All the work featured in the Storyboard pages of July's edition - Maleficent work from MPC; zombie carnage from Axis and an unsettling ad from Home Corp and Prime Focus
Led by MPC vfx supervisors Adam Valdez and Seth Maury, MPC completed 875 shots for Disney’s Maleficent. Working closely with director Rob Stromberg and production vfx super Carey Villegas, the team created a host of creatures and environments including the initial scenes of a young Maleficent in a fairy world environment and Maleficent’s iconic castle. MPC also created huge battle scenes, a cg thorn wall and a full CG dragon and Great Hall interior for the climactic battle sequence.
Prime Focus/ Home Corp
Home Corp director Bruce Hunt tasked Prime Focus Animation director Martyn Pick to create 180 hand-painted frames showing a turbulent sea on the stomach of a live action model, calmed by the introduction of an Imodium Liqui-gel. The producer was Jules Pye, lead art-worker was Sharon Pinsker and the art workers were Martin Oliver and Fiona Woodcock.
Mitsubishi and Golley Slater brought in Blacionica to shoot the latest TV and cinema campaign for Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV, the world’s first plug-in hybrid 4x4 SUV. Tim Green was DoP on the shoot. 3D animation and design was by Tim Marchant, Rodi Kaya and Viktor Berg. Colour was by Envy and sound by SNK Media.
These are two new game trailers from Axis. One for Microsoft Studios’ Crackdown for Xbox One and the other for Deep Silver’s Dead Island 2. Crackdown for Xbox One was directed by Stephen Donnelly. Director Ben Craig’s announcement trailer for Dead Island 2, the follow up to Dead Island, starts with a coiffeured Californian out for a beachside run and ends, inevitably, in zombie carnage.
Spov completed this opening movie for Xbox One and Playstation 4 game, Watch_Dogs. Ubisoft Montreal asked Spov to visualise the interior workings of a super-connected network of devices, operating in a fictional near future version of Chicago, where the game takes place. Miles Christensen was creative director and Allen Leitch and Dan Higgott were exec producers.
Jany Temime: Costume designer: Gravity, Skyfall, six of the Harry Potter series, Children of Men
Costume design is artistic, dramatic, you have to understand the script brilliantly. You have to be able to visualise it and understand what the director wants to tell. And at the same time you are running an enormous department.
People approach the job in different ways. Some do it because they like to design clothes, but those ones would like to work in fashion. If you want to make costumes for films it is because you love the making of films. Your job will be projected on to the screen, it will be photographic. You have to have all the support of the film to be able to see your work on screen.
You work with a director. You have to visualise the ideas of somebody else. It’s not my film it’s their film. That’s a humility that designers don’t have when they start. After you’ve made a few films you realise that you are a service department and you have to help somebody express their ideas and vision. You’re as good as your director is. This is why I only want to work with brilliant directors because the rest is a waste of time.
Every actor has a different morphology and a different style. They are the ones carrying your costume. You have to help them to create the part. You cannot design the same costume for Tom Cruise or Daniel Craig; they walk differently, they approach the part differently.
On the big films you have four months. It’s a very short time, the first month is the birth month you’re deciding which way you should go. Then after that it’s very technical. But the director has spent three years or four years with this, the producer too. I arrive then I’ve got to produce 600 or 500 costumes very quickly. The time is a bit too short but that’s always the story.
Gravity was the hardest thing I did in my life, it’s hard to beat NASA but I’m sorry, my costumes look better than their’s ever did. Did you ever see the Russian suits? They looked like teletubbies, Sandra looked sexy in mine. I think I did a better job than them, I’m still waiting for them to ask me to design for them.
Every DoP photographs your costumes differently. On Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the film was very dark but Bruno Delbonnel photographed the dark costumes so brilliantly you could see every single detail. Every single stitch and embroidery could be seen.
On Gravity Emmanuel Lubezki is the most difficult, brilliant, amazing DoP. To get the white of the suits I had to show him 50 different shades of white and I’m not even joking. Every film brings you something different. The costume is not to be shown hanging in a wardrobe it has to be shown on the screen.
