News 30.09.20

5 MINUTES WITH MARCUS BOLTON FROM CUTTING EDGE



Screen NSW talks to Cutting Edge’s Head of Feature & Television, Marcus Bolton, about the company’s recent involvement in two highly successful films of 2020 – the terrifying modern tale of H.G. Wells’ thriller The Invisible Man, and the biopic of 1970’s iconic Australian singer Helen Reddy, I Am Woman.

Released in cinemas earlier this year, The Invisible Man (Elisabeth Moss), directed by Leigh Whannell, became an instant hit garnering global attention and box office envy. The film continues to receive rave reviews and has become a must-see at-home streaming release of the year.

Directed by Australian-Korean director Unjoo Moon, I Am Woman was lauded by international critics at the world premiere of the film at TIFF 2019, and now continues to entertain the masses on Australia’s leading streaming service, Stan.

Marcus Bolton, Head of Features & Television, Cutting Edge

Congratulations on Cutting Edge’s work on the incredibly successful The Invisible Man and now I Am Woman! What were the key differences in VFX approaches that you took on for each film considering they were opposite genres?

Thanks for the compliments! 2019 was a fantastic year for me personally and the entire Cutting Edge team with these two among so many more projects on the slate.

While the Invisible Man is a current-day drama/thriller, I Am Woman is a period stylistic musical biopic, and they had completely different styles in terms of VFX requirements. 

The Invisible Man had many rigs and suit removal, CG creative of the invisible suit and set extension and recreation work. 

I Am Woman had many period fixes, creative embellishments and a whole CG environment scene, which acts as the crescendo of the film. Typically, this style of project is known for ‘Invisible VFX’ because people comment on, ‘what did you do on the show?’,  to which we acknowledge that our creative worked a treat.

The common thread was our drive to engage with gifted filmmakers and deliver world-class creative, which I feel we smashed it out of the park for both projects, as Australia’s leading end-to-end Post & VFX provider.

What was your favourite sequence/scene to work on for The Invisible Man?

Leigh Whannell did such a fantastic job with this film, so it’s challenging to pick just one scene, as there were so many critical story moments in the movie. The most dramatic and pivotal point in the movie was the scene where The Invisible Man finally interacts with Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) for the first time, which is the beginning of the next story arc for the film. This scene was the most challenging as we had to remove the physical actor in the green suit from dragging Cecilia around a room – the running joke on the project was, “what VFX do you need to do as the man’s invisible?”

The scene was created from multiple motion control shots and passes to stitch it into what becomes one seamless shot. While the final result looks effortless, this show had everything from a complete CG environment, and CG Digi-Double of Cecilia, to make it look like she was fighting with an invisible enemy! The scene, which is a close second to that is the corridor sequence where you see the suit reveal itself – here you can see the fantastic CG suit we designed and created for the movie.

As a project it is a credit to VFX Supervisor, Jonathan “JD” Dearing and our fantastic team to deliver the 350 plus shots we produced.

Both films have Sydney locations doubled for US locations – San Francisco in The Invisible Man and I Am Woman based in New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC. What was one or two of the most interesting scenes in I Am Woman that tied directly to one of these locations?

Many of the locations were retrofitted with VFX to look as if it was actually in the United States. None more so than the 1989 March for Women’s Lives, which is set in Washington, but shot in Sydney’s Centennial Parklands.

This scene lent the heaviest to the magic of the VFX team as the practical possibilities did lead to a wholistic VFX approach.

Our amazing VFX team, led by Simon Maddison, joined the creative journey from pre-production with Director Unjoo Moon and Producer Rosemary Blight from Goalpost Pictures to ensure we could bring a story critical scene, such as the Women’s March to life. This involved recreating everything past Tilda (who plays Helen Reddy) standing on a physical stage in VFX, an entire Washington environment complete with more than 100,000 people in the March.

I was asked “When did you travel to Washington to shoot the scene?” and the scene was actually shot in Sydney, so from a VFX perspective, it reinforces success in what we do. Furthermore, it highlights how interchangeable Sydney’s locations are for locations in the United States, a positive in these uncertain times.

Did you use any new or innovative technology for I Am Woman?

I Am Woman was our first foray into the Alexa 65 Ecosystem, working with the award-winning DOP Dion Beebe, who shot such projects as Gemini ManMary Poppins Returns, and Edge of Tomorrow.

To complement the film’s creative requirements, Cutting Edge designed and implemented a unique workflow, supporting efficient colour, data management and delivery of the large-format media – led by our Head of Colour Adrian Hauser (who is also the film’s colourist), and our Creative Technology Specialist, Simon Alberry.

Adrian worked closely with Dion to develop the film’s tone and colour aesthetic and he has said of working on this aspect of the film, “that with the rushes already looking amazing, we graded the film in a progressive way, treating each scene on its own merits, whilst keeping an authenticity to the natural feel of each location.”

Throughout the project we continued to proudly deliver with new technologies, utilising an Ultra High Definition (UHD) High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Vision finish to Stan for its recent streaming debut here in Australia.

What is coming up for Cutting Edge?

We are super excited the cameras are coming back on after the COVID-19 shutdown. We have many domestic and international shows we are partnering on.

These include projects for local broadcasters, ABC, Seven, Ten, SBS, and streaming services Stan, Amazon, HBO Max, and Hulu. 

I feel for the good of the industry – not only here in Australia but globally – that the cameras have turned back on again and Australia is seen as a safe port in the storm to shoot and produce content. At Cutting Edge, we are here to support our local and global clients in any way we can, to ensure Australia continues to lead the world with a safe and reliable place to shoot and post.

What are you watching at the moment?

My job keeps me busy, so finding time to indulge in content is a challenge. But I justify it by needing to keep up with current trends and content for ‘research purposes.’

I have recently finished watching a fantastic UK Series The Salisbury Poisonings and I am currently binging the most recent series of Amazon Prime’s The Boys. I do have a soft spot for that show as Cutting Edge has previously delivered VFX work for the series, and it’s such a solid, and creatively engaging show!

Ausfilm members involved in The Invisible Man include: Cutting Edge, Spectrum Films, Fox Studios Australia and Fox Lighting.

Ausfilm members involved in I Am Woman include: South Australian Film Corporation, Cutting Edge, Fox Studios Australia and Trackdown.

Screen NSW provided financial assistance for I Am Woman through its Production Finance program, and provided Goalpost Pictures and Blumhouse Productions with an incentive from the Made in NSW International Footloose Production Fund for The Invisible Man.

Feature Image: I Am Woman, Image Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures