Outpost's Senior VFX Supervisor chats the shoot, stadiums and Sly Stallone in this Final Score Q&A
Scott Mann's explosive thriller Final Score burst onto Sky Cinema back in September of this year, achieving high praise for its unapologetically 80s tone and massive set pieces.
We handled all 500 or so VFX shots for the film, lead by our in-house Senior VFX Supervisor Marcin Kolendo. A few months after its release, we sat Marcin down for a quick chat about the film and the considerable amount of work that went into bringing it to life with visual effects.
How happy are you to see Final Score finally launch?
Immensely happy, and it’s because of the entire team’s effort here. We contributed so much to the film from scratch, and to see it coming out with good reviews is very special. I think we as a company grew because of this project. I think we evolved as a team because it was a really heavy project, so I’m happy to see it on the big screen now and hopefully everyone else is going to like our VFX.
Was Outpost VFX sole vendor on the project?
We were the sole vendors for this, so we did everything. We had to contribute to the production meetings beforehand and plan how we would shoot these things considering the budget, considering our manpower. We also had to consider the time that they had on set – we knew the stadium was going to be demolished at some point during filming, which is another story because they did demolish it and they had to reshoot some stuff so we had to shoot it in another stadium, which we changed into West Ham’s stadium in CG.
It's very much an 80s-style action flick – what did we do to make sure the action sequences were brutal but also believable?
Funnily enough, I watched Cobra with Sylvester Stallone recently and it’s tongue in cheek sometimes, but the scenes are really brutal as well – lots of blood and things being stabbed and that sort of thing happening. It’s the same here, and I think even the reviews were talking about the variety of it – you can sit there and laugh a little bit. It’s a really good popcorn flick with 80s action influences. How did we achieve that? I mean there was always an assumption that these scenes would happen, so there was a mixture of how far we can go in camera with it – fingers chopped off, head in a fryer, that sort of stuff – and how much we can then push it in post. I think the mixture of these two things in collaboration with makeup artists, the stunt team and us as a studio resulted in really violent and believable scenes of things being chopped off and all that.
Were there any sequences that we worked on that proved to be particularly challenging?
Yes, I think it was whenever Knox (Dave Bautista) was in the stadium and you could literally see 35,000 empty seats all around him. The extras that we had on the day worked very well for the close ups, but the spaces behind them were empty. So what was challenging was that the computer-generated people wouldn’t look that great if we were to stick them right behind the foreground people, so we needed to resort to using numerous elements from the shoot, but mostly it was elements that we shot on a separate occasion of people cheering, etc. That was very challenging because, imagine you’ve got 100 people multiplied by another ten or whatever, and then each of them had to be masked out frame by frame and then superimposed over the top of the others. The artist days involved in just cutting these people out of the plates and sticking them somewhere else was an immense challenge itself, and then we had to adjust them in a way that they would do things that we wanted them to do. I think the entire film was challenging, but I think the trickiest thing was the crowd.
How long did you spend on set? What were the highlights?
I spent around six or seven weeks in London and then when there was the re-shoot a couple of months later, which was another two weeks. That was 2016 so that’s why I’m happy that it’s finally out. I think it’s the feeling of the team wanting to work towards one goal, that’s what’s always very important for me on any set, but on this one particularly because I had never been on set for that amount of time and then you basically become one big family and it’s really hard to let it go at the end. Although, as you can imagine, I was happy to let it go in some respects; that it was finally done. But to finish the shoot itself was a really hard thing when you’ve spent two months with guys on the same location and you just become friends – these are my highlights.
The explosion towards the end of the film is massive. How much of it is VFX and how much is pyrotechnics?
Because of the scale of the explosion that the director wanted to achieve, huge pyrotechnics weren’t that safe and maybe weren’t even that plausible within the area, where you have blocks of flats all around the stadium and stuff like that. On two separate days, there were two explosions achieved by special effects people and there was just that core explosion with the fireball that perhaps destroyed a little bit of a corner of the stadium. So I would say that it’s maybe 35 or 40 per cent of that, when you combine these two real ones and we needed to extend them, add the destruction itself in CG, all the seats blowing up, the structure collapsing at the side, etc. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve that using pyrotechnics. Pyrotechnics worked really well to give us that initial massive fireball, to give us a little bit of dust, an explosion – we had it as the base and then we were adding things on top, combining together with the completely computer-generated structure of the stadium, which then collapsed and created a massive gaping hole. We also couldn’t have an explosion whilst people were in it – we actually evacuated the entire stadium and only SFX people were allowed on set while the explosion was happening.
There’s a picture of you grinning next to Dave Bautista. Was it fun meeting him?
Ah yes. In his films he comes across as a gentle giant and that’s what he is, you know. He is a very genuine and lovely man, and what was striking to me, what was important to me, was that I said my name to him once and he remembered it throughout the entire shoot, and the same with everyone else. He wasn’t like a diva, he was down to earth and eating with us. Yeah, really nice.
So, did you work quite closely with him when you were on set?
A little bit, but it was more the stunt team that was more closely working with him directly. Dave was doing what they asked him to do and then if there was anything that I found a bit problematic then I was obviously relaying it back to the stunt team and Dave himself. But it was more the case that they knew what they wanted to shoot and they were just shooting that, with me directing a couple of little things if I told them that they would perhaps be problematic back at Outpost for us to do. Or too expensive, you know, that sort of stuff. He was very good, he was on board with everything, he did literally everything we asked him to do – if I asked him not to look in the camera as much when he was, let’s say, searching for Danni at the end of the film, little things like that helped.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank the dedicated team here at Outpost, because they worked really hard. There were ups and downs here and there but I think we achieved the seemingly impossible with such a small team at the time. You do have many people starting and then finishing because they were going onto different projects, but there was a little core team that stayed until the end and persevered.