Jany Temime’s BAFTA Masterclass on costume design is at BFI Southbank on 23 July www.bafta.org
Hugo Blick’s latest thriller, which airs on BBC2 on 3 July, centres on the Arab israeli conflict and the conflict within its main character. Jon Creamer reports
After The Shadow Line, were you keen to stay within the thriller genre? I was keen to pursue the thriller genre. I was interested in exploring the psychology of a character propelled into a thriller that only really reflected upon them and who they were, as opposed to the character just being tested by the thriller elements. The woman and who she is is the starting point from where the thriller grows, and it’s because
of who she is that the thriller emerges, not the other way around.
Did The Shadow Line’s success allow you to add scale to this idea? To a degree I was aware the scale of this piece would need some international partnerships to realise it and because of previous success there were people out there willing to get involved. But you don’t look for scale, you just look to be sure you tell the story that is in your head. There’s one pulse of electricity that pulses through a story and you have to hold on to it wherever it goes. As long as that electricity is honestly constructed and you don’t kid yourself then it will be convincing and will have authority because it demands it. You don’t just get bigger because you can get bigger, you do it because the story needs it.
The series doesn’t offer the audience the plot on a plate. Is there a greater confidence about audiences now? To be elliptical and play out the cards of your story in a certain way, that requires a certain amount of patience from an audience. That means you have to have a certain amount of strength and confidence that you know you can deliver ultimately on the story you’re intending. In order for me to do that I don’t start writing until I’ve considered the entire story and I know every significant character’s last line. When I know their last line and the construction of where I think that story needs to go in order for them to say it, that’s when I write it. I use the writing process to discover what I’ve already thought through, so there’s a strong structure from the word go and that somehow communicates a confidence to the viewer that you may not understand it all right now, or until the very end, but you will understand it at the end.
Each shot seems very considered for a TV project?
I work really fast, so there isn’t time to. We shoot eight pages a day. As a writer/director/producer you only shoot what you need. In a way that helps orientate everybody, particularly the actors. They don’t feel that they’re giving all sorts of performances that will be constructed in the edit. They know the tone of voice they’re using in this particular scene because we’re not going to cover it exhaustively. It’s considered only to the degree that there’s not that much else to offer.
So you don’t pre-plan shots too much? It’s the revelation of psychology that tells me where to put the camera. I don’t pre-set cameras, I don’t do anything like that at all. I try as much as possible to keep it clean until we walk on to the set. In big set pieces there will be pre knowledge of course, but as a rule I keep it as loose as possible.
Was there a particular style you wanted to achieve?
There’s none. The Shadow Line had a strong reference to noir, of course. Here I wanted to move away to a degree and really just look at the evocation of character, particularly Maggie Gyllennhaal’s. Whatever was best to serve that, that was where the camera would be and how it would look. However, I’ve always admired the work of cinematographer
Gordon Willis. He had a clean way of working which has a great drama to it but it doesn’t have fussiness, it has boldness.
Are you very sparing in what you shoot? I know what I want and what I don’t want. It certainly gives liberation to the actors. I tend to shoot two takes per set up. It’s very spontaneous, very immediate, very real and if you get to a fourth take it starts to lose that. I have to move fast. I’m a single director across the eight hours. So I move with a certain efficiency and speed. I’m a long distance runner so I’m used to that.
Are you very involved with all the other aspects of making the film? Once I’ve told you what the vision is you have to contribute to making that vision work by doing it for yourself. I don’t dictate anything then because once you’ve got that, your contribution will be yours. You’ll be free to make it as long as you’ve explored what that vision is at the very start. I often turn up and my designer Chris Roope will have built one of the division walls between Israel and Palestine and I won’t have seen it until the day I set up and it’s perfect. I trust him to do it and the endless other things he’s managed to do. I’ve never once been disappointed by him or any of the other crew.
The Honourable Woman is a political thriller set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The series centres around Nessa Stein (Gyllenhaal), a woman deeply troubled by her past who tries to promote peace in the region .
