Post Magazine

October 2010

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director’s chair Randall Wallace— Secretariat H OLLYWOOD — Movie fans have always loved a good horse racing film. Now, following in the hooves By IAIN BLAIR of such favorites as Seabiscuit, Dreamer and National Velvet, comes the new Disney film Secretariat. Based on a true story, it tells the tale of the legendary 1973 Triple Crown winner and stars Diane Lane as stable owner Penny Chenery and John Malkovich as trainer Lucien Laurin. It’s directed by Randall Wallace, who first made a name for himself by writing Brave- heart (which won him an Oscar nomination) and whose directing credits include We Were Soldiers and The Man in the Iron Mask. Here, Wallace, whose credits include Instead of going CG, this filmmaker opted for real horses, and shot them super up-close with the new Olympus PEN. writing Pearl Harbor and Dark Angel, talks about making the film, his love of post and how he ended up playing himself on HBO’s hit Entourage. POST: How do you go about deciding what your next project will be, and what made you choose this one? RANDALL WALLACE: “I look for some- thing that moves and excites me, that’s worth all the work and challenges you have to deal with to make a film.Above all, a story that speaks to my heart and that I feel will speak to other people. So I wanted to make a film that hopefully will affect people the way certain movies have affected me.” POST: The Hollywood cliché is, never work with children or animals. So how tough was it shooting racehorses? WALLACE: “First, I never forgot that it could be lethal. Jockeys and horses can get seriously hurt and even die when they’re racing at 40 MPH, and we didn’t take it lightly and we didn’t fake it.We used real jockeys and real racehorses instead of the usual mix of animatronics and CGI.The pri- mal poetic power of racehorses is unmistak- able, and I’m not drawn to artifice. I was at- tracted to the realism of it all.” POST: What were the biggest challenges of making this? WALLACE: “First off, we had a small The film was edited by John Wright on an Avid. budget and very little time.This is a bigger movie than Seabiscuit, but we only had half of that budget, so we had to be very deci- sive and do extensive planning to pull it off. My main goal was to let the audience really experience the racing as participants.” POST: You and DP Dean Semler, who shot We Were Soldiers for you, used some unusual methods to shoot this and really pushed the 14 Post • October 2010 POST: Do you like the post process? WALLACE: “Post for me is Randall Wallace on set: He loves that you can still be creative during the post process. envelope, especially in terms of getting the camera up close and personal with the horses. WALLACE:“We did. All of the conven- tional equipment that we tested didn’t really fully capture all the excitement and drama of the races, so Dean and I decided to experi- ment a bit.We used Panavision’s Genesis HD system, which I’d never shot with before. I loved the Genesis, and the way Dean had more control of elements, like working the iris and watching from a control center we had set up in a trailer.We used that set-up along with the new Olympus PEN E-PL1, which we used on special rigs for all the ex- treme close-ups of the horses and riders.We were able to get within inches of the horses eyes and hooves, as the camera’s so small and portable.The results of the tests we did with ‘the Olycam,’ as Dean called it,were just amazing. I loved the rawness of that footage. There were suggestions that we smooth it out and take out some of the digital artifacts in post, but I loved the look the way it was. No one had ever done this before.” POST: Where did you do the post? How long was the process? WALLACE:“We did it all at Lantana and began at the end of last year and worked through until June.” hugely exciting. I have a metaphor for the way I approach it.They say that Mozart said he’d once come up with an idea for a symphony when he stepped out of his carriage, that he instantly knew how every note would fall. I am not Mozart. I’m more like Beethoven who’d walk through the woods and then try to cap- ture the sound of rain and write 100 variations. So while you’re shooting you have to see things very clearly and quickly, but in post you get to play with varia- tions and ideas. For instance, the opening sequence of anticipation of the race, with narration from the Book of Job — none of that was in the original screenplay, and we hadn’t shot coverage for those specific ideas. But once we started cutting, we got the idea and then built the whole se- quence. That’s the kind of post process I love.” POST:The film was edited by the great John Wright, whose credits include X-Men, Speed andThe Passion of the Christ. How does that relationship work? WALLACE: “He’s an amazingly talented editor and we became great friends in post. He came on location but he wasn’t on the physical set very often. He came to base camp every day and we watched our Gene- sis dailies in the back of a trailer viewing room that Dean had set up.The great thing about digital is that we could shoot scenes in the morning and then watch them at lunch. It took us a day or so to convert the Olycam footage. So it’s faster and more effi- cient and also includes the crew in the ex- citement of the coverage we’re getting. “I consider everyone on the set to be a filmmaker.We’re all doing it together.We cut on Avid, and John and Dean are very alike in that they know how to use every bit of equipment, and they stay current on it, but it’s their artistic vision that’s the thing, and they both use equipment in service of that vision.” POST: How many visual effects shots are there in the film? WALLACE: “Fewer than you’d think. None of the horses are CG-altered in any

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