Effective communication no small feat for this international VFX team


Downsizing, the latest film from director Alexander Payne, was Payne’s first real foray into large scale VFX. However, Overall VFX Supervisor James E Price said that because the director was so clear in what he wanted, it made the process much easier. Price recently sat down with Art of VFX to discuss how the collaboration worked, and how they managed to work with half a dozen VFX facilities in different locations.


From the interview:

How was your collaboration with director Alexander Payne?
Collaborating with Alexander was really great. Even though he hadn’t had a lot of experience with visual effects, we was able to articulate his desires very clearly. Absolute realism was first and foremost in his mind, but he was also very concerned with creating an environment where the actors could understand the process so they could deliver their best performances, and also one where he himself (Alexander) was grounded and could make the movie the way he wanted to without being fettered by the technology of visual effects. He challenged me to – his words – “make me feel like I’m making an ordinary movie”. So our solutions to the visual effects were based not just on what was strictly technologically necessary, but also on what would make the filmmakers comfortable and confident.



The vendors are all around the world. How did you proceed to follow their work?
We used the internet, the telephone, and cineSync, along with some good old-fashioned visits to the facilities. So much of the VFX industry is global now and especially with the desire for rebates the work is more often than not done remotely.

Can you tell us how you choose the various VFX vendors?
We knew we wanted a larger vendor to handle the big environments such as Leisureland and Norway, and ILM was a good fit for that. We also wanted another vendor to take some of the load off of ILM by having another vendor do a selection shots that were composites of Leisureland seen outside of windows. Framestore was a good fit for that. ILM used Rodeo FX in Montreal and we used Framestore in Montreal so they were able to share assets and easily discuss their various solutions and approaches. The whole show was really collaborative in that way. Then we also used Lola for some bald-cap touchups and other cosmetic work. We also had some overflow work and brought on Atomic Fiction and Shade VFX and had a great experience with them as well.

The rest of the interview is at Art of VFX, including lots of detail about how the VFX were created.