The Big Picture
- Director Gareth Edwards saved costs on his film The Creator by starting filming on-location before building sets, resulting in a more efficient and cost-effective process.
- The film blends real-world locations with its futuristic setting, giving it a relatable and gritty look, while still incorporating sci-fi elements.
- Filming locations first allowed Edwards to incorporate interesting and unexpected elements from the real world into his sci-fi world, resulting in a better overall film.
Director Gareth Edwards flipped the filmmaking script when it came to his latest feature The Creator. Made on a baffling $80 million budget despite its excellent effects, the film feels like a marvel when compared to franchise blockbusters that seem to keep inflating in budget. The team had plenty of ways to keep costs low, but much of the savings came with how the sci-fi world itself came together. During a wider interview with Collider’s Steve Weintraub for the film, Edwards explained how The Creator completely changed the process behind blending real-world locations with sets.
Edwards and his team’s big trick behind making his futuristic setting look so good without being too overwhelmed with expensive sets and production design was to simply start filming on-location before making anything. “What normally happens is, you have this fantasy about a movie you want to make, and you have all these designers and concept artists, and you kind of figure out the world, and it looks great and everything, and then you go, ‘Okay, how are we gonna do this?'” the Rogue One director explained. “And everyone’s chasing that image. ‘If you want this sort of shape, you have to build that,’ and, ‘If you want this sort of environment, we can’t do this. We’ll do that against green screen…’ And it all sort of becomes like a $200 million movie and never feels as good.”
While it has its fair share of locales that look completely overrun by technology, The Creator also has a lot of shots that look far closer to our world as it exists right now. AI soldiers fight a sweeping war with humanity in realistic fields and villages that give the feeling Edwards’s dystopian reality isn’t all that far away. It was all part of the director’s vision as he aimed to incorporate the gritty, boots-on-the-ground feel of a Vietnam War movie with the sci-fi. Mixed with some practical touches, he attributes that more relatable look to filming the locations first, but it also proved very cost-effective since he wasn’t traveling around with a massive team. Once it came time to actually build a set, there was already a clear vision in place for what the film was going to look like because of the filming locations:
“So it was like, ‘Look, let’s do this the other way around,’ right? Let’s go make the film. Let’s go to wherever in the world is the best location possible. If you have a crew small enough, then the cost of flying anywhere in the world with that group of people is cheaper than building a set. The second it’s a bigger crew, now it’s more expensive, and so let’s just build a set, right? So it was like, ‘Get that down so we can go anywhere,’ and then it’s like, ‘Let’s shoot the movie, let’s edit it. Then, when we know what’s in the film, let’s give those frames to our designer, James Clyne, and his team, and they can paint in the science fiction of exactly what’s in the movie.’ So, it’s a way more efficient thing.”
‘The Creator’s Filming Locations Shine Through in the Final Product
The Creator is all about striking a balance of spectacle and emotion as it asks questions about morality and what it means to truly be alive. John David Washington‘s Joshua becomes the lens through which this world is seen as he’s tasked with killing The Creator who would unleash a weapon upon humanity that would change the tide of the battle. When he actually meets the weapon, it’s just a young, AI child named Alfie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) who makes him question everything as they travel the stunning AI-ridden land. Yet, filming locations first ensured that Edwards’ interesting findings in the real world weren’t lost during Joshua and Alfie’s journey in his sci-fi world:
“It also meant you can blend in whatever happy accident you had in the real world or crazy location you found just randomly. You can then base your designs on what the foreground looks like and what the mid-ground looks like. So it’s way better all around, and I wouldn’t go back, personally, to the other way.”
The Creator is now in theaters. For more on the film you can watch our interview with Edwards below.