stuart Shertick became more stressed and depressed, possibly due to the accidents, as the production continued on. He became an alcoholic and often couldn't show up to filmings. Because of that, Brad Evans stepped in, to direct scenes outside of the UK and USA. James Cameron took care of filming in the US, while Ridley Scott took the filming in the UK.
- "It was nothing [we] have seen before. This man was under so much pressure because of his passion project. I didn't know if this film would ever get completed until he called me and told me to direct scenes for him. I told [Ridley and James] about this, and we sat there together in a room the next day. I felt confident enough to handle filmings outside [of US & UK], after James (who was the special effects assistant for this film, recommended by Stuart) cheered me up. I still remember him saying to me [...] "nothing is impossible"."
- - Brad Evans
Stuart recovered in 1985 and continued directing again.
In 1987, he and Brad Evans co-wrote a prequel comic to Neon, centered around the origin story of Ash, and sent it to Darguard. It was set back for a release alongside the film, and it was indeed released in 1993.
There was a scene, filmed in Bangladesh, about Ashley entering a palace and questioning a client, happening to serve in the parliament, on more clues. However, in 1991, a cyclone hit the country, causing most of the Bangladesh Unit and the footage to disappear. Around 70 people were presumed dead in absentia. However, in 2006, the films were soon discovered within their cases, with only one small part of the footage missing, and sent to Jamie Shertick per request. The scene was re-inserted in time for a 2007 re-release.
Final stages of production (1987-1992)
In 1987, Stuart formed Rabbit Productions, a limited partnership between him, the film's crew, producers, the marketing & merchandising partners, Weintraub Entertainment Group (closed down in 1990) and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment. It was established as a copyright holder and a licensor of Neon-related media and merchandise. Graham King (Initial Entertainment Group), Tim Bevan, Sarah Radclyffe and Eric Fellner (Working Title Films), Gale Ann Hurd (Pacific Western), Jonathan Mostow and Hal Lieberman (Mostow/Lieberman), Mario Kassar (Carolco Pictures) and Luc Besson were brought in as chairmen and executive producers. Les Films du Loup, and later Les Films du Dauphin, both founded by Luc Besson, were brought in to help finish filming and help in post-production in France for the 1992 cut.
Rabbit Productions was one of the early supporters of the DTS sound system, along with Steven Spielberg, and the SDDS sound sytem, which resulted in Neon being one of the earliest films to adopt both of them. Neon was also converted in the IMAX format, being one of the first films to do so, with the help of IMAX Corporation.
In 1992, Rabbit Productions finished filming and post-production of the scenes in India, just in time to get included in the preview cut, with Indian production companies such as Baldeviju Productions and Film Field Productions, both credited under special thanks.
AdvertisingIn 1986, new sponsors for the movie arrived: General Motors, McDonald's, Kenner Products, Bristol-Myers, American Telephone & Telegraph Company, Western Electric, Bellcomm, Nabisco Inc, Pillsbury Company, Pepsi, General Mills, Quaker Oats Company, Whirlpool Corporation, Westinghouse, Revlon, SC Johnson & Son, Johnson & Johnson, United Airlines, Unilever, Best Foods, General Foods, Ben & Jerry's, LiquiMoly, Gemmy Industries, Canada Cycle & motor, Coleco, Pan American World Airlines, General Electric/RCA, Tsingtao Beer, Cuisinart, Kraft Foods, Kellogg's, Gap, British Telecom, Barris Industries, Lorimar-Telepictures, Texas Instruments, IBM, Procter & Gamble and Cadbury Schweppes.
They provided help in creating props and in-film advertising. Stuart Shertick told them that they could advertise their products very subtly, due to concerns over possible negative reception from the audience.
As part of this, they made a couple of automobile vehicles in the film into GM vehicles.
Between 1973 and 1983, the film was planned to be produced and released in stereoscopic 3D using a mix of live-action, traditional puppetry, animatronics and other practical effects, mixed with visual and special effects. The development on it was halted, due to budget issues and inability to develop a safe and cheap alternative.
