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December 2010

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director’s chair Michael Apted — The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn T L By IAIN BLAIR Working with almost 1,400 VFX shots was a learning experience for this film vet. ONDON — British director Michael Apted has led an interesting double life since moving to Hollywood in the late seventies.While helming such big studio hits as the Academy Award-winning Coal Miner's Daughter, the Bond adventure The World is Not Enough, Gorillas in the Mist, Nell and his latest release, The Chronicles of Nar- nia:The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he has also moonlighted as a documentary film- maker with such acclaimed projects as Inci- dent at Oglala, The Power of the Game, Mov- ing the Mountain and, of course, the ongoing 7 Up series, which began in 1964. Here, Apted, whose extensive credits also include Amazing Grace, Enigma, Gorky Park and Extreme Measures, and who was still deep in post at press time, talks about making the new Narnia film, which is being released in both 2D and 3D, his love of post and his commitment to documentary filmmaking. POST: How did you get involved in Narnia? Wasn’t it a very drawn-out process? MICHAEL APTED:“Yes, I’d done Amazing Michael Apted on making a franchise and VFX-heavy film: “It was a big challenge and a chance I wanted to take as I’d never done anything like it before.” Grace for Walden, who were starting on Prince Caspian, and they wanted to do Dawn Treader right after that and do them back-to- back, as Lion and the Witch had been such a success. I met with Disney,went to Prague to meet with Andrew [Adamson, the producer] and the kids (actors), and I got the gig. “But then right away, things went awry, as they realized just how huge a job Caspian was.There was no way we could also start shooting this one too, so they sent me off on a location scout that pretty much postponed our start date for a year.” POST: That must have been frustrating? APTED: “It was, very. It wasn’t a great start, and we kept being postponed.Then the next big issue was that Caspian eventually fin- ished but cost more than it should have and more than they wanted, and then it opened and didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. “That sent everyone into a frenzy of doubt about the whole franchise, and the first thing they did was tell me that we couldn’t possibly do an all-location film and that we’d have to do a big chunk of it in the studio and re-conceive what we’d already planned. And what we’d done was a big scout in Europe, and then one in Australia and New Zealand, to see which one would 16 Post • December 2010 Rick Shaine edited this Narniaiteration on Avid Media Composer Nitris DX. He cuts quickly, working to give the film a strong emotional element, says Apted. start, Disney pulled out and Fox came in, and things fell into place.We had a lot to deal with. First,we were cut-price compared with the first two Narnias, and you only have the children for certain hours. But the shoot was perhaps the most fun part of it all — and usually it’s the most stressful for me. But we were all very prepared and just em- braced it.” POST: Was there any talk of shooting it 3D? APTED: “Yes.We discussed it with Dis- ney early on, and while there was enthusi- asm, it was dismissed as too expensive.Then it came up again with Fox, and again deemed too costly. But Avatar changed everything, so then they decided to do two versions — 2D and a 3D one.” POST: Where did you shoot, and how long was it? APTED: “Ultimately we went back to Queensland and spent most of ’09 there shooting on location and at the Warners Roadshow studio there. I did about 76 days with a couple of days in London for pick- ups, and 2nd unit was about a month. So it was a lot shorter than the Bond shoot, but sets on stages was a great idea. I don’t know how I thought I’d shoot some of these scenes on location!” POST: Can you talk about working with DP Dante Spinotti, who also shot Nell and Blink for you. APTED: “He seemed like the obvious choice as he does beautiful work, he’s great with actors, and he was very excited about shooting it digitally. He’d shot digitally with Michael Mann,and he was very up for exper- imentation and saw digital as very forward- looking, which some people don’t.They see it as the poor relation to film.We used the Sony F23, and Walden were very keen to push the digital envelope and get a whole digital pipeline going. I’d done some digital stuff but never a whole film, so it was a real education, and Dante was very helpful.” POST: Do you like post? APTED: “I do, although this has been much more tiring than I’d expected, because of the studio’s anxiety about getting the film they wanted. So there was certain tension between me and Fox during the editing, and it also means a lot to Walden because they have a lot riding on it. All the visual effects work best. So we’d prepared both and then when they decided it wasn’t going to be a location movie,we moved to Australia.” POST: This was a very complex produc- tion. How tough was it? APTED: “Very tough. After the sticky reader we had so many visual effects that a lot of sets are either bluescreen or extensions, so it’s not so difficult to shoot as some regular location work. I love doing location work but the financial necessity of cutting back on that and instead creating some of the surreal

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