November 23, 2015
My partner Peta Ridley edited the original short film of “SuperBob” back in 2010. I knew the Director Jon Drever as I had worked for his company Grain Media for a year in 2008, editing and creating motion graphics for snowboarding and mountain biking videos. When the idea was pitched to make the feature length version, I was Jon’s first choice to be VFX Supervisor. Fyzz came on board to finance the project.
Early drafts of the script had included giant, Marvel-style superhero battles in which half of London was destroyed. However, as the story was revised, it became more about Bob and his hapless love life, with the fact that he’s a superhero becoming just a backdrop. We still had to display his super powers, but they were not the central focus.
Jon and I storyboarded the main action set pieces, and conducted screen-tests shot on a park behind the Grain offices to try and work out how to make our leading man Brett Goldstein fly. It became apparent that the super low budget of the whole production would mean having to be smart in how to achieve the effects. We could afford one day of wire work which was saved for the climactic ending of the movie, but other effects had to be shot in ways that we could “hide the edges” of the VFX as much as possible.
Principle photography began in the summer of 2013 and I ended up having to juggle the demands of being on set to supervise with a day job at Framestore (who were actually great in letting me book days off). After a month long shoot the movie then spent nearly a year in post production going through many edit revisions. I worked on the VFX in two blocks totalling several months. I used a small team of 5 artist who are all friends that I had worked with in the past and we eventually delivered over 100 shots. I also ended up having to be the projects VFX Producer and so had to keep my spreadsheets in check whilst overseeing the creative decisions.
The final version of the edit had moved the entire back story showing the origin of Bob’s powers and his training to a 3 minute montage that the movie opened with. I helped design this opening sequence with editor Katie Bryer, which involved a frenetic montage of documentary, news clips and MoD test footage that show Bob’s path from mild-mannered postman to the world’s only superhero. The majority of the VFX work ended up in this opening sequence, but the rest of the movie had several scenes that called for Bob to display his powers. Our final sequence sees Bob hiding out in a retirement home after causing an international incident. For this we had to give the impression of the house being besieged by crowds of hundreds of people whilst helicopters circled overhead. Again, creative camera work and selective VFX helped sell a scene that looked way bigger in scope than anything we could have achieved on set.
The finished movie finally got a limited cinema release in October 2015 and is available on VoD. It was certainly a great lesson in how to stretch a tiny budget as far as possible by making smart, pragmatic decisions. Despite some insanely exhausting work that was done more for love than money, I’m proud of what was finally achieved.