In 1979, Stuart hired a then-new company Jim Henson's Creature Shop to create animatronics, based on designs by Stuart Shertick and H. R. Giger. Since 1985, the practical visual effects were done in-house by Stuart Shertick, Brad Evans, Frank Oz, their engineer friend Roger Rizkey and their companions, along with ex-employees of Jim Henson's Creature Shop, all credited under Rabbit Practical Effects. Stuart Shertick also worked with Robert Rodriguez and their internal special effects crew under the Lix Services and Rainbow Animation Productions monikers, from 1989 until the film's release in 1993, during post-production. Another crew under the Lix Services moniker was the internal production services and the marketing, branding/promotion & commercials crew.
The visual effects were done outside of the US, per Stuart Shertick's interest, by BUF Compagnie (in France), Filmfex, Computer Film Company and Framestore (in the UK), Centro Digital Pictures (in Hong Kong) and RoadRunner (in the Philippines).
The additional work was provided by Stan Winston Studio, Matte World Digital, Dream Quest Images, Creative Capers Entertainment and Industrial Light & Magic.
The Jamie Jones credit
Jamie Jones is an amalgamated credit for multiple co-editors, assistant editors, co-producers, former crew members, et cetera, used in credits during the opening scenes, posters and other promotional material. The name Jamie was picked as it was the first unisex name Stuart Shertick came up with when creating the credit.
Early concept pitch
- Also known as Fake leak cut, prank cut, home movie cut, "sweded" cut (2009)
- Also known as Prototype version
- Note: This cut resulted in a major controversy after outrage from Stuart Shertick and Brad Evans.
1992 cut (Preview cut)
US theatrical release
- Also known as Domestic cut, Happy ending cut, Final cut
International theatrical release
- Also known as Full Version
Untitled German Cut
- Also known as NFP/Constantin/Senator Cut, Fan-Made Cut, Special Edition
- "I remember people telling me that my dad wanted to create an ambitious and great independent film, which is why he wasn't so keen on major distributors. He used to believe that they would control your projects to the point where it's just an ugly deformed baby."
- - Jamie Shertick
During the production, Neon was switching distributors, like "they were playing hot potato with pieces of lava", as described by Stuart Shertick.
The first distributor, EMI Films, heard about the pitch and optioned to become the distributor for non-UK markets outside of North America. Shertick and Evans accepted in trade for the permission to use their parent company EMI's music catalog for their film. In 1979, EMI Films announced that Associated Film Distribution, its joint venture with ITC Entertainment, was going to release the film in the United States and Canada. The company went bankrupt in the early 1980s and the distribution rights temporarily went into limbo.
In 1980, Filmways optioned to distribute the film domestically. Then, Filmways had lost nearly $20 million during the nine months ending in November 1981. However, it partially exited bankruptcy by selling few of its previously acquired assets. In 1982, Filmways was acquired by Orion Pictures, which resulted in Orion becoming the new US distributor.
In 1989, German film production companies Senator Film and Constantin Film invested a total of €450,000 into the production, in exchange of the West German distribution and home entertainment rights.
In 1990, Buena Vista International, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, United International Pictures, Pioneer Corporation, Nordisk Film, Egmont Entertainment, BBC, Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera, Entertainment Film Distributors, Majestic Films, Svensk Filmindustri and Cannon Films formed a partnership with Rabbit Productions to start a joint venture called Neon Distributors Pool. They then acquired the rights to the movie in South Africa, Australia & New Zealand, Latin America, Soviet Union's satellite statesand the Caribbean. The distribution rights in the Soviet Union was held by state-owned distributor Sovexportfilm, while distribution rights in Ecuador, Colombia, and Puerto Rico were held by United International Pictures for a short while.
In 1992, the international film distribution and marketing rights were sold individually to:
- Buena Vista International in Uruguay, Thailand, and Cuba
- Warner Bros. Pictures in Venezuela, Malaysia, China, Turkey, Hong Kong, India and Indonesia
- Neon Distributors Pool in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Ecuador, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Japan, West Germany, UK, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Norway, Canada, UK and the Soviet Union
- Panasia Films in Hong Kong
- Constantin Film and Senator Film in West Germany
- In this auction, Constantin Film also purchased the Austrian distribution rights, while NFP Marketing & Distribution became the third German publisher to release and market Neon. They soon formed a consortium called Neon Deutschland Filmverleih GmbH and work with fans on a "German Cut" of Neon.
