BAFTA @ ICA Masterclass: Visual Effects with Gareth Edwards

Last night Geek Syndicate was invited to the BAFTA Visual Effects Masterclass with Gareth Edwards at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts).

BAFTA have been doing these master classes all through March (see original article here) and are aimed at industry professionals or people who want to be. Firstly I must say that if you have never been to the ICA you should as it is a great place to visit for anyone interested in TV, film etc.

The screening room we were situated in was very intimate with only 50 people allowed. This was perfect for the type of event as you really made a connection to our guest speaker. Gareth Edwards has worked in special effects for many years and then started directing for the BBC. In 2010 his debut movie Monsters was released to critical acclaim and Edwards was nominated by BAFTA for his film.

The small setting made it a very relaxed atmosphere and Gareth was keen to make it as sociable as possible telling jokes and even pulling a few pranks on latecomers.

The point of the talk was to hear how Gareth has done shows and films look expensive but made for very little money. As he says “I just did it in my bedroom”, and you can too.

The class started with a show reel of early work by Gareth and him dissecting it bit by bit with what worked and what did not and also how to get the best of so little. Edwards’ honest talking style made an instant connection to the small audience with people being asked to just shout out questions.

His big break came when he persuaded the BBC to let him direct a short film on Attila the Hun which he called his own Lord of the Rings. The effects he created were more than impressive. The director then took us through certain shots and how he created an army of thousands using 4 men. It seems so simple and according to Edwards it is.

When asked if he had his own team, now that he was directing, he told us that it was hard to do this because whenever you find a really great special effects artist they are normally just moments away from making their own film as a director or writer. He explained his thinking by way of the fact that if you get effects artists who only want to work on that industry of film then they become perfectionists whereas if someone is looking at the whole film then they can make better decisions or what looks right. I would think that some professionals would disagree with him on this but that is a whole other debate.

After Attila the Hun, Edwards went out to look for more work as a Director and even went to try his hand at another BBC drama about a certain archer but was turned down based on the fact that he had not actually worked on the show before. Sounds like the BBC to me.

At this time he had already had discussions with Vertigo about making a monster movie. The result was Monsters, a movie that came out in 2010 and was made very much guerrilla style with Edwards, his 2 cast and a small crew of about 5 people filming in South America for a few months. At this stage of the class he started to talk through the whole creative process of the film from the initial story idea to final special effects being done right before the debut at the South by South West film festival. His fondness for humour coming through when discussing what font he used as placeholders for effects shots.

It was amazing to see how he actually shot lots of footage and then decided weeks later what he was going to include in it. An example of this was a scene where a large truck drives past their taxi and Edwards changed the truck to a missile launcher transport by using the software Premier 4, which by the way was not recommended by Gareth but he did endorse Premier 5.5. He told us how he would buy a certain images; tanks, ruined buildings, and helicopters etc, and then adapt them and place them into footage.

One scene he broke down was the monster attacked near the end of the film and how he had to show the footage to the studio before it was finished. It must have been a nervous meeting when you know exactly what it is going to look like in the end but others do not.

Edwards also spoke about how to sell your film to someone, where he likes filming and where he does not. Lost of questions were thrown out from the audience which were all answered with a warm and casual style that Gareth seems comfortable with.

By the end of the class everyone seemed genuinely enlightened by the talk and I can see why he has got the biggest job of his career coming next. Gareth is directing the next Godzilla movie for Legendary Pictures, however with the recent tragedy in Japan I would hazard that this may be at risk.

A great evening and well recommended. Thank you BAFTA


GS Reporter: Montoya

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