Drama Republic and Eight Rooks Productions
Writer/director/producer Hugo Blick
BBC2 and Sundance Channel
Cast Maggie Gyllenhaal, Andrew Buchan, Lindsay Duncan, Stephen Rea
Executive producers Greg Brenman (Drama Republic) and Polly Hill (BBC)
The editors behind Harry Potter, Toy Story 3, All That Jazz, The Trip and Sherlock tell Jon Creamer about their creative approach ahead of this month's Editfest London
MARK DAY: “You have to forge a relationship with the director very swiftly. You’re going to be working with this person for hours a day for months on end.
When you get the dailies you do your version of the scene. That could be totally wrong, but you have to go with your gut instinct. It’s quite nerve tingling showing your work. Even with [director] David Yates who I’ve worked with for a long time, you’re still nervous you may have misinterpreted what he wanted.
You’ve got to have empathy with the characters you’re editing and with the script. Hopefully you’ll love the script you’re working on.
When a script’s written it’s one thing, when it’s filmed it becomes another and when it gets into the edit it changes again so it evolves over the months you work on it.
Patience is one thing you definitely need as an editor and diplomacy obviously. Sometimes you look at something and you think, ‘That’s not a brilliant scene you’ve directed there,’ but you don’t want to say that to a director especially if you don’t know them very well. It’s amazing what you can do to change a scene by re-editing. It can make a bad scene pretty good and a good scene brilliant. But you’ve got to be diplomatic.
I’m sure some directors are total autocrats and don’t listen to a word you say no matter how much you try to help them. Luckily I haven’t worked with people like that but I know there are people around who are like that.
For the first assembly you want the director to see everything that was shot and the whole script as it was written. That’s when you discuss it closely and scenes start to go.
Over the weeks or months it gets moulded into shape and then you show the producers and they have ideas on it and you cherry pick from those ideas. That’s what’s good and collaborative about filmmaking. Some people think nobody else can have a good idea but show a film to anyone and they’ll have some idea on how to improve it. Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees because you’ve seen it so many times.
With vfx heavy films you get pre-vis to use as a guide. Then you pass that back to vfx and gradually over the months it will evolve and the character becomes lifelike. When I first started on Potter it was weird but I’ve done it a few times now so it doesn’t faze me.”
KEN SCHRETZMANN: “On live action they shoot first and you edit later, on animated films you edit first and they shoot later. The films take about four years and the first two are just editing storyboards.
In animation nothing locks down. You have to accept that the cut is in constant flux and not even under your control.
The beauty of working in animation is if I’ve got a two shot but what I really need is a close up I can just make a phone call and they’ll give me a close up. Or I can say this is all great but let’s nudge the camera over. Unlike live action where you’re stuck with what you have I can constantly ask for things that I need.
In terms of pacing, when you see multiple characters in the scene all the dialogue has been recorded separately on different days. As the editor, all that pacing is where I’m placing dialogue and deciding where action happens. I’m not relying on the actors’ pacing I’m building that from scratch.
Editing animation is a marathon. You have to approach it differently as an editor. You can’t just be working long hours and burning yourself out.
The most important things are a story sense, getting in synch with the director’s vision and understanding what you’re trying to accomplish with the latest revision of the script. A lot of it isn’t even technical, it’s being sensitive to the dialogue and rhythms of speech.
I come from a live action background and I was used to having discussions with the director alone behind closed doors. At Pixar, you never get alone time with the director. It’s usually you, the director, the story artist, a whole team of people in the back of the room watching you guys. There’s a whole formal review process where you’re showing cuts and discussing it and everything’s in public. Every time a director says something a whole bunch of people are in back taking notes because everything ripples out to other departments.
Sometimes it’s hard to say that the work is mine because so many hands have been on it. I would like to try a small live action film just to have the simplicity of having a choice of five takes and it doesn’t change. You can cut it and it stays there. Also looking at the screen and reacting to actors faces. Leading up to animation I’m cutting things imagining what it’s going to be and waiting for the day of actually seeing that performance.”
ALAN HEIM: “A good editor trusts their initial feelings when he or she first sees the dailies. You must be open to flexibility and be willing to rearrange and change almost anything.
