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October 2015

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 14 POST OCTOBER 2015 ritish director/producer Joe Wright first grabbed Hollywood's atten- tion with his debut film, 2005's Pride & Prejudice, which won a raft of awards and four Oscar nominations. He followed up with the Oscar-winning war drama Atonement, and in 2012 reunited with his Atonement star Kiera Knightley to remake Tolstoy's classic Anna Karenina. Now, the master of period pieces has taken on a very different challenge — the VFX-heavy live action adventure Pan, an origin story about J.M. Barrie's beloved characters. Peter (newcomer Levi Miller) is a mischievous 12-year-old boy with an irre- pressible rebellious streak, but in the bleak London orphanage where he has lived his whole life, those qualities do not exactly fly. Then one night, Peter is whisked away from the orphanage and spirited off to a fantastical world of pirates, warriors and fairies called Neverland. There, teamed with the warrior Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and a new friend named James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), Peter must defeat the ruthless pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) to save Neverland and become the hero who will forever be known as Peter Pan. Wright's creative team includes Oscar- nominated DPs Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina, Atonement) and John Mathieson (The Phantom of the Opera, Gladiator); Oscar-nominated production designer Aline Bonetto (Amelie); editors Paul Tothill (Atonement) and William Hoy (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes); and VFX supervi- sor Chas Jarrett (Sherlock Holmes). Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, the director talks about making the 3D film, all the effects, and his love of post. This is a beloved classic, how nervous were you to take this on, and what sort of film did you set out to make? "A little nervous. I set out to make a big action-adventure that fulfilled all those expectations and also delivered an emo- tional impact, which I don't see much in movies for kids nowadays. I also made it specifically for my son, who's four, and for the kid in me." What were the technical challenges and how was the learning curve on working with greenscreen and VFX for the first time? "It was pretty steep, as not only was it my first time, but I'd always avoided VFX and greenscreen. So I was very skepti- cal, but I found that I'd underestimated myself. I felt I'd probably be terrible at it, which is why I was so nervous of it all. I'm not a very tech-y guy, but I met this great VFX supervisor, Chas Jarrett, who did the Sherlock Holmes movies and CG work on Harry Potter, and found I could communicate easily with him, and he really persuaded me that I could do this. So it was a pivotal, very close relation- ship. I did a massive cramming course on VFX and learned all the language, which is the important thing. You don't need to know how to write code (laughs), just how to communicate your ideas. The biggest shock of the whole experience was suddenly finding that you're the CEO of a giant pop-up corporation — all the politics and diplomacy involved with all the moving parts and departments." How tough was the prep and shoot? "Prep was very fast for a huge movie like this — just 16 weeks, half the usual time — as it was all timed to the October release date. We built a lot of sets — the whole forest, the village and so on, and despite the rush, I kind of enjoyed the process. We did a lot of improvising with ideas and concepts, and there simply wasn't time to second-guess ourselves." How early did you integrate post? "From Day 1, and while that's different from other films I've made, I've always storyboarded, so the process is the same — especially with the action sequences. It's far more detailed. So I'd start with the storyboards and then do previs." Did you like previs? "I did and I didn't. It's the first time I'd used it, and I found that it'd often give me a false sense of security, as you'd pre- vis something and think, 'OK, that's what we're shooting.' But then you'd realize that what you'd previs'd was impossible, and not what you could do at all. So I found the actual previs process quite challenging, but very useful for things that involved the Kuka arm and motion control working in sync, which we used a lot for very complex stuff, like Peter's flying and the mermaids." It's a 3D release, but you shot 2D? "Right, and we converted in post. I can't really see the benefit of shooting in 3D to be honest. We had a lot of discussions with 3D stereographer Chris Parks, who did Gravity, which was the first 3D film that really impressed me, and that was more cramming for me before the shoot. But I love 3D, because it's a medium purely for children. Optically, children are suited to 3D in a way adults no longer are. So it's like this exclusive children's club." Do you like the post process? "Love it, and I like the whole filmmaking process. There were times when I found the post very frustrating, but that's also true of shooting. I absolutely love that last, final five percent push when the shots you've been working on for a year suddenly come together and Peter's really flying. It's a huge thrill." Where did you do the post? "All in London. I cut it at my house, and Chas and the VFX department had an of- BY IAIN BLAIR JOE WRIGHT: PAN TAKING ON A FANTASTICAL WORLD OF PIRATES, WARRIORS AND FAIRIES B Pan is Wright's first foray into VFX and greenscreen work.

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