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July 2014

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Page 17 of 51 16 POST JULY 2014 DIRECTOR'S CHAIR n 2011, the Fox reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis and a bunch of genetically-enhanced chimps who get ready to take over the world, turned into a critical and commercial success, scoring nearly half a billion at the box offi ce. Three years later, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel — and eighth fi lm in the long-running franchise — picks up the story, and things look even grimmer for what's left of the human race. A growing nation of smart, evolved apes, led by Caesar (Serkis), are in charge thanks to the devastating virus unleashed in San Francisco a decade ear- lier. But a small band of human survivors (including Gary Oldman and Keri Russell) soon clash with the apes in a struggle that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species. Directed by Matt Reeves, who helmed the science fi ction/horror hit Cloverfi eld (2008), about the arrival of a giant mon- ster in New York City, and horror-thriller Let Me In (2010), the fi lm was shot in native 3D by Michael Seresin, the New Zealand-born director of photography whose eclectic resume includes such fi lms as Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azka- ban, edited by William Hoy (Fantastic 4, 300) and Stan Salfas (Let Me In), with Weta Digital's senior visual eff ects su- pervisor and four-time Oscar winner Joe Letteri (The Lord of the Rings, Avatar) overseeing the complex VFX and a team of hundreds of artists and technicians. Here, in an exclusive interview, Reeves, who was still knee-deep in post and VFX shots at press time, talks about making the fi lm, his love of post, and the impor- tance of music and sound. This was a very ambitious project. What sort of fi lm did you set out to make? "As a child I was obsessed with the original Planet of the Apes. It was a seminal fi lm in my youth and it set the stage for later obsessions like Star Wars. The whole look of apes on horseback fascinated me. It was this thrilling, primal, terrifying world, and I collected all the dolls, I had 8mm reels of excerpts, and years later when I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I realized it was able to turn you into an ape emotionally — and that level of emotional connection was vital for me in doing this fi lm. But when I fi rst came on board, the story the studio was planning to make was very diff erent. It didn't start in the ape world, but I wanted to start there and show the ape civiliza- tion they were creating and developing. So I saw it as an epic ape western, and I wanted to take that premise and realize it in a totally naturalistic, believable and visually-expansive way." How early on did you decide to go 3D? "The studio wanted to shoot it in 3D, and I wanted to treat the image like you'd do in a traditional human drama. Here's the thing about 3D — often when you see very complex CG work, the instinct for everyone involved is to go for very deep focus. The thinking is, here we have this ape civilization and there's this ape in the foreground who's the center of the story, but he's surrounded by 100 apes, so if we're doing all this CG work and paying huge sums, let's see it all. But I felt it'd be much more realistic if we used shallow focus and let scenes play out as if we weren't using any eff ects at all, just to let the drama take center stage. So my initial fears with 3D were all about that deep focus. But then the DP and I both saw Life of Pi, which had just come out, and we both loved that look and its shallow 3D and sense of intimacy, so we wanted to use the same 3D 'look' — and keep a beautifully-realized 3D aesthetic and combine it with the strengths of a 2D aesthetic. We just didn't want it to look digital. But then Weta said given our visual approach, because of the acceler- ated schedule, there just wasn't enough time to post-convert, what with all the details of the leaves and woods and everything we wanted to create this im- mersive experience, so we had to shoot native 3D, which was a fi rst for both me and Michael. So we didn't make it easy for ourselves." What were the main technical challeng- es of pulling all this together and how tough was the shoot, considering it was all shot on location in both the cool rain- forests of British Columbia and the heat and humidity of Louisiana? "It was very tough, but while the last fi lm was done mainly on stages, I really wanted to shoot in real locations, with all the bad weather and rain and so on, and make this a very tribal and hopefully emotional story. But that meant taking the cast and crew into very diffi cult lo- cations and conditions. And on any fi lm of this scale it's tough enough shooting all the mo-cap, but it was pretty crazy what we did on top of that stuff , taking BY IAIN BLAIR Matt Reeves on-set. The fi lm's editors also spent time on-location to meet the schedule. I REEVES REVISITS A CHILDHOOD OBSESSION WHILE DIRECTING THIS STEREO 3D FILM. MATT REEVES: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES PHOTO: DAVID JAMES

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