The editor is interposed between what was shot and what the director thinks he shot so a certain level of tact and patience is required. That doesn’t even include the producer’s input, which can be strange.
Storytelling is the key to editing and I like to tell a story with as little exposition as possible. It confuses the audience.
I usually cut a full-length version while shooting is going on, which includes all scenes, even when I’m sure certain ones will go. Then the director will look at it and consider another occupation, at which time the tact comes in and we settle in to making the movie move.
Editors like to think of the process as the “final rewrite” so it really is a key part of the film where some errors can be covered or removed.
Good editing fits the material. Film, digital or not, is a plastic medium and it can’t be forced where it doesn’t want to go. The director of Godspell was thinking of hiring a “flashy” commercial editor to do his project. I said, “give me flashy shots and I’ll give you a flashy film”. And I did and we were all happy.”
MAGS ARNOLD: “The first-time viewing of the rushes by the editor is critical, because the response you have to those rushes is most likely the response the audience is going to have. You are the first member of the audience.
So, for me, the starting point is watching the material with an open mind, reacting instinctively to the emotional truth on the screen, committing that first feeling to memory and writing it down if that helps because when you watch it again later that first impression has gone. And in the act of manufacturing the cut, technical considerations like lighting, focus and continuity can sometimes supersede that first response.
With film gone, there are no selected/printed takes – everything merits a look. It’s important to watch everything in real time. Some directors shoot cover systematically, for example, a wide, followed by mids, then close ups etc. This makes it easier to remember and locate the bits you liked later on. But others shoot really long takes with the shot changing size throughout. Sometimes the dialogue is improvised and changes occur from one take to the next. This makes it more difficult to recall where the best bits are. If there is a lot of cover, there will be more, harder, choices. Getting to know your material is paramount.
Myself and the director usually try to have a conversation after I have seen the dailies. I find it more useful to watch the rushes cold and as impartially as possible. Talking afterwards is very useful, because I can discover what the director wants, and hopefully, between his vision and my reaction, we are off to a good start with the assembly.
The editor has to tell the director that something might not be working. You are duty bound to let them know as early as possible that you have concerns. This is one of the most perilous parts of the job. It often causes you great stress, particularly when working with a director for the first time.
An editor needs an organised mind, a great memory, good sense of rhythm, resourcefulness intelligence, a sense of humour (especially for comedy), the ability to work with other people without being an asshole, to not be an egoist, to stay calm and see the bigger picture (often literally) and diplomacy.
A good edit is when the emotional as well as technical reasons for an edit coincide. No compromises have been made. It’s deeply satisfying when that happens.”
TIM PORTER: “Some directors like to see assemblies on a Friday, others have no interest in seeing anything until it’s in a complete structure. Everyone’s different. Some directors like to be all over it, others don’t want to see it until it’s in really good shape because it’s too painful to watch with too many lumps and bumps in it.
Usually a director’s got a point of reference for either the whole piece or a particular sequence. People reference a lot, it’s a shorthand.
It’s about using your instincts and trusting that you know what’s good, just don’t doubt yourself. You’ll have 60 times more material than the length of the actual scene. You’ve got a lot of choices to make so you’ve got to use your instincts and commit to your choices. Edits go on for months so you’ve got time to refine. You cut it and cut it again.
It’s important to know when it’s your turn to say your piece. You don’t want to be the loudest voice in the room when you’ve got all those execs in. They haven’t come to listen to you necessarily. You support the director in those situations.
Showing it is nerve wracking. I’m not the director but I’ve still lived with this thing for weeks and months and you’ve still put your hard work and energy and focus into something.”
The editors featured in this article will be speaking at ACE’s EditFest London on June 21, sponsored by Televisual – www.editfest.com
Neil cross, the writer of Televisual Bulldog best drama series winner Luther, tells Jon Creamer about working across novels, TV and movies
His third season of the Idris Elba cop show Luther has won best drama series at the Televisual Bulldog Awards; the big budget NBC adventure series Crossbones starring John Malkovich, that he wrote and showran, goes to air this month and along the way he’s written Doctor Who episodes, movies for Guillermo del Toro, a Triffids reboot for Sam Raimi and a feature version of Luther is now in the offing.
