It’s in a mild state of dizziness that I’m announcing the publication of Cinefex 149, the latest edition of the world’s leading visual effects magazine. Why so dizzy? Because not only have I just submitted my two articles for the following issue 150, but I’m about to launch into wall-to-wall interviews for issue 151! Issue 149? Ah, it seems so long ago …
Luckily, I remember vividly writing my two articles for this October 2016 issue. The first goes behind the scenes on Timur Bekmambetov’s reimagined Ben-Hur. The movie may have underperformed at the box office, but trust me, the story of how it got made has all the blood and thunder you could wish for.
As well as speaking with the talented visual effects teams at Mr. X, Scanline and Soho VFX, I was also lucky enough to interview Ben-Hur second unit director Phil Neilson, who staged the high-speed chariot race for real in a full-scale Roman Circus set at Italy’s Cinecittà World. If you want to get down and dirty with what it really takes to put a major action scene on the screen, this one’s for you. Here’s a brief extract:
Rigorous safety regimes ensured that the shoot concluded without major incident, and no horses were injured. Nevertheless, with the principal performers riding front and center, in chariots regularly hitting speeds of 40 miles per hour in a dust-filled arena, there was no disguising the danger. “I think that was probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my career,” asserted special effects supervisor Andy Williams, veteran of action films including Mad Max: Fury Road and Black Hawk Down. “A car or motorbike has got an off switch. Four one-ton horses don’t. Once they’re going flat out, it’s virtually impossible to stop them.”
My second article chronicles the making of Approaching the Unknown, a rather wonderful low-budget sci-fi movie written and directed by Mark Elijah Rosenberg. It was a delight to chat with Mark and his close-knit team of filmmakers, who resurrected 1980s motion control camera equipment to photograph deep-space sequences using miniature spaceships, cloud tanks and all manner of old-school techniques. Talk about a labour of love.
Cinefex 149 leads with Joe Fordham’s stunning article on Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, and also contains in-depth stories on Suicide Squad and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, written by Joe and Jody Duncan respectively.