The latest incarnation of The Great Gatsby on screen, directed by Baz Lurhmann, drew mixed reviews when it was released in May. Some felt it wasn't faithful enough to the original Fitzgerald story, that its hyper-real scenes and exaggerated colors were wildly over the top. Any casual viewer of Lurhmann films knows that faithful period pieces are not exactly in his repertoire. He regularly changes things up, and when Lurhmann's reinventing the wheel, he's also exponentially pimping it out. His version of Gatsby was shot on indoor and outdoor greenscreen soundstages in his native Australia, but it was developed in the the city that inspired it at Bazmark Film, the director's production company at 401 Broadway on the corner of Canal in New York City, where Lurhmann continues to live and work. After principal photography in Australia, it then took a mighty visual effects village to bring this confection of the Jazz Age back to New York and glittering life.
Earlier this year, the film's VFX Supervisor Chris Godfrey posted a video (top) revealing just how many shots in the film were touched by visual effects. Godfrey worked with an internal team that handled some 400 shots alone, as well as seven outside vendors that included ILM, Prime Focus, Method, Animal Logic, Iloura and Rising Sun Pictures and legions of artists, both credited and uncredited.
Tony Clark, co-founder at Rising Sun Pictures in Adelaide, Australia, said his facility completed work on Gatsby after delivering the final reentry sequence in Gravity to VFX Supervisor Tim Webber. "Baz's point of view leant a very particular take on the visual effects as a whole," says Clark. "I don't think he ever was trying to make it precisely photoreal but instead give it more of an atmospheric effect. A lot of his work already carries that stylized feeling. Gatsby is big and bold and in your face, but it is not without subtleties. The attention to detail and visual effects work done across the board is just extraordinary."
With so much increasingly sophisticated visual effects work being done for a variety of genres, what sets Gatsby's apart? "A lot of films coming out at the moment are very similar, but this one was so different," adds Clark. "Gatsby created such a unique world for the characters to inhabit but did so in a very stylized and beautiful way. As visual effects artists we love to blow things up, but we also value those rarer opportunities to create entire worlds for the characters to fully live in." You can watch some of Rising Sun's breakdowns here.