Expedia do Wes Anderson

Expedia (Australia) have an ad. entitled Out There Starts Here. Rather than aqua blue seas, azure skies, white sandy beaches and palm trees, they tap into the enthusiasm and adventure of our youth by taking us along on a  young boys seemingly ad-hoc travels through a jumble of locations. Borrowing heavily from the films of Wes Anderson in both style (lots of centralised compositions, just not quite as yellow) and content, the bespectacled protagonist is more than reminiscent of Sam, from Moonrise Kingdom.

I like the idea of a world in which Wes Anderson is imitated more…but not too much more, hopefully.


Hashima Island, inspiration for production designs in Skyfall and Inception – now on Google Streetview


Hashima Island, commonly referred to as Gunkanjima, meaning “Battleship Island” in Japanese, is a former coal mining facility off the coast of south west Japan. At it’s peak in 1959, the island was home to 5,259 people. By 1974, the island’s mine had ceased to be economically viable and and the facility was abandoned.

Though it’s now a ghost island frozen in time, it’s apocalyptic appearance has inspired the production and set designs for films such as Inception*, and more recently Skyfall**. As Stu Maschwitz points out in his DV Rebels Guide, “Reference is God” and as references go, Hashima is proving to be very popular and persuasive source material. Visits to the island are possible, but access is highly restricted so it’s great to find that parts of the island are now covered by Google Streetview.

Hashima inspired set designs in Inception (…or maybe not, see addendum)
Hashima inspired set designs in Skyfall

* Addendum part 1: Limbo city in Inception combined scenes shot on a beach in Tangiers with ones shot inside a housing estate in Addoha, Morrocco. The decaying architecture was added and extended digitally by Double Negative. The crumbling buildings were inspired by collapsing icebergs and decalcomania paintings Europe After The Rain by Max Ernst. (In Dreams, Joe Fordham, Cinefex 123, pp66)

** Addendum part 2: Silva’s island hideaway was constructed as a set on Pinewood studios backlot and is acknowledged as being based on Hashima. The set was constructed over shipping containers and stood three stories high. Double Negative generated set extensions based on photography from Hashima itself. (Joe Fordham, Old Dog, New Tricks, Cinefex 133, pp47)

Thanks to Ilona Gaynor for snapping me out of my complacency an making me re-read my issues of Cinefex.

Ray Harryhausen 1920 – 2013

As a kid, this (Valley of Gwangi, 1969) was one of the most awesome things I had ever seen when it appeared as the Saturday night movie on our black and white TV*. This movie, along with the Seven Voyages of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts were quite magical. I knew that they were models and miniatures, but I didn’t care because they were beautifully crafted and to me, seemed full of life. It was not until my teens that I discovered that the same man, Ray Harryhausen was responsible for these films, along with a whole host of other fantastic visions.

Sadly, Ray Harryhausen passed away yesterday. The obituary in todays Guardian does a better job than I ever could, but it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that cinema has lost one of it’s true greats.

*It was the mid-seventies in a tired seaside town in North Yorkshire and I would have been approx six years old. Colour TV had been invented (I’m not that old), but only a few of the neighbours had it.

The storyboard art of Martin Asbury

Batman Begins storyboard by Martin Asbury

I recently spotted some production copies of storyboard panels from Goldeneye for sale on ebay. I was thoroughly outbid as the price of each A4 copy for the iconic scenes eventually sold for more £80 each (not bad for a photocopy with drawing pin holes in each corner. I am fascinated by storyboards, not only for the draughting skills they exhibit, but their incorporation of design, direction and cinematography.  A quick Google search soon revealed that the artist behind these particular panels was Martin Asbury. His website is a storyboard goldmine!

Before VFX – Blockbuster movies without visual effects

“My intention is to highlight the artistry of VFX by showing you the canvas. At a time when even Hollywood can’t seem tell the difference between Oscar-winning Visual Effects and Oscar-winning Cinematography, I think it needs to be made clear which is which. Without the fantastic VFX work by talented artists, Hollywood films would not be what they are today.” – Before VFX Tumblr blog

Before VFX Tumblr Blog

Partly a re-action to the deepening crisis in the VFX industry, particularly in the US, the Before VFX Tumblr blog lets the work do the talking.

For more  information on the problems facing the VFX industry:

FX Guide: VFX Protest at Oscars

BBC News piece by film critic, Mark Kermode




Creating the digitial environments of Prometheus

An in-depth look at the digital environments created by MPC for Prometheus.

I found the quality of visual content in Prometheus surpassed anything offered by the story, but this is a Ridley Scott film after all and by the laws of cinema it couldn’t look anything other than magnificent.

The digital environments here are comprised entirely of landscapes inspired by the scenery of Iceland and Wadi Rum in Jordan. Visual Effects supervisor Richard Stammers talks us through the process of creating the surface of planet LV-223, from initial location scouting, through the use of Google Earth, to the final construction and composition of the digital world.

This feauturette is better than the special features supplied on the DVD/Blu-ray and well worth your time.