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  • Orbitae Films

What happens if the director is a CGI artist?

Across diverse visual mediums—be it films, ads or music videos— visual effects have firmly anchored themselves as an integral element of storytelling. Yet, a lack of understanding about this intricate art often results in films that miss the mark, as witnessed in movies like "Cats" and more recently… "The Flash". However, every so often, a film emerges that stands as a testament to the power of seamlessly integrating VFX into storytelling. Such is the case with "The Creator" by Gareth Edwards.

Boat floating over see - the creator movie
©20th Century Studio - The Creator trailer

Gareth’s unorthodox approach to making “The Creator”

Before gracing the director's chair, Gareth Edwards was a visual effects artist, as he mentioned in an interview with The A.V: “I spent 10 years doing computer graphics very cheaply in my bedroom. So, I learned a lot of tricks as to how to make things look bigger than they are with very little effort”. With this background and unique insight into CGI, he became a director known for helming epic-scale movies like "Godzilla" and "Rogue One", with great visual effects.

But back to “The Creator”. The first thing that is astounding about this sci-fi epic is its budget. Edwards transformed the normally $300 million projected budget for these kinds of movies, into an $80 million spectacle rivaling any other blockbusters. How? Well, they changed the approach: “obviously, we went for ‘Go make it like an indie movie, but on steroids,’”, he said to Inverse. He leveraged 80 real-world locations instead of sets and worked with a remarkably intimate camera crew, guerrilla style. But that’s not all…

Rice field - the creator movie
©20th Century Studio - The Creator trailer

Rather than follow the traditional path of shooting a film and then letting VFX companies bid for post-production, Edwards intertwined the VFX team into the filming process from the outset. This approach not only streamlined post-production but also optimized the budget.

Further breaking the mold, the film was edited to its final version first, and only then handed over to the VFX teams, which allowed the artists to concentrate solely on the shots that were going to be used; perfecting what needed to be perfected.

Drawing parallels, Sam Hargrave, the director of "Extraction", brought a similar depth of specialized knowledge. Having been a stunt coordinator for movies like "John Wick", Hargrave's intimate understanding of action sequences resulted in "Extraction" being celebrated for its raw and riveting action choreography.

Just as Edwards' understanding of VFX enriched "The Creator", Hargrave's background ensured "Extraction" was both authentic and breathtaking in its depiction of action, bridging the gap between stunts and storytelling.

Robot and a bell - the creator movie
©20th Century Studio - The Creator trailer

So, movies that heavily rely on CGI aren't just about having astronomical budgets that result in poor visual effects. If thought from a different point of view, amazing things can be done. Iit is not just about the adoption (and abuse) of these technologies, but about understanding what they have to offer and their limitations, in order to integrate them organically into storytelling.

Gareth Edwards is a great example of this, challenging the way big studios work with VFX companies, he showcased, yet again, that CGI when understood deeply and used judiciously, makes the movie magic.

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