Usually Chris Van Vliet is telling us about movies. This week, he’s kind of in one of his very own, and he’s finding out that simply getting to set is half the battle.
A few months ago, the lovely folks at 20th Century Fox asked me if I’d like to find out how their new movie “Alita: Battle Angel” was filmed. I said, “Sure.” Then they said it would be in New Zealand, in a performance capture suit, and oh yeah, Robert Rodriguez would be directing me. This was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.
Zoe Saldana (as Neytiri in “Avatar”): “I trusted you!”
Sam Worthington (as Jake Sully in “Avatar”): “Trust me now, please.”
Zoe Saldana (as Neytiri in “Avatar”): “Look out now!”
They’re the movies that make you believe in the unbelievable.
Josh Brolin (as Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War”): “I could simply snap my fingers.”
But this isn’t Hollywood magic. In fact, it happens nearly 8,000 miles away in Wellington, New Zealand.
Weta Digital is the mastermind behind the visual effects in movies like “Avatar,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Alita: Battle Angel.”
Rosa Salazar (as Alita): “This body. It has the power I need.”
To help explain exactly how they do this, Director Robert Rodriguez is putting me in a performance capture sequence from “Alita: Battle Angel.”
Chris Van Vliet: “Very form-fitting! Mm?”
The suit is outfitted with 53 markers that will relay my exact movements to the 84 cameras in the studio.
Chris Van Vliet: “Let’s do this.”
Next, my suit and those markers get calibrated.
Chris Van Vliet: “Alright. It’s time.”
Robert Rodriguez: “Hey, man.”
Chris Van Vliet: “How are you?”
Robert Rodriguez: “Welcome!”
Chris Van Vliet: “This is such a pleasure. Wow! This is gonna be fun, man.”
Robert Rodriguez isn’t just directing me in this scene. As you can see, he brought his guitar too.
Robert Rodriguez: “I’ll have to score it for you so you don’t feel like you’re on an empty stage.”
Chris Van Vliet: “I love it!”
You might not recognize me. Yeah, that handsome fellow right there? That’s yours truly!
Robert Rodriguez: “You’re going to have this blade in your left hand, but this isn’t much of a weapon against him, so you’re going to use more of your attitude.”
The him he’s talking about is this dude, Grewishka, the monstrous bad guy from the movie.
Stuntman: “Grab the guitar, even. Stick it in the fire, and you can whack him with that.”
Chris Van Vliet: “What?!”
After going over the scene a few times, we’re ready to shoot.
Robert Rodriguez: “And … action!”
Stuntman (as Grewishka): “Chris, I see you out there. Welcome to my lair!
Chris Van Vliet (in scene): “It’s over now!”
Robert Rodriguez: “Cut! Beautiful!”
Chris Van Vliet: “Nice!”
Chris Van Vliet: “So do you and James Cameron need someone?”
Robert Rodriguez: “You’ll be getting the call.”
Wow! That was such a cool experience!
“Alita: Battle Angel” is in theaters now.
What should I do next? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
Although, I don’t think we could possibly travel any further away than we did for that story.
I left for New Zealand on a Sunday and arrived there on a Tuesday. On the way back, I left on Friday afternoon and got back here Friday morning. I was like Marty McFly.
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