News 21.02.20

WHEN A DREAM BECOMES A NIGHTMARE: CUTTING EDGE BUILDS THE HORROR FOR FANTASY ISLAND



The secrets behind creating killer VFX.

The VFX team at Cutting Edge made characters bleed black from their eyes, created sea snakes, and loads of blood and gore for Blumhouse’s latest horror flick; Fantasy Island.

Simon Maddison, Cutting Edge’s VFX Supervisor, chats us through his experience working with Director Jeff Wadlow & Blumhouse on this thrilling new feature film.

Q. Simon, what did you learn through your collaboration with Director Jeff Wadlow, and how has this translated into Fantasy Island?

Jeff is an absolute visionary for the horror genre. He knows what he wants but is also very open to collaboration, both artistically and technically.

It was amazing to be involved with him on Fantasy Island from the get-go. After collaborating on some shots for Truth or Dare, Jeff absolutely wanted Cutting Edge on this project from the very beginning.

Simon Maddison, Cutting Edge’s VFX Supervisor

From the first draft of the script, through assisting in the design, and then shooting all the VFX for the film, to see that hard work come to fruition, seven weeks spent in Fiji, was an incredibly rewarding part of the process. As was the eight months in post-production back here at Cutting Edge in Sydney.

Another personal highlight was watching Jeff squeeze more than I ever thought possible out of an, at times, immensely difficult location. Many hours were spent trekking through the jungle, hunting down remote hidden gems that would add a lot of authenticity and production value.

Q. What kind of VFX team was required for a project such as Fantasy Island?

Cutting Edge was more than just a vendor on this project. Being the lead VFX house, and with 250+ VFX shots to create, we provided supervision for the whole film across pre and post-production.

The Cutting Edge team consists of a team of very talented CG and compositing artists. Many of whom I’ve worked with before on projects including multiple Marvel films, Peter Rabbit, and many other Blumhouse productions.  We love what we do, from complex CG FX to massive CG environment builds; there is nothing we’re not capable of.

Q. Talk us through some of the shots that demanded major VFX work, and what was done.

One of the more disturbing shots, that played a crucial role in constructing the world of Fantasy Island; is the black-eye-effect. There are a number of scenes where black water bleeds from the characters’ eyes, conveying a strange connection with the island. We shot elements of black water running from a blue-screen head that was then comped onto the actor’s faces. The results were effective and really quite eerie … adding to the horror element of the story.

Other VFX shots included creating 3D sea snakes, shattering CG glass, loads of blood and gore effects, as well as a CG seaplane and explosion.

Q. What were some of the most challenging VFX sequences encountered by Cutting Edge?

There were a few key sequences that required extensive VFX. Some to support the supernatural elements of the story, and others to augment locations.

Inside the proverbial heart of the island is a rock, or crystal, that reveals visions of the character’s deepest inner thoughts … the key to their fantasy.

We were tasked with inserting these visions into the crystal in a way that developed the story, without being too heavily science-fiction. Despite being a supernatural theme, the director was striving for something more natural than Star Trek. This presented the greatest artistic challenge of the film. Finding the right balance for the overall look as well as ensuring audiences could follow the story in each and every shot.

L-R: Director Jeff Wadlow and VFX Supervisor Simon Maddison © Christopher Moss

Ensuring the authenticity and tone of the locations was another challenge we encountered. The production found the most incredible house in an isolated part of Fiji. Although it provided most of the vision the director had in mind, it did need some adjustment in terms of its scale. 

Working with the Production Designer Marc Fisichella, we designed and created an additional two floors to the hotel and extended the mountains surrounding it. This added an elevated level of fantasy, isolation and just the right amount of creepiness to the place. It is a fantasy island after all! 

The challenge here was the same as in any complex set extension. Finding the right style to work with an existing structure took some time to get right. Thankfully Marc came with an amazing reference that fit perfectly, but also gave the hotel it’s own feeling and identity. The extension of the mountains was based on a combination of the actual Fiji location and the Heavenly Pillar in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China.

We also needed to extend an exterior location to elevate the sense of danger in a scene. When our heroes face-off against one of the film’s biggest villains, the action takes place at the top of a menacing and dangerous cliff face. The shoot location was a large quarry in Fiji but like any good fight scene, adding 500 feet of rock face helped the story immensely. The challenges here were working with moving cameras whilst trying to blend in-camera photography with CG extensions in a way that felt natural and realistic. There was a lot of complex rotoscoping required, CG rock surfaces, and even a digital double or two.

Q. It’s clear that Blumhouse & Cutting Edge have established a strong working relationship, with Fantasy Island marking the 6th major project together…

Cutting Edge has shared an ongoing, wonderfully collaborative relationship with Blumhouse for many years, having completed work for six of their largest productions including The Invisible Man, Upgrade and Halloween. Being the main VFX vendor, we’re involved from inception to delivery: script breakdown, design, VFX budget & on-set supervision, working closely with editorial during the edit and delivering final frames that live up to the highest standard for modern filmmaking processes.

We operate together as a family from beginning to end and are truly invested in making the best feature possible. It is due to this, in combination with our top-tier experience & knowledge in the VFX feature industry, that we continue to create brilliant films with them.

It is always a great pleasure and honour to work alongside Blumhouse and we look forward to the next one!

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