- Gaumont and Buena Vista International (later under the Gaumont/Buena Vista joint banner) & Canal+ Droits Audiovisuels in France
- M6 Droits Audiovisuels acquired the separate home entertainment rights in France
- Guild Film Distribution and Rank Film Distributors in the UK
- Metro Tartan Distribution purchased the home entertainment rights.
- Roadshow Film Distributors in Australia
- Later, Icon Productions purchased the Australian distribution rights in 2000
- Sovexportfilm in the Soviet Union
- Good Machine International in Europe.
- Buena Vista International will co-distribute in the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, and Spain.
- Compagnia Distribuzione Internazionale (CDI), Filmauro and Penta Distribuzione in Italy
- Warner Bros. Pictures in Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia
Shortly afterward, Neon Distributors Pool renamed itself to Rabbit International LP, with whom Good Machine will co-distribute the film in the international markets. Then Warner Bros. Pictures and Buena Vista International transferred their distribution rights in the European, Latin American and Asian countries to Rabbit International LP.
- Pioneer Corporation, RCS (Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera) and MGM went on to invest in Carolco Pictures while losing interest in Neon.
- Svensk Filmindustri, Egmont Entertainment, and Nordisk Film gave their Nordic distribution rights to Columbia Pictures (and its partner in the Nordics, Warner Bros. Pictures)
- Entertainment Film Distributors, BBC and Majestic Films decided to only finance (and broadcast, in BBC's case) the film and not distribute and market it theatrically in the UK. Those rights still stayed with Rabbit International LP.
- Cannon Films was quietly merged into MGM.
- Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures merged their roles in the venture into Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International.
These resulted in them leaving the Rabbit International venture. Buena Vista International, United International Pictures and 20th Century Fox soon sold the venture to Good Machine International and Stuart Shertick, in exchange for some ownership of the film, just in case. The only company that denied was Buena Vista International.
- Main article: Music of Neon (1993 film)
- Tangerine Dream, Sting, David Bowie, Richard Termini, Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Danny Elfman, Carter Burwell - music
- J. Todd Anderson - storyboards
- Mary Zophres - an intern at costume design department
- Colleen Atwood and Patricia Norris - costume designers
- John Cameron - co-producer, line producer, associate producer
- Tricia Cooke - co-editor
- James Cameron - special effects supervisor, executive producer, storyboards, costume design, executive producer
- Roger Deakins, Freddie Francis, Frederick Elmes, Peter Deming, Stefan Czapsky, Philippe Rousselot and Bruno Delbonnel - cinematographers (1980-1988)
- David Diliberto - associate editor, post-production supervisor
- Barry Sonnenfeld - cinematographer, executive producer
- Dennis Gassner, Bo Welch, Alex McDowell - production designer (1980-1986)
- Nancy Haigh - set designer
- Peter Kurland - sound mixer, boom operator
- Skip Lievsay - sound editor
- Sam Raimi - storyboards, co-writer (1986-1988)
- Warren Skaaren, Caroline Thompson - co-writers (1984-1986)
- David Brown - producer (1980-1988)
- Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski - assistant writers, story editors
- Mike Higham - music producer, music editor
- Allison Abate - assistant production manager, layout, special effects coordinator
- Rick Heinrichs - art director, effects artist
- Rick Baker and Ve Neill - makeup
- Chris Lebenzon - co-editor
- deepak Nayar - unit production manager, location manager
- Alan Splet - sound co-designer
- Johanna Ray - casting director (1978-1981)
- Mary Sweeney - assistant editor
- Main article: Carolco Pictures
Though Carolco made several successful films through the 1990s, including Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (T2), and Basic Instinct, the studio was gradually losing money as the years went on. Carolco mixed blockbusters with small-budget arthouse films which were not profitable. In addition, the studio was criticized for overspending on films through reliance on star power and far-fetched deals (Schwarzenegger received then-unheard-of $10–14 million for his work on Recall and T2; Stallone also had similar treatment). Losses of partnerships also threatened the studio's stability and sent it teetering towards bankruptcy.
In 1992, Carolco went under a corporate restructuring invested by a partnership of Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera of Italy, Le Studio Canal+ of France, Pioneer Electric Corporation of Japan, and MGM. Each partner helped infuse up to $60 million into the studio's stock and another $50 million for co-financing deals. MGM also agreed to distribute Carolco product domestically after a previous deal with TriStar expired. In 1993, Carolco was forced to sell its shares in LIVE Entertainment to a group of investors led by Pioneer; it was later renamed Artisan Entertainment, which was bought by Lions Gate Entertainment.
