An Exploration of Prometheus Previs
CR: Exactly. I enjoy interpreting what the directors want. I feel like I’m good at that, where I can understand what they want and give them options too that they appreciate. Sometimes they have what they want, but sometimes they love to explore and venture off into new ideas. I love it when I get to do both, really help the director both visualize what he wants and show him other ways that might accomplish what he wants. It’s really a fun process.
DS: It sounds like he really began to trust you and your team’s capabilities early on.
CR: Yeah. I was quite pleased that he clearly trusted us very quickly. They had plans to do only two sequences [with Halon] and then when he moved to London, he wanted me to supervise two others remotely. He trusted me enough to do that and still hit his vision. That was rewarding.
DS: What would you say were the greatest challenges for you and your team on this project?
CR: I’d say, unfortunately, the first one that comes to mind is having a baby right in the middle of a big delivery! That was rough. That wasn’t my team's doing. That was my doing.
DS: That means your other team.
CR: Yeah, the home team, a big challenge. Not to say that there weren’t any challenges, but honestly, working with the folks at RSA, Ridley Scott’s company, and working with him, was one of the most pleasurable working environments I’ve been in in a long time. They gave us the room to be able to do a good job.
Another interesting note, working with Ridley through this creative process, was when he’d say, let’s try this, and I’d quickly move some shots around and re-order them. I’d quickly do an edit in two or three minutes. Now, Ridley has made a lot of films. So during those two or three minutes, it would never fail that Ridley would wax into some war story of some film he’d produced or directed in the past. My artists just loved that because they would get to sit there listening to Ridley while I was editing as fast as I could to hit his notes. It was a struggle for me not to get distracted by the great movie making stories he was telling my artists while I was rushing to get the edit done in three minutes.
DS: I imagine that was fantastic.
CR: It was great. I just loved that. He was very conscious we were hard at work on his movie but he’d say, “Ah, I just love telling stories.” It was so pleasurable working with him.
DS: That sounds great.
DS: You’ve worked on a number of films. What were the major differences between your work on Prometheus and your work on other shows?
CR: On this film, more than others, the director took the time and the production prepared ahead with the art department already working so that I could focus with the director on designing the general performance and flow of an entire scene, editorially and performance-wise for our rough animated characters, so that it would communicate the story ideas well. There was a lot of preparation. He gave us the time we needed to make a great creative product.
Often production schedules are so tight and budgets are so tight that the right people aren’t there at the right time and that leaves me having to do too many things and shortcutting too many aspects. That has been a big challenge on other shows.
DS: So how much would you attribute that focus on preparation to the director’s filmmaking style or skill? Or, was it just an issue of available budget?
CR: I think it is that Ridley understands the creative process very well. He enjoys it. And I think also because of what he has accomplished, he has the leeway to be able to spend the creative time he wants to spend. There are a lot of very creative people I’ve worked with that are very good at what they do, that should have just been given a little more time so that they could soak in their creative juices like Ridley was able to. Ridley does understand the process and he quickly gathered that previs is not really much different than exploring it on set or exploring it on paper. It’s just a slightly different tool. With screens.
Dan Sarto is editor-in-chief and publisher of Animation World Network.