Under The Mountain: Interview with Steven Boyle, Visual Effects
Steven Boyle is Special Makeup FX and Creature designer for Under The Mountain.
- WETA was involved very
early on in this wasn't it?
Steven Boyle - Yeah they were; Jonathan and Matt sent the script out - and by the time I got on the job there had already been some concept work done and sent out. When Richard invited me to work on the project he also sent me a couple of images as well to get me really excited - which worked!
tvnz.co.nz - Where did the genesis of the ideas
Steven Boyle - We had a lot of it come from Jonathan and Matt - they'd give a pitch to the design dept and the designers would come up with their own concepts and they'd see elements they liked of each one. It was a going through this process of trying to work out what they liked and what they didn't like so much and just trying to come up with the perfect creature for them.
tvnz.co.nz -Is it refreshing to be involved with a
director who clearly wants creatures rather than just CGI?
Steven Boyle - Yeah, very - it's the reason that we get into this sort of stuff for the hope we get to do a movie like this. There are so many films now that are just digital and from the very first day it was always "This is going to be a practical option with a guy in the suit - and we'll use digital when we have to." It's very rare - you just don't hear that any more unfortunately.
From the behind the scenes
feature, it's clear there was a hell of a lot of slime and
Steven Boyle - Yeah one hell of a lot - we had different slime and goo for different things. Thicker slime, thinner slime, stretchier slime, stringy slime, coloured slimes - the whole gamut of the slime world!
tvnz.co.nz -How did you personally get involved in
Steven Boyle - It is a dream job and without sounding too corny, it's perfect for me. I started building stuff when I was about ten and it was an obsessive hobby - and it sort of led into special effects make up. One of the good things about that is it feels like you're just making a sculpture come to life; you're adding all this stuff on and turning people into something else and they're alive - and I always did that and it evolved into a career - I don't know exactly when that happened - but I'm glad it did.
tvnz.co.nz -Do you feel there's a turn in the industry
towards old school prosthetics?
Steven Boyle - A little bit yeah - the practical effects stuff is done by directors who are fans of that stuff. So at the moment there seems to be this idea of going back which I really like - whether it stays that way, I don't know but there's a generation of film directors who're being filmed in just digital techniques so there might be practical options but they may not know them. I'd like to be optimistic and think they'll always be around. Digital stuff has gotten so much better but we're being bombarded with so much digital stuff, it's getting very easy to overlook the practical stuff. The practical stuff has also gotten a lot better - but there's just so many different ways to pull effects off.
Did Jonathan King give you
a blank canvas to go crazy?
Steven Boyle - As long as we kept to his original brief, then we could go crazy - like he said, he wanted us to push things and make them as scary as we could so while we designed the creatures, it was always in our mind to make them as disturbing and creepy as possible. Not once did he ever say just calm it down a little bit, it was always "No that's great - let's see what else we can do" and so that was just fantastic to work with.
So how long did it take to
go from concept to it being reality?
Steven Boyle - Well it depends, it can take one person or five to ten people - depending on the project. We give those ideas to the designers who make a little Marquette (like a papier mache model) and we all had a go at doing those for Under The Mountain - and Jonathan King chose one of the ones that I sculpted. Once we had that approved, then we paint it to get an idea of the paint scheme - and then once that's approved then we sculpt a life size version which is based from that - and we keep everything as faithful as we can to that original Marquette. Then we have fabricators and designers and other painters to look after them - so it's a great big job and it requires a lot of people to pull it off.
tvnz.co.nz - Is there quite a counselling element needed
for the actors undergoing this kind of make up?
Steven Boyle - Absolutely you can't put someone through a process like that and say "There you go you're on your own" ; you can't do it. We asked a lot of Oliver Driver as Mr Wilberforce. We glued a lot of stuff on him and it was as complicated as make up gets; contact lens, teeth - the whole works - everything was altered for him - his speech, his vision; he looked different, he felt different. So to be like that and be self aware of how that stuff feels on your face for ten hours of filming is a big ask - but sometimes you have people who don't handle the make up well and you have some who handle it very well - Oliver handled it very well.
tvnz.co.nz -Where do you see the industry going with
prosthetics? You mentioned earlier a generation of film makers who
won't know this - do you feel an obligation?
Steven Boyle - Yeah I do - I think that we have to keep on doing what we do and keep on making ait as good as we can and there's not the space to make mistakes with all the constant changes with technology - we have to make sure it's as brilliant as we can get it. It's great working in a place like WETA because you're constantly pushed to do something that people don't expect - and that's always a great place to work cos of all the original thinkers. With people like Rick Baker, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, there's constant sources of inspiration - we're at the point now where we can make anything - and show anything - and now there's so many people ot there which make it so inspirational - it's hard to pick just one or two.