The Carolco, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, and EMI Films film library are currently owned by StudioCanal.
The studios October Films, Good Machine, Gramercy Pictures and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment were superseded by Focus Features and Universal Pictures, as of the early 2000s. The film libraries of Orion Pictures, Filmways, Cannon Films and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (pre-March 31, 1996 library) are currently owned by MGM.
Pacific Western Productions went on to become Valhalla Motion Pictures and produced such projects as Hulk and The Walking Dead.
The current owner of the Neon franchise is shared between StudioCanal, MGM, Focus Features, Jamie Shertick & Ross and Brenda Evans. Warner Brothers (who owns Castle Rock Entertainment) and 20th Century Fox gave away their share in 2004. A while later, MGM and StudioCanal announced to give their share to Sony Pictures after they finish distributing and financing Neon's sequel.
All international distributors lost their rights to Old Dominion Media around 2018, following a lawsuit between them along with a few companies and the producers of the film's sequel. Then it was transferred to Jamie Shertick Productions shortly after.
The Sherticks and the Evans
Shortly before release, Stuart Shertick was diagnosed with a severe case of cancer, a brain clot (which might cause more seizures) and fatty liver (from his alcoholism period) and Brad Evans were struck by lightning twice. Brad Evans had to go through surgery to restore his skin.
In 1993, Stuart's eldest son from his previous marriage, Zayne Tollin, shot himself after trying to drive himself off a bridge, after suffering from drug addiction, while Zayne's girlfriend was soon murdered by her ex-boyfriend, who suddenly died of organ failure hours later. Also, Brad Evans' eldest son Aaron fell into a coma for three years, after complications from wounds, following being shot in the head by his bully in school, merely missing the brain.
The bully, later identified as Aaron Angel, was sued and was ordered to pay Aaron Evans' life support and medical bills for the entire time he is in coma. Two months later, Angel attempted to plug Evans' life support off, but was later arrested and later was given the lethal injection in 1994. Between the three years, there were reports of demonic possession, which shocked the Evans and Angel families.
- "We had no idea if we were cursed or not. But if it's all a coincidence, then it's straight up... fucked up. [sic]"
- - Jamie Shertick in Cyber Dreams
- "After all this chaos, I think I might temporarily retire from the film industry after my second film, to process and cope with this mess."
- - Stuart Shertick, 1996
In 1998, Stuart Shertick past away before finishing the direction of his second and last film. It was 90% done. The assets and rights related to Neon and even the video game were, among other things, passed onto his son Jamie Shertick.
In 1999, Sam Shertick (not to be confused with Samantha Shertick, his little sister) was diagnosed with depression and was critically injured in a car accident. He suffered a severe spinal injury and lost all fingers in his left hand, then started using a wheelchair. He then ended up in a vegetative state after caught on fire with a set he was in. He died 3 years later, on the 5th anniversary celebrating his marriage to his girlfriend.
In 2001, Stuart's wife, actress Zelda Robin-Shertick, Brad Evans and his family (except his youngest children (9-year-old twins), Ross and Brenda, who were at their grandparents') were attending a film festival, when their bus stopped working. Their bus driver got out and a few minutes later, the bus rolled down a hill into a building, which then collapsed on the bus, killing everyone on the bus, the building and 7 people nearby. Ross and Brenda were soon raised by their grandparents.
In 2007 re-release of Neon on Blu-Ray, Jamie Shertick added in all short films his father Stuart did with his friend Brad and, later on, the entire production crew behind Neon between 1975 and 1992.
Ross and Brenda Evans wrote and directed their feature film debut, Kaleidoscope, in 2013. It was produced by Gale Ann Hurd, Jamie Shertick and Focus Features.
Jamie soon released the ROM of the video game on his Tumblr blog in 2016 as a Christmas gift to his followers.
Cast & crew
In 1998, Phil Hartman, the voice of a bot in an underground bar scene, was shot by his ex-wife, while he slept in their Encino, Los Angeles, home. She then committed suicide several hours later.
| Production | Scripts | Merchandise | Comic book (Neon Origins) | Home video | Cyber Dreams: A Chaotic Production | Soundtrack | Stage adaptation (upcoming) | Video game
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