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September 2013

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director's chair Neill Blomkamp — Elysium H By Iain Blair This bigbudget sci-fi film features over 870 VFX shots. The film's mix was completed at Sharp Sound in N. Vancouver. 10 OLLYWOOD — South African writer/director Neill Blomkamp charged onto the international scene with his 2009 directorial debut District 9, the indie scifi thriller and thinly-disguised social commentary about apartheid. Made for just $30 million, it became a global hit, grossing over $210 million and earning four Oscar nominations, including those for Best Picture, Best Visual Effects and Best Editing. The 33-year-old Blomkamp's second film, Elysium, is another sci-fi thriller with a social conscience. Set in 2159, it depicts a world starkly divided: the wealthy elite live in a disease-free environment called Elysium that orbits the Earth, which is now a polluted, third-world slum. When worker bee Max (Matt Damon) gets a toxic dose of radiation at his factory job and is told he has just days left to live, he decides to team up with some rebels intent on making Elysium and its hitech medical equipment — which can save Max — open to everyone. Co-starring Jodie Foster and District 9's Sharlto Copley, the big-budget (reportedly $100 million) Sony release also reunites Blomkamp with District 9 DP Trent Opaloch, editor Julian Clarke, who teams with Lee Smith (The Dark Knight Rises) and visual effects supervisor Peter Muyzers. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Blomkamp talks about making the film, the challenges involved and his love of post. POST: This is a big studio movie. Did you have any trepidation taking this on? NEILL BLOMKAMP: "Yes, at the start. I actually wrote a cheaper version, but it didn't matter as the core concept of the Torus — the orbiting ring — was so expensive that at a certain point, it just didn't work unless you did it properly. So that tells you how trepidacious I was about spending $100 million. The good news is, it wasn't nearly as constraining as I expected." POST: Did you feel a lot of pressure to top the last film? BLOMKAMP: "No, and I didn't think about all that during filming. I think it's because I'm young enough or early enough in my career and have done so little. I don't have a big body of work to compare it with. I've seen some artists with extensive credits who start to measure everything against what they've already done, and then they're afraid to take risks." POST: What sort of film did you set out to make this time? BLOMKAMP: "I hate writing — it's the Post • September 2013 worst! So while writing this I used Weta Workshop to do concept art of the scenes or of ideas that weren't in the script, since images are so much more helpful to me. So I'd look at that and if I liked it, I'd incorporate it into the script. So when I finished the script, I had this big book of all these images, and I recently looked at it again for the first time in months, and it's remarkably similar to the film, which for was exponentially greater than District 9 — an insane amount of data." POST: Do you like the post process? BLOMKAMP: "I love it. What's weird is, I used to hate shooting too, but now I like production. So everything's great except writing, which is strange, as my favorite part of the whole process is conceptualization, but you can only really do that once the script's in a Neill Blomkamp on-set: "I used to hate shooting, but now I like production. So everything's great except writing, which is strange, as my favorite part of the whole process is conceptualization." me combines action and sci-fi and social commentary about the haves and have-nots." POST: What were the main technical challenges of pulling all this together and how tough was the shoot? BLOMKAMP: "Some of the logistics shooting around Mexico City, which doubles for LA in the future, were very difficult — things like getting the right helicopters in and out. We also did toxicology reports and it wasn't sanitary enough to shoot at the huge dump, for instance, so we had to spend a lot to clean it up — which is a pretty weird concept. But the most difficult thing of all was creating the space station and getting the visual effects right for it." POST: How early did you have to integrate post into the shoot to pull this off? BLOMKAMP: "Very early. Image Engine in Vancouver, who did all the aliens in District 9, did all the VFX for Elysium, although I didn't do much previs with them. I don't really like previs, but what we did do was start to build all the assets — even before we began shooting — as the sheer volume was unbelievable. It good enough form." POST: Where did you do the post? BLOMKAMP: "All in Vancouver where I live. Image Engine was by far the main house, and their visual effects supervisor Peter Muyzers, who did District 9, was also the supervisor of all the other houses who helped out, including The Embassy, Whisky Tree, Method, ILM, MPC, BOT VFX and a couple more. "We edited in our own temporary post offices near my own office, and near Image Engine, so the feel's like Soho in London, where you have all the post places within walking distance, which is great." POST: The film was edited by Julian Clarke and Lee Smith. Tell us about that relationship and how it worked. Were they on-set? BLOMKAMP: "No, and Lee came in way later. The way it worked with Julian was very similar to District 9, as he was there in production. He always gets taken to these thirdworld countries and put in a small editing suite somewhere, and I'll meet him after shooting and go over stuff. So he assembled the previous day's footage every day in his

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