But up until a decade ago, British crime novelist Neil Cross hadn’t even considered writing a script.
In fact he describes his entry into screenwriting as a “series of lucky accidents” followed by “recognising that luck, grabbing it and running away with it like the Andrex puppy.”
He’d picked up the ubiquitous Story by screenwriting guru Robert McKee and “I could not make head nor tail of it. And the degree to which I didn’t understand it intrigued me.” He adapted his own novel Always the Sun as a way to learn and “through a series of Carry On or Hammer Horror coincidences, whichever way you look at it” the screenplay wound up in the hands of agent Michael McCoy, leading to a beauty contest around the London production houses where Kudos “took a punt on me” and gave him the chance to write episodes of Spooks. “I didn’t think of it as a career move but in the process of doing it I found out I loved it.”
And, he says, his novels and screenplays began to inform each other. “As a novelist I was still learning my craft – how to strip story down and be as unencumbered as possible. What I learned fed into storytelling on screen. Then what I learned about screenwriting fed into the novels.”
And the gulf between the two forms is not as wide as it used to be, he says. “TV has become, in a sense, a literary form of expression. The Sopranos was year zero in as much as it was approached by its audience in the same way as a Dickens part-work was approached by its audience - a big, long, fat story eaten up in chunks. The Wire clearly exists in cultural space that was, in the Victorian era, inhabited by the novel.”
So if that’s the case, why don’t more novelists cross over? Novelist ego, he says. “When screenplays are at their best the writer is invisible. You’ve got to be content with that. Even if you’re David Simon you’re still overshadowed by Stringer Bell. You’re part of a large corporate effort to make a thing rather than having your name in gold embossed type on the front cover.” And that doesn’t sit too well with most novelists. “They’re too encumbered by this notion that they have something important to say. I’m dancing around the fact that most novelists are scum. If I was stuck in a lift I’d rather be with a bunch of screenwriters than a bunch of novelists. Most novelists are carping, self-obsessed bores. With a bunch of screenwriters it’s like Easy Company in Band of Brothers. You’d just sit in that elevator and swap war stories for hours.”
But while the role of screenwriter may require a lesser ego, the power it affords is growing. His latest series Crossbones, a pirate adventure show for NBC starring John Malkovich, saw Cross take on the very American role of showrunner – and, he says, that was a huge leap for someone who only a few years before led the solitary life of a novelist.
The big budget, five-month shoot ran from a recreated 18th century town built on a disused naval base in Puerto Rico [“I thought the chances of it turning into Apocalypse Now were pretty high.”] and was a baptism by fire. “I took a certain English reticence to my role. I knew I was showrunner but it took a few weeks to realise quite what that means in the States. You’re the person where the buck stops at every level. You’re the boss and that was liberating and terrifying.” And something he coped with by “happily admitting that I was massively unqualified to take those decisions. But that’s how you learn, by consulting with people who know what they’re doing.”
And a development of the showrunner role in British TV drama can’t come soon enough, he reckons. “The position of showrunner is much to the benefit of television” because when “a writer develops a show and it’s filtered through another producer, there’s a pressure for a reversion to the mean. With something truly extraordinary that varies from the norm in any number of ways, there’s going to be a tendency to push it back into what’s more mainstream, more expected.”
Not that control is the be all and end all. He’s also written movies – horror film Mama for Guillermo del Toro and he’s scripting a Triffids remake for Sam Raimi along with his own Luther feature script (of which “there will be news soon”). “In features you have no rights at all but that’s how it should be. It’s a director’s medium. If you accept the necessary condition that a film script is not there as an expression of your vision, it’s just you telling a story as well as you possibly can for the director to interpret according to his or her vision, it becomes weirdly liberating.”
