Review of Free Guy Interview: Visual Effects Supervisor Swen Gillberg on Turning Boston into Free City

Daljit Kalsi
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Free Guy impressed moviegoers earlier this year with its great visual effects and a star-studded cast featuring Ryan Reynolds, Taika Waititi, Lil Rel Howery, Joe Keery, Jodie Comer, and Channing Tatum. Now the movie is out on digital and is set to release on 4K and Blu-ray on October 12.

“A bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game decides to become the hero of his own story –one he rewrites himself,” says the film’s official synopsis. “Now, in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way… before it’s too late.”

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with visual effects supervisor Swen Gillberg about creating Free Guy‘s city and how he overlaid video game visuals and effects to turn Boston into the fictional Free City.

Tyler Treese: What specifically did you do for Free Guy?

Swen Gillberg: I was the visual effects supervisor so I did all of the computer-generated visual effects on the movie, which is everything from the opening oner, which the first half was mostly CG that combined a lot of live-action car chases and then CG crashes, some motion control camera work on the blue car, and then a lot of computer-generated cars, bullet hits, and helicopters. And then throughout the movie, we added lots of background characters, big city set extensions, all of the buildings, and the duke guy fight at the end were CG.

The overlays were like a ’90s arcade in that they were very bright and colorful. Were there any specific inspirations for the video game effects and overlays that you used as a style guide?

We really tried to look at as many video games as we could. For preproduction, we watched just so many Twitch videos. There’s a pretty big Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto influence on the movie. Grand Theft Auto was probably the biggest one. We also looked at Overwatch, Apex Legends, Red Dead Redemption, Anthem, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Halo but we really tried to diversify as much as we could and get as many different kinds of influences out there as we could. The overlays are really a mixture of a bunch of different games where you could get prizes and treasures for helping the character guide his way through the video game.

The film is reminiscent of GTA Online or Fortnite as it is a whole mess of different character designs. And that mish-mash feel comes across in Free Guy. It’s not like a cohesive art style, but it’s cohesive in its incohesiveness. Can you speak to that?

Ethan Tobman, our production designer, had a lot of great input in there. He’s also a gamer and we tried to keep the whole vibe whimsical but still like Grand Theft Auto. It’s so brutal, but it is a comedy. So we tried to keep it kind of whimsical and brutal at the same time. Shawn Levy relied heavily on his video game experience and input on putting in background characters. We added a bunch of glitching. If you look carefully in the background, there’s glitching people watching people running into walls and car crashes that are happening. It was all super fun to make. It was one of the most fun movies. And that was lots of creative input from Ryan Reynolds and our creative team, which was George Richmond, Ryan, Shawn Levy. And so we would just sit around and come up with interesting things to throw in there and be like, “What do you think this shot needs? Maybe a dinosaur? Yeah. Let’s put a dinosaur in there.” And the best idea wins.

You mentioned Horizon Zero Dawn earlier as a potential influence. At the end of the film, they get to that secondary area that’s very luscious. Is that where that game came into play?

Yeah, that was one of the influences. We really didn’t try to lean on one specific one. We really wanted to keep it alive and varied. But certainly the lushness there was an influence. I think in the script it’s mentioned he basically jumps into a Shangri-La-like area and so we wanted to kind of make it an otherworldly place that is not necessarily just like Earth. If you’ve noticed the plants, they are almost alien. It was influenced by the script, but also by looking at every video game we could get our hands on.

What was the biggest challenge in crafting Free City? It’s such an ambitious undertaking here, especially when you’re pretty much touching the whole film.

The opening oner shot was probably the most challenging. I think that took a year and a half to do. We started storyboarding it very early on and then we took it into previs and then we had Chris, our second unit director, do some awesome car chases. That one section of the movie just had like 50 different pieces. We have motion control camera work, car crashes, CG cars, and CG helicopters, and obviously the skydiving in the beginning of CG. So that was probably one of the biggest challenges. One of my favorite scenes was probably when the streets squeeze, where Antwan is destroying the servers, and all the buildings are getting knocked down. I really liked how that one came out. It was super fun to make.

You’ve been working in visual effects since 1997. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your line of work? Are you surprised at how all-encompassing this has gotten?

Every year we try to make it better and better. Only maybe the directors are all on longer than us, but we come in very early on. We start storyboarding the movie early on and then we go long past the sheet. I’ve been on movies for three years before but it’s usually about a year and a half. And over time, we become more and more part of the filmmaking process and we just try to push the limits more and more every year. Obviously, the computers are getting faster so we’re able to accomplish more and get more shots done, but every one seems like they get bigger and bigger.

Before this, you worked on two Avengers films and Civil War. From your time working with the Marvel films, does any one particular scene stick out that you’re especially proud of?

The end battle in Endgame was a huge, huge feat. Just to imagine all those characters was a lot but doing those Marvel movies was really fantastic and just the huge scope of them, it really makes you feel like anything’s possible because they’re just so big and so enormous that your average movie is easy in comparison.

The post Free Guy Interview: Visual Effects Supervisor Swen Gillberg on Turning Boston into Free City appeared first on ComingSoon.net.



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