Scott Stewart Talks Priest
Scott Stewart has made great use of his VFX expertise, first as a designer with ILM and then as co-founder of The Orphanage, in helming Priest, the dystopian vampire/western opening tomorrow through Screen Gems. He enjoys riffing on Blade Runner, Brazil and Bad Day at Black Rock, and he likes what 3-D can do (he'd much rather rave about how hard it was to get a close-up of his two stars than some badass fight).
Bill Desowitz: Coming off Legion, what drew you to Priest?
Scott Stewart: The fact that it takes place in an alternate world, and although religion plays a part in it, it's way more Orwellian science-fiction. The vampire is also a different metaphor in Priest. They're albino, they're more feral, they're nocturnal, they're cave dwellers and they have a primitive culture. And so what I realized what was at the heart of the movie was that it has its roots in western iconography and it's an after the war movie.
BD: What was the design process like?
SS: TyRuben Ellingson, an old friend from the ILM days, designed the vehicles; Chet Zar was the creature designer and his characters have a lot of soulfulness. And I'm a big form follows function guy and so are Chet and Ty: his designs are based on relatable, realistic, engineering principles. We just gave ourselves some rules: we called the design aspects of the movie "Retro Futurism." It's hard to do a dark dystopia without living in the shadow of Blade Runner; it's like the Frank Sinatra of science-fiction movies. So you realize that and you just try to make the design tell the story of the world, and we have a walled city, which at the center has a large industrial cathedral, which looms over all the other buildings, and looks like a pin cushion with smoke stacks. And it's always night and it snows ash 24 hours a day.
SS: Jonathan Rothbart's my old partner from The Orphange and was the visual effects supervisor, and Jenny Fulle, the visual effects producer, I've known since she was at Imageworks. They really did a remarkable job of getting an extraordinary amount of work done and they stretched a buck pretty darn far. We worked with a lot of facilities around the world. Tippett was the main creature facility and the main matte painting facility was Svengali; we had Spin in Toronto doing secondary creatures and matte work; we had The Senate in the UK that came in and did some environments for us. Zoic contributed as well.
BD: Talk about Genndy Tartakovsky directing the three-minute animated prologue.
SS: It's really cool. I just thought if we were going to set up this alternate world, that it was a great opportunity here to see the mythology of the world. It goes from the Crusades to World War I to the future and so we did that and Robbie Consing reboarded it for me and I did a boardomatic and the studio absolutely loved it. And then we did our budget and it was going to cost several million dollars and it became really easy for them to want to cut it, but I held it in my back pocket for the longest time. And I had talked to Genndy about it -- this hand-drawn, R-rated animation for mainstream audiences in a theatrical picture, which is unusual these days. I've known Genndy a long time and have worked with him as a producer and developer, but this was an opportunity to work with him as a director and co-directors essentially on this.