Born in Bristol in 1969. Cross lives in New Zealand with his wife and two sons. His novels include The Calling, Captured, Burial, Natural History, Always the Sun, Holloway Falls and Mr In-Between. On TV he wrote Spooks episodes in series five, six and seven and Doctor Who episodes The Rings of Akhaten and Hide as well as single film Whistle and I’ll Come to You. He created and wrote Luther series one, two and three and his NBC series Crossbones goes to air this month. His movie, Mama was released in 2013.
Director James Strong tells Jon Creamer about going back to Manchester in the 90s and a pivotal moment in the city’s history
Peter Bowker’s From There To Here spans four tumultuous years that changed Manchester and Britain forever. The drama starts with the IRA Manchester bomb and the Euro 96 tournament and runs through the hope engendered by New Labour’s 1997 landslide election to the hangover of the Millennium celebrations. It focuses on two families from different sides of the tracks who are brought together in the aftermath of the bomb.
Why did you want to direct the show? I was actually in Manchester on the day of the bomb. Back in 96 I was training as a director at Granada. It was a sunny morning and I was walking into town towards the Arndale Centre and almost got blown off my feet. Also I’d wanted to work for Peter for a while as he’s a brilliant writer.
What’s the story about? It’s the story of a family and of the city. In the years we cover, the city went under more change than at any point since the industrial revolution. But it’s also seen through the eyes of a family. We start at the fag end of John Major’s government that gave rise to the excitement surrounding New Labour and then we see how that turns as hopes started to go sour.
Is it harder doing period drama when it’s very recent? It’s hardest on the design team. They don’t get the budget for a Victorian period drama but its period detail is still massive. You’ve got to pay as much attention as if it was set in the 20s or 200 years ago.
What did you have to watch out for? Cars are the main thing. And the Manchester skyline too. A lot of our cgi budget was spent removing buildings. Part of the story is the huge amount of building that went on post millennium with the rebuilding of the Arndale Centre. The majority of that happened after our story.
Was it difficult to shoot the ‘old’ Manchester then? You’ve got to be careful how you frame things. You’ve got to be really selective and do your homework. There are still fantastic bits that haven’t changed in 50 years but you’re removing rather than building. The Northern Quarter is redeveloped now. It’s about finding those back streets and bits that haven’t been redeveloped and just dressing them to take them back. The Boo Club [owned by Steven Mackintosh’s character] is in an old alleyway. That block was about to be redeveloped so we got in there quickly. A lot of the clubs back then were just warehouse spaces the promoters had walked into and stuck a sign on the door so we adopted that model.
Where did you create the main set piece IRA bomb explosion? The main set piece of the explosion and its aftermath was shot in the centre of Manchester. We adapted certain streets to make them similar to the actual place where the bomb went off.
What reference material of the bomb did you use?There is a lot of reference material of Handycam footage that was shot on the day. The police themselves went out with cameras that day to collect evidence so there’s a lot of poor quality but useful reference material from the police archives and there’s news camera footage too. The photos remind you of 9/11 which obviously happened afterwards. It’s that caking of dust when a building implodes which you associate with 9/11 but you look at the Arndale bomb and it’s very similar. There’s lots of paper in the air, twisted metal and plumes of dust in the air.
How did you shoot the actual explosion? Our characters experience it inside a pub. All the explosions we did for real and then we enhanced them with bits of glass and stuff. We wanted to make it as real as possible so we put the actors right in there. They were told it’s safe but because it’s a one shot only thing due to the cost of it, those moments focus the minds. Even though it’s been prepped, the size of the explosion was pretty big so everyone’s concentrating hard. It was a complicated process putting that sequence together. We only had one chance so we had four cameras on it. Then when they’re walking through the aftermath that is a big set and we extended it with cgi to match the angles of where it was in Manchester and its relationship to the Arndale.
How did you want Manchester to look? I lived in Manchester for a couple of years and it rained most of the time but that summer it was hot and summery. Manchester can be portrayed as a bit grim and a bit bleak but it’s full of colour and life and vibrancy so we went for that. It’s a city in the summer and we were being true to those days when everyone was watching Euro 96 in their t-shirts and England shirts. We didn’t want to be too depressing and bleak about it.
