On a cold December afternoon in Vancouver, Canada, production on FINAL DESTINATION 5 (which opens nationwide on Friday) is only a few days away as the filmmakers are busy picking up all the filmic pieces for the film’s stunning major opening set piece.
Whereas other FINAL DESTINATION movies have used planes, speedways, roller coasters and the highway as the major threat source, this time out a suspension bridge provides the opening scene mechanism that sets the film’s game play into motion.
While production has already shot the real-life pieces of this major puzzle on Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge, now it’s all about a recreated section of the bridge on the Mammoth Stages surrounded by green screen to get the more hair-raising (and dangerous) aspects of this sequence.
Manning the FINAL DESTINATION 5 ship is former VFX Supervisor Steven Quale who handled 3-D chores (and second unit directing) on AVATAR and is bringing that expertise over to this horror film which is serving as his feature film directorial debut.
“When I first read the script, we re-worked the whole opening bridge sequence, and I took my twenty years of second unit directing experience on big action movies and said, ‘How can we up this into an amazing sequence that’s believable, yet really frightening and horrifying?’” explains Quale.
Pre-visualization was a huge key to creating this sequence, so Quale went to work trying to figure out all the elements that would be needed to make this a tour-de-force.
“The pre-viz process was very involved, and in fact, it allowed us to figure out how to use these 50 foot techno-cranes which were built into our computer Maya program, so we knew that we needed an elevated platform to put of them on and another platform for the other where the ceiling was and how high everything had to be,” says Quale. “Because it’s very difficult and expensive to build all this stuff when you don’t know if it’s all going to work in shots, you have to imagine 200 foot towers with extension cables going way up on this bridge, and when you frame for your shots, you take that into account. So, it was very helpful for us, and it allowed us to do the sequence where right now the bridge cracks in half here.”
With THE FINAL DESTINATION still being one of the benchmarks for using 3-D properly, FINAL DESTINATION 5 hopes to up that ante. Not only is the film shooting in 3-D, but it’s also using the latest digital cameras from Arriflex subbed the Arri Alexa. The benefit is they allow filmmakers to shoot in low light and according to Quale is has a “very cinematic 35mm film look to them.”
“The depth of field and the image plane size is the same as 35mm, so you get the nice shallow depth of field that 35mm film would have, whereas earlier cameras are like a video camera, where you have greater depth of field, which means everything is in focus,” explains Quale. “With the film cameras less is in focus. The selective focus gives it a more filmic look, and that’s what we’re doing on this project.”
Of course Quale is well aware of the mis-use of 3-D in recent films as well, and with his experience on AVATAR, he’s conscious of the fact that 3-D needs to be used to “enhance the movie, and not as a gimmick.”
“There are times when you can enhance it in such a way to make somebody jump, like the sound cue in a horror movie,” says Quale. “It’s real quiet. The person’s dead, their hand jumps up and the whole audience screams and they love it. That’s what they go to these types of movies for. You can do the same thing with 3-D, as long as you don’t do every shot as an eye poker, and get ridiculous with it. It’s a great way to use the medium and to exploit the advantages of a 3-D movie like this can give you.”
With all the cool technology in the world, Quale admits none of it would matter if the story wasn’t there, and story and character was just as important to him.
“I’m a filmmaker first and foremost, and for me it’s all about the characters and the story,” says Quale. “So, when I first read the script I said, ‘We have to care about these characters, care about the story, but at the same time I want it visually dynamic and stunning because I think the fans deserve everything, and if you give them great cinematography, performances with cutting edge technology, suspense, horror, dynamic action sequences, then it’s a fun popcorn movie.’ You don’t have to compromise on any of these things.”
The casting process also resulted in having more comedic actors cast in dramatic roles in this latest installment than in previous FD films to bring a little more humor to the film. Having been a fan of FINAL DESTINATION 2 because of the humor, he really wanted to inject the same sensibility into his film.
“The beauty in that is I always felt that if you cast funny actors who are good actors, they would inject and bring the humor,” says Quale. “If you cast just stand-up comedians, they’ll be stand-up comedians and they won’t have the chops to do the acting. So, we always approached it seriously, but get the humor out of it. People like P.J Byrne or David Koechner are fantastic, and they are a joy to work with them, because they add so much to it. At the same time, they are really good actors, so it’s a lot of fun.”
One other thing that Quale made sure to live up to was the complicated plot mechanisms that lead to the deaths in the FINAL DESTINATION films. For Quale, he says the key is not how horrific you can go, but how much you can create the tension leading up to those horrific deaths.
“It’s build-up,” he admits. “’What’s going to happen? How are they going to die?’ And when you finally see it, and you care about the characters, then it becomes that much more important when they die.”
While the cool concept is a big-seller each time with the FINAL DESTINATION movies, Quale does realize he has to make his own stamp on his film and he says what separates FD5 from all the other films is in the creation of the characters.
“We got lucky because we got an amazing group of actors that all of them are fantastic, and I had a joy working with them,” says Quale. “I think it’s elevated the series back to its roots, where it isn’t just camp acting and cheesy. It’s believable characters in really scary situations, dealing with this supernatural force that’s killing people and they don’t know why and what do you do? So, I think that aspect of it [for me] has elevated it, in addition to my visual style. If you’ve looked at the movies I’ve worked on, they all have a distinct visual style that is part of me, and I can’t make a movie without that. So, I’ve injected as much of that and made it much more dark and cinematic and horror-like in the climax and contrasting that with our daytime scene here, where you think it is an ideal beautiful day, then suddenly a bridge collapses. So, I feel by doing that, it has elevated it too.”
Click on link: Part 1 of AX’s FINAL DESTINATION 5 set visit with producer Craig Perry
Click on link: Part 3 of AX’s FINAL DESTINATION 5 set visit with actors Emma Bell and Nicholas D’Agosto
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