Firstly can you tell us how you got involved with the Judge Minty project
I first met up with Dan at an exhibition where he was showing off 2000AD props – I think he’d built a few 2000AD props but not a full-size Dredd helmet, but was doing a commission for Steve S.
It looked like there might be pieces coming together where Dan could produce a judge costume, and I could do some VFX, and Steve S was talking about doing a short (15 mins at the time)
Originally I had just expected to do a few green screen shots and a bit of cursed earth stuff. But it grew a bit, and I volunteered to film it, since I would be working with the footage – and it also got me out from behind a computer.
Was Judge Dredd/2000AD something you were familiar with prior to this? Can you tell us a bit about your history, if any, with the comic?
Yeah, I’ve read it since day one. I was nuts about dinosaurs as a kid, and I’d read a bit of Action so my mum spotted dinosaurs on the cover and brought the first prog home.
I never really got into US comics, much preferred the artistic stylings of European artists so tended to gravitate towards 2000AD and its stablemates.
Seeing the original art at in Forbidden Planet during the early 80s had an effect – I was blown away seeing some of the colour artwork at a signing around the same time.
So I’ve been a fan for decades now, one of the shots in the trailer dates back from about 10 years ago, and I modeled up a few characters in CG for a bit of a fun from time-to-time.
I understand you were the Director of Photography on the film as well as being responsible for all the digital effects. Did wearing both hats make things easier or more difficult for you?
Well I don’t know about DoP, it was just me and a camera really, feels a bit of grand title for what I was doing… (bet you’ll love my SFX Guru tag at the top of this then – RMc)
Apart from the workload, it probably made it easier, as I knew what might look good – it also made for a very direct pipeline as on some shots I could tweak the VFX, drop it in an edit etc. without the turnaround of sending it to anyone else.
The biggest challenge was the edit. I wanted a fresh eye on it, but it becomes a bit of a catch-22 when adding VFX to edits, as it can have an effect on how it plays, but with multiple takes you want to know which one you’re going to have VFX on.
Then there’s the challenge of using elements from different takes from green screen shots – we shot the long walk scene twice, because at the time we only had 2 costumes – this meant shooting people separately, getting them out of sweaty costumes.
We eventually reshot that when Planet Replicas had more costumes to hand and it was far more flexible for getting different angles – apologies to those who judged up for the first shot, but it looked better in the end.
Overall though, shooting and doing the vfx is more flexible, but more complicated – and time consuming.
Having read the script it seems incredibly ambitious visually. Was this something you encouraged or do you now have ulcers you previously didnt have?
Hmmm. It definitely got expanded – the bike sequence at the beginning was originally – ‘a succession of confusing images’ whereas it turned into a whole sequence.
We didn’t have a lawmaster, just a box with a seat and handlebars – but we just wanted to see what we could do with limited resources.
With hindsight I probably would have outsourced more of the grunt work on the VFX side, there are few static shots so that meant that any CGI had to be tracked in and that gets a bit tedious adding dust and smoke for the 100th shot.
I wanted it to challenge me, so there were plenty of handheld shots that would need stuff tracking in, rather than copping out and just having locked off shots.
I also wanted to do green screen shots – which went OK, but those bastard shiny helmets pick up a lot of reflections which makes keying a challenge.
But for me, it was partially a learning experience.
No ulcers but I do have bald patches in my beard stubble now…
How much free rein did you have in the design and look of the elements you created?
Pretty much free rein – I just took McMahon and Kennedy and maybe a bit of Henry Flint.
Shout out to JT Pegg who kindly let me borrow his design for an H-Wagon.
Whilst working on the film was there any period of Dredd’s history or particular artist from the comic that influenced your aesthetic at all?
It was probably going to be a mid-eighties Dredd, just because that seems to appeal to the widest range of people. We could have updated the bike, or done this or done that. But it seemed to be the least complicated way since really we were just aiming it at fans and not trying for a wider audience.
Mick McMahon was probably the greatest influence artistically – maybe Bolland for the mutants.
While the script itself is very much geared towards the fans, are there any easter eggs you’ve snuck into the visuals at all?
Not really the visuals so much – there might be some in the graffiti, but not sure if you ever see it that clearly.
Some in the audio/radio chatter
At the risk of incurring nerd wrath, did the Stallone movie influence any of your creative decisions at all?
Not really any influence from the Stallone film apart from the Hall of Justice, and maybe the west wall (but that always seems to look fairly similar in all incarnations) – to be honest I don’t mind the Stallone film as much as some.
I assume you’ve seen the new Dredd film. Had that been released two years earlier do you think seeing that would have had any effect on your input?
I don’t honestly know what effect Dredd coming out earlier would have had, since our story is about Minty.
Originally Steve S was talking about going a similar riot cop route, I’m not sure who suggested going more comic-faithful but it does open things up to costume choices elsewhere.
I dont know how much, if any, of the completed project you’ve seen, but what have been your impressions so far?
Well, I’ve seen a more-or-less complete edit with most of the VFX in there. It’s a bit hard for me to be objective, but I’m happy with it so far, there’s always things I wish I’d been able to do – I think a few crane shots to vary the height of the camera would have been nice, but I still quite enjoy seeing what can be done on a limited budget.
It’s been refreshing to see another person’s take on the edit – the original edit was about 30mins but it’s running at 25mins now – not deleted scenes so much just tightening up.
Also hearing what people are doing with the sound/score/ADR makes a huge difference – and it’s one thing that I can let someone else deal with and it comes as a suprise, whereas I’m so involved with the edit and the vfx it’s all quite familiar now.
Can you tell us what else you’ve got in the pipeline and if there’s any way people can keep up with what you are working on.
For me, a rest for a bit and I need paid work for a bit to get funds up, as I turned down jobs for the past couple of months to finish Minty.
After that – I don’t know, I think if I was going to do something else I’d want it to be shorter – 5 minutes tops, something that’s more manageable.
I’d love to do something with the Dark Judges, because it looks like we’ll never see them on screen, with Dredd not doing that well at the Box Office – which is sort of how we started with Minty. At the time the DNA Dredd was unannounced, the Shoreline deal had gone nowhere and all we had was the Stallone film.
I guess we’ll see where it goes after the film is out. Doing fan films is fun, but it does hit finances, and reliance on people to give their time freely is not the ideal way of making a film.
Having seen the trailer which has apparently superb production values, what was the biggest challenge to putting this project ogether from inception to screen??
Probably location was the biggest holdup – finding somewhere suitable – a lot of the places that we looked at for the cursed earth were hard to get permission from the landowner due to Health and Safety concerns.
Costuming and keeping track of props was probably also a challenge.
Maybe doing virtually all the shooting and VFX myself – I was also doing some costuming and temp sound and edits – I think that may be just spreading yourself too thinly.
To finish up with I’d just like to add a general thanks to all the people who’ve given their time and encouragement to get this finished.
Thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer these questions. We’ve still got a few more of these to post up including one with Judge Minty himself which is due up next.