Did you try to capture the period in the shooting style? We did that more in the music and the look rather than the camera style, which was fairly classic. We didn’t go too close up, we kept it wide and looser so you can see the landscape and see the people. It’s about a city so you want to see the city. We worked hard to find locations that let the city come through.
details Broadcaster BBC1 Production Kudos Writer Peter Bowker Producer Tim Bricknell Executive producers Derek Wax and Peter Bowker for Kudos. Stephen Wright, head of drama, BBC Northern Ireland. Director James Strong Cast Philip Glenister, Bernard Hill, Steven Mackintosh, Liz White, Saskia Reeves, Daniel Rigby and Morven Christie. Production designer Catrin Meredydd DoP Stephan Pehrsson Editor Mike Jones Composer I am Kloot Line producer Sue Dunn Camera Arri Alexa
In this month’s Storyboard, a Renaissance for Huge, Wonky gets writer’s block and Stink heads to a swingers’ pool party
Da Vinci’s Demons titles
These are Huge Design’s titles for the second season of the Starz network’s US show Da Vinci’s Demons, a retelling of the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. The director of the titles was Paul McDonnell with art direction by Hugo Moss and Tamsin McGee. The lead illustrator was Nathan Mckenna and the composer Bear McCreary.
Titanfall intro movie
Spov mixed archive and cgi for its intro movie for the Xbox One First Person Shooter game, Titanfall
For the intro movie for innovative Xbox One multiplayer game, Titanfall, Spov’s Dan Higgot and Allen Leitch decided against the traditional “performance capture and dire dialogue” route often followed by game intros. Instead, the film is a mix of space-race archive and stunning cg vistas of alien worlds.
“It was our job to put some meat on the bones of where the action’s happening and the universe it was all happening in,” says Spov founder Allen Leitch. “Respawn [the game’s developer] were adamant that it was a human universe the game was talking place in. It was our world not a parallel dimension. That’s why we kicked of with archive footage of the space race and life on Earth.”
The look and feel they wanted was “much more about describing the beauty of space,” says md Dan Higgot. “We’d actually watched Lawrence of Arabia when preparing the pitch thinking about the beautiful strange places on Earth that we could use to film this plausible alien environment, rather than making it fantastical or Star Trek-y.”
An influence also came from shots taken on Nasa’s Cassini mission to Saturn that had a “really peculiar and particular quality,” says Higgot. They had a “very subdued colour palette and a very clear light. Because it was authentic footage from space we felt that we could use it as part of our aesthetic. We weren’t trying to make science fiction but for it to look, to the best of our knowledge, like space travel would look like.”
The sparse subdued palette also extended to the script, which contains only a tiny amount of dialogue. “You need something enigmatic, not something overly expositional,” says Leitch. “We were pushing for it to be devoid of dialogue, but I can see why it needs to be there.”
“You have to be economical,” agrees Higgot. “You have to tell the right amount to set the scene but not too much. With this movie as with many others we had a back and forth conversation with the client about what should be in the script. There’s a tendency to want everything but if you have too many narrative points to hit it’s just rushed and overwhelming.”
And in the end, the client gave Spov a lot of space. “One of the main points in our brief was ‘don’t fuck it up.’ We’ve been assured that we didn’t,” says Leitch. “They trusted our judgement and vision and processes in terms of how we were going to make it look and what the final result was going to be. They placed a lot of confidence in us.”
Loud Like Love
This is Stink director Saman Kesh's latest video for Placebo for the track Loud Like Love. It's a follow up to last year's Too Many Friends and again features the voice of American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis who reveals another unfortunate sequence of details and events – this time at a 1960s swingers' pool party.
Writers’ Block is a short film written and directed by Tom Gran and Martin Woolley (AKA The Spin Kick Brothers) and produced by Wonky Films with the support of IdeasTap. Set in a prison for criminally poor writers, it follows a gang of cons who get hold of the script to their own lives and attempt to re-write it in order to make their escape.
