A New Paradigm for Priest
By all accounts, Priest, the new vampire/western from director Scott Stewart, proved to be a great test case for handling the under $100 million vfx-intensive film. With the help of Jenny Fulle's new Creative Cartel serving as the vfx hub, they were able to effectively manage 750 shots, split between a dozen facilities, including Tippett, Svengali, The Senate, Spin, Zoic, Spy Post, Gradient and Iloura.
In subcontracting a visual effects department, Fulle says it made her role as vfx producer a lot more efficient. "What we're doing now is keeping an infrastructure in place and bringing it within reach of the smaller budgeted shows," she explains. "It's a powerful and smart way of spending your money, and you can get a lot more value.
"Logistically it was a challenge to manage, but at the end of the day, it worked out really well. For me as a producer, I was able to create as big of a sandbox for Jonathan [Rothbart, the overall visual effects supervisor] as I could and he was able to get the most out of what was in that sandbox for him. And Scott knew what he wanted and that's always a help. We were able to push people in different areas. We split the work into digital environments and hard surface models and characters and even primary characters vs. tertiary characters. And we went to the houses and worked with them."
"Our biggest challenge overall was that we were on a micro budget for visual effects compared to the amount of work we were putting out," Rothbart suggests. "That was a big part of what Jenny was doing. Scott and I talked about grounding it in reality and not appearing too fantastical, everything from the design of the vampires to the concepts behind the vehicles and in the way that we had the creatures and the people interact in the world. We wanted to make sure they all had a level of familiarity so that we stayed grounded in that real state. Scott and I always talk about the fact that visual effects should never be at the forefront of a movie; it should be in support of the action.
"We hired Tippett [under the supervision of Blair Clark] to do the creature work. We wanted to make sure they had a unique motion. I'm a reference hound (YouTube's my friend), so I went back and looked at monkeys and gorillas, which was great for the grabbing and pouncing. But, really, what I fell in love with were big game cats: tigers and lions and leopards. There's such elegance in the way they move and they have so much speed and weight."