The Road to McCarthy's Post-Apocalyptic Survival
Ever since the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy has become a very popular (and challenging) author to adapt, with at least two features and one TV movie currently in the works. The Road (opening today from Dimension Films), directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition), is no ordinary post-apocalyptic tale, as you might imagine. Cold, desolate, burned America. Dark, gray snow, ravaged landscape, lawless cannibalism, very little hope for a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) traveling south for warmth and salvation. Mark Forker (Jumper, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Cinderella Man), formerly with Digital Domain, launched Dive in Philadelphia as director of creative services. Forker served as The Road's visual effects supervisor, and discussed the experience.
Bill Desowitz: What was this experience like for you?
Mark Forker: This was one of my favorite films to work on, ever. I mean, it's right up my alley in the sense that my favorite work is the seamless, photoreal, visual effects: not explosions or character work. Environments, replacing things that can't be got in the camera. And it was a great experience working with John Hillcoat. We had the same exact idea of how visual effects should play a role in the film, and I tend to do everything else other than adding CG, if I have to go shoot real elements or suggest a different way to shoot something on set so there is less use of CG. And he liked hearing that.
However, on the other hand, the show was planning on only having 40-45 effects, and that was plenty for him. When we first started, he was like, "I don't like visual effects." The first couple of weeks he was tentative in telling me more of what it shouldn't look like rather than what it should look like. But it turned out to be more of what I like doing: again, creating the photoreal stuff. If it doesn't look good and isn't working, it interrupts the storytelling.
So, the 40-45 shots grew to be 245 shots, and that's because of his confidence in the way we were doing things. No doubt, probably have of that gain had to do with inclement weather conditions and we shot in the dead of winter so we would have the worst of weather, but every once in a while that blue sky day would pop through and that was our worst nightmare. And then spring came upon us with buds on trees and green grass, and that was our second most evil entry into what we had to do to fix the other half of those. So I would say that at least 100 of the 200 extra shots were repairs…and then the other was just evolved scenes. And his confidence grew exponentially once we showed him the work. So even as he was cutting right in Philadelphia in the same facility that we were in, it was easy for us to preview stuff for him and turning half of that over into visual effects.