The Creator: How Rogue One Inspired Gareth Edwards’ New Approach to Sci-Fi Movies

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This article appears in the new issue of DEN OF GEEK magazine. Get your copy here.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is one of those questions you are never supposed to ask, but Gareth Edwards remembers precisely where he was when the storyline of The Creator came to him.

“I got the idea on a road trip while promoting Star Wars [Rogue One],” Edwards recalls. “I had Thanksgiving off, and we were driving to Iowa, where my girlfriend’s family is from, and I was just looking out the window. We went past this farmer’s field of tall grass with a strange building in the middle that looked like a factory, and my memory is it had a Japanese logo on the side, and I thought, ‘I wonder what they’re building in there.’ Being a sci-fi geek, my first thought was ‘robots,’ and to be honest, in Iowa, it was definitely robots, right? So I thought, imagine if you were built in a factory like that and escaped, and the first you ever saw of the outside world was this field.”

Edwards combined the idea with the germ of a Lone Wolf & Cub concept he’d been batting around, and by the time he arrived at his girlfriend’s parents’ house, the whole movie was plotted out in his head. It’s the sort of movie Edwards has always wanted to make. “I felt like if I never get to make another film ever again, I’m going to go for broke on this one,” he says.

The Holy Grail

That movie would be an epic sci-fi war movie following flawed, morally complex protagonists, perhaps not a massive departure for the man who had just made Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But Edwards would go about filming this story in a very different way.

Throughout his career, Edwards has directed independent short films like Factory Farmed and blockbusters like Godzilla. “It has always been my goal to find the holy grail, the sweet spot between those two processes,” Edwards says. With The Creator, Edwards took an almost backward approach to the production of Rogue One.

“Normally, with a big blockbuster, you design the entire movie. You sit down with concept artists and figure out what the world is like, and there is nowhere in the world that comes close to it, so you build big sets and use a lot of green screen,” Edwards explains. “Something about that process doesn’t feel as real as I would like it to, so I did it the other way round.”

Edwards and his team went on a global search for locations that were close to what was required by the screenplay. In the end, the movie was shot in eight different countries, with its crew going to 150 different hotels and traveling 10,000 miles.

“The idea was that we would shoot the movie as if it really existed, without sets, in real locations with real people,” Edwards says. “Then we digitally augmented the science fiction elements on top of that.”

Science Fictional Ingredients

Adding those science fiction elements was the job of production designer James Clyne, who had worked with Edwards before on Rogue One. “Essentially, I knew whoever was the production designer on this film would have to paint a million images at the speed of light because there were going to be so many paintovers, photoshops, and concept art put over the plates that we shot,” Edwards says.

Edwards and Clyne shared a love of films like Star Wars and Blade Runner and the work of iconic designers such as Sid Mead and Ralph McQuarrie, but they also wanted to create a unique visual vocabulary for their movie. “A simple way of saying it is if the Sony Walkman had won the future instead of the Apple Mac,” he jokes.

Their design process involved combining familiar items to create something new and alien. As Edwards points out, “It feels new, but reminiscent of something you can’t quite place.”

A Blockbuster Student Film

But despite the countless drawings and post-production CGI that went into The Creator’s science fictional world, it was all built on very real foundations. “I would tell anyone playing AI or a robot in the movie, ‘Please do not play this as an AI. Don’t play this like science fiction. Imagine it is set in the Vietnam War or something.’”

At the same time, while The Creator is a huge film that required a massive team to shoot, Edwards was keen to keep the set itself very small.

“We were often filming just three or four of us and the actors, and it would look like a tiny student film, at times, in terms of the number of crew,” Edwards says. He points to a shot in the trailer of Gemma Chan running across a beach under fire, a shot that was filmed on an open tourist beach in Thailand. “I thought we’d get so many tourists taking photos of us, but nobody came up to us because we just looked like some YouTubers or something. We totally got away with it.”

The Creator opens in theaters on Sept. 29.

The post The Creator: How Rogue One Inspired Gareth Edwards’ New Approach to Sci-Fi Movies appeared first on Den of Geek.

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