Cinefex Diaries – Venom and Alpha

Cinefex 161

The new Cinefex is just out, with Joe Fordham’s epic story on First Man gracing the cover. This issue, two of the five articles are mine, and they couldn’t have been more different.

First up is Alpha, which I actually finished writing in December 2017, ready for our February 2018 issue. When the film’s release date got bumped to the autumn, we rescheduled the story for inclusion in Cinefex 161. To cover this Ice Age tale of a young hunter’s friendship with a lone wolf, I spoke not only with visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun and the many artists under his direction, but also archaeological consultant Dr. Jill Cook from the British Museum, and animal trainer Mark Forbes. It’s fascinating where the research takes you sometimes and, in my quest to tell the story of how a team of talented filmmakers brought a wolf called Alpha to the screen, I ended up going to some pretty interesting places.

I worked frantically on my Venom assignment all the way through the summer, arranging interviews with visual effects co-supervisors Paul Franklin and Sheena Duggal, the team of artists at DNEG, director Ruben Fleischer, and a ton of other people, all while they were working frantically on getting the film finished for its October release. It’s a tough gig trying to join the dots on a story like this, when you’re interviewing people who haven’t necessarily drawn all the dots yet! The upside of all that hair-tearing is that the Cinefex story on Venom hit newsstands barely a week after the film was released. It doesn’t get more timely than that!

As always, I had fun putting together the promo video for Cinefex 161, which goes from historic first steps to shark-infested depths with its stories on First Man, Venom, Alpha, The Meg and A.X.L. Here it is:

Cinefex 160 is on newsstands now, and available to order at our online store. If you’re a subscriber, your copy will soon be touching down in your mailbox. And don’t forget our iPad edition, which features tons more photographs and exclusive video content.

Cinefex Diaries – 2018 Starts with a Splash

Cinefex 156 - The Shape of Water

Every New Year kicks off with movie awards season, and this year the film that everybody’s talking about is the romantic fantasy The Shape of Water. Regular readers of this blog will already know how much I enjoyed covering this film for the winter issue of Cinefex – I blathered on about it in this earlier post – so suffice it to say I was thrilled to see director Guillermo del Toro pick up the award for Best Director at both the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards this month. Also at the Critics Choice, War for the Planet of the Apes won the award for Best Visual Effects. Stellar work there by Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon and the Weta Digital team. Nominations for upcoming awards – not least the BAFTAs and Academy Awards – are stacking up even as I write, and I can’t wait to see who wins what.


Now, I had planned to start this year by telling you a little about my Alpha article, which I was working on during the run-up to Christmas. As often happens, however, Hollywood has thrown us a curve ball by shifting the release date of this stone-age survival story from March all the way down to September. So we’re now planning to move coverage of the film from February into our autumn edition.


Not to worry. Image captions aside, my work on Alpha is done and the article is safely in the bank ready to be dusted off later in the year. Our February issue is already jam-packed with fantastic stories, including the one everybody will want to read – my colleague Joe Fordham’s in-depth look at Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Right now, I’m deep into my assignments for the April issue. I submitted the first of these to editor Jody Duncan last week, and we’ve just locked the copy ready for production. Without saying too much, I can tell you it’s not a typical Cinefex article. I’ve been working on it on and off since August 2017, getting input from over 70 visual effects professionals in order to create something rather special.

With that assignment off my plate, I’m now hard at work covering one of the first mega-movies of the year. As often happens, my copy deadline coincides almost exactly with the film’s final delivery date, which I fear casts me in the role of “complete pain in the neck” with all the poor effects supervisors I keep chasing for information, when all they want to do is finish their damn shots! Sorry, guys, you know it’s in a good cause!

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