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For BBC1’s WW1 drama about a military field hospital, the production team built a frontier town from scratch. Jon creamer reports
Writer and executive producer Sarah Phelps and production designer Cristina Casali explain how they brought a 1915 First World War field hospital to life with contemporaneous photographs, plans and diaries and US drama Deadwood as inspiration
How did you initially think the camp should look? SP These hospitals grow like mushrooms. They start off in 1914 as a few tents, an operating theatre, a couple of wards and ‘we’ll be home by Christmas having spanked the Hun’s arse and sent him home without his tea.’ But they grow and grow. I looked at maps of hospitals and plans and by the end of 1918 they are like cities. So I thought about it like Deadwood in that every day it changes and grows and builds and gets new little nooks and crannies and dark corners where things happen. It’s such a rich environment. There’s always people coming in, and everyday people are leaving.
What about the detail of the camp? SP It’s very ‘army’ but at the same time hotch-potch and mend-and-make-do. Everything’s stuck together and comes from other campaigns. They were these formal army spaces but people lived in them and amongst all this army discipline and teetering towers of paperwork there are odd little objet trouvé that people had picked up. Anywhere there’s a war there’s stuff left by the side of the road – pianos, an ornament or bits of china and it drifts its way into this formal military atmosphere of the hospital so it is both utterly army and at the same time messy and chaotic.
How did you find the location? CC We went for a recce to Le Touquet in northern France. It’s this Victorian rich persons’ playground in the grounds of a beautiful pine forest. The sea and the pine forest were what we were looking for. Then we looked around Bath, Bristol and Wales. We eventually chose Charlton Park in Wiltshire because it has got a big pine forest, mature pines, and it’s quite flat. It worked really well. We did a fair bit of work to it, we put a big road in and then built our camp with its perimeter walls and tents and buildings.
What was the overall feel you wanted to create? CC The feel I wanted to capture was that it was a frontier town, so everything’s made locally from the same type of wood. The camps had to be extremely organised in their layout and be as efficient as possible in terms of not wasting money so they have a starkness to them. From the photographs in The Imperial War Museum, it’s like watching Deadwood grow. There’s nothing in the distance just lines of tents going up. It’s the frontier and they’re pioneers, they’re making things with their hands out of bare wood. The photos we found in the Imperial War Museum were a constant source of inspiration. We had them all up in the design office and made a bible from them and distributed to them to everybody. I relied on them.
How did you find the medical equipment? CC For the medical instruments there are people who collect stuff and they are willing to hire it out for close ups. There’s a lot around but there were various things we had to invent. Traction was just in its infancy. That was fun to try to work out. The start of the series is set so early in the war when everything was quite ad hoc. They had people in the UK knitting blankets and gloves and scarves and sending their old blankets and eiderdowns and things. It wasn’t just the bog standard get 500 beds all the same as they didn’t have enough resources to do that. There are plans and handbooks about setting up camps that we found but they are an idealised version of what really happened.
What about the tents and buildings themselves? CC We were going to be outside in a field all through the summer, autumn and winter so the practicalities of filming had to be looked at. The tents had to be a certain weight as they had to survive us filming in them as well as the winter. They had to be completely watertight which most canvas tents aren’t so we used a new fabric that’s completely waterproof but looks like canvas. It’s made in Denmark and we had it made in various colours and then brought it over to a guy in Bradford who stitched it all together. He had to pattern cut each tent. When they arrived on set they were crisp and lovely so we had to break them down and age them.
The Crimson Field is BBC1’s First World War drama set in a burgeoning field hospital in northern France in the early days of the war. Production
BBC Drama Production Length
6x60-minutes BBC executive producer
Anne Pivcevic Writer and executive producer
Sarah Phelps Commissioned by
BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson and Danny Cohen (when BBC1 controller) Cast
Suranne Jones, Oona Chaplin, Hermione Norris, Kerry Fox Producer
Annie Tricklebank Directors
David Evans, Richard Clark and Thaddeus O’Sullivan Editors
David Head, Peter Oliver, Victoria Boydell Composer
Rob Lane Colourist
Vince Narduzzo DoPs
Tim Flemning, Matt Gray Production designer
Cristina Casali Post production
Outpost Facilities Camera