PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES is now on Blu-ray and we have an interview with the VFX Supervisor, Gary Brozenich!
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALE is a super fun film for all ages but how are the cool visual effects put together? We had a chance to talk to Gary Brozenich, who supervised the VFX for the film.
The transcribed interview can be read below and it’s followed by audio of the interview.
Luis Lecca: How’d you get started in visual effects?
Gary Brozenich: Well, I actually studied fine arts and painting and I wanted to be Robert Motherwell, back in the day. And then I needed to earn a living so I started working as a model maker, because I could sculpt and paint. And through that, it just became a natural progression and then over time the world of visual effects started to become more and more prevalent and more and more complex and more and more interesting, being frank about it. And I just found myself in a place where it made sense and what I saw happening in this industry became more exciting to me than anything I saw in the world that I was in. So I dove on it like a madman. This is before you could actually study visual effects, so a couple of guys and I bought two silicon graphics, so two machines and two power animator licenses, which is very old software, and I’d never even used a computer before. We just sat there, and at that time, I think it was about $80,000 worth of equipment, and I sat in a room for six months, and me and another guy taught ourselves.
Luis Lecca: So, now you’re working with Disney. Before that, did you have an “oh, my God, I made it!” moment? And if you could remember that, what was it?
Gary Brozenich: I don’t think I’ve ever had an “I made it moment.” To be honest with you, it’s kind of like, I think one of the great things for me is that because I’ve been living in the UK, that I was here kind of at the infancy of it(VFX), in this country, so there was a few houses doing it whenever I started, but there really wasn’t a lot going on, and I just managed to be at the right place at the right time and then they just sort of, the Harry Potters hit, and then all the other films starting hitting here and so it swelled so quickly that I don’t think anyone’s had a chance to actually look around and say that we made it. We’re still making it.
Luis Lecca: But you’re working on Pirates! That’s like the ultimate!
Gary Brozenich: It’s awesome. Trust me. There’s no complaints from this side. But quite honestly, just because of the nature of this business, it’s evolved so fast, and the demands get bigger so quickly, that once you think you’re, you’ve tackled or conquered something, there’s something much, much bigger and much scarier right around the corner.
Luis Lecca: Now we got the Blu-ray coming out. Have you had a chance to see it? And what are you looking forward to, for the consumer or the fans to watch the most?
Gary Brozenich: I think that getting it out of the cinemas and letting everyone sit there with a glass of wine and watch it will actually change your perception of the movie, you know, in a more intimate setting. It’s obviously a big blockbuster film and I loved in on the big screen, but I’m looking forward to seeing it on a small screen too. Because I think that it changes the way that you look at the movie. For me, a lot of what we do actually gets compressed and condensed down into a smaller size, so it looks different when you see it in that format. But not only that, but I think that it also, when you take it away from the spectacle of the big screen, it also lets you focus on the story a bit more. So personally, I’m looking forward to seeing it with a glass of wine of my own and just watching it for a movie.
Luis Lecca: From your perspective, how do you guys all get aligned so everything works with visuals, directing and stunts?
Gary Brozenich: Well, using Tommy as an example, in a lot of ways, it’s been great, because I’ve actually worked on I think two or three other movies with him before, so he and I had a very comfortable relationship and an ability to speak to one another. And understand what each other can bring to the table. He’s been a stunt man for forever, you’re talking about a long lineage of stuntman family ties. So he’s one of the best, if not the best out there. The good thing is that we do things like previs, you know, after we do storyboards and that’s almost like a pre-directed sequence by the directors. And that’s a nice round table for us all to look at a sequence and make judgment calls on what’s right for each department. Like on this one, I’ll just give you one example of a sequence where I think everybody kind of brought their A game too. There’s a sequence where they’re jumping between cannons and they’re fighting. That night, yep. And then Salazar and Jack Sparrow and at one point, the figurehead comes to life and comes down and chases after Jack as well. So what we had done there is we had a large portion hull build of one of the ships and then we built a 30 foot section of another ship and the special effects guys built a massive gimbel, like a robotic arm that could move and control that small portion of the ship to move at incredibly high rates, faster than actually, the stunt guys could actually stand on it. And they were able to program moves, so that, we had done previs to plan out what the general action would be, those guys followed the movement of the previs and special effects then built this gimbal to support the movement of the ship’s themselves. And then Tommy had two of his stunt guys in there playing what, and at certain points we actually had Jack, sorry, we had Johnny and Javier on there as well. And we had them all playing off of each other, jumping back and forth between cannons, real cannons on real ship portions. And then we did an enormous amount of work to then extend the ships, put CG oceans in, put the skies in the background and then, of course, put the figurehead that came to life in there as well. And that was a really great example to me, of like really high-end special effects and really high end stunt work and really high-end visual effects all kind of coming together, and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the film, simply because I know how complicated it was for each department to bring their part to it and it worked really well.