Oren Soffer and Greig Fraser, directors of photography on The Creator, discuss collaborating with Gareth Edwards and the cameras used to film.
- The filmmakers of The Creator chose to shoot the movie using Sony FX3s, a consumer camera, to achieve a unique visual style and shooting approach.
- The decision to use the Sony FX3s was driven by the need for a lightweight and nimble camera that could be operated by the director, Gareth Edwards, who wanted to shoot extended takes for an immersive feel.
- The film challenges the notion that certain equipment and technologies are necessary for professional filmmaking, proving that high-quality films can be made with more accessible and cost-effective gear.
SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
In The Creator, a jaded ex-special forces soldier, Joshua, is recruited by the U.S. military to find the mysterious Creator, the illusive architect of Artificial Intelligence. Rumors have spread that the Creator has forged a new weapon that could turn the tide of the war between humanity and AI. However, when he finds the weapon, it is an AI robot in the form of a child who has the answers he has been searching for. Joshua will question everything he knows about the world and the people he is fighting for.
The Creator stars an impressive cast led by John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, Sturgill Simpson, Allison Janney, and Madeleine Yuna Voyles. The Creator is co-written by Gareth Edwards and Chris Weitz. Edwards also directed and produced the movie.
Related: The Creator Ending Explained
Directors of photography Oren Soffer and Greig Fraser spoke with Screen Rant about their work on The Creator. They discussed the cameras used for the movie, notably that people can use them for their own projects, and their thoughts on AI in the entertainment industry. Fraser shared his experience of collaborating with Edwards on The Creator and what makes him stand out from other directors.
Oren Soffer & Greig Fraser Talk The Creator
Screen Rant: The Creator is the best film I’ve seen all year, it is phenomenal. It blew me away. I can’t believe you guys shot these on Sony FX3s. That blows my mind. Oren, first question for you. You guys worked with the Sony FX3s, which is a consumer camera, anybody can just buy those at Best Buy. Can you talk about the challenges and advantages of using those cameras?
Oren Soffer: Yeah, I mean, I’ll also say anybody can buy an Arri Alexa too, they just cost a little bit more. At the end of the day, it’s funny. Greig and I have been talking about this, and I think the camera choice is interesting only because it hasn’t been used before in this capacity. Hopefully a few years from now, this won’t even really be a conversation that anybody’s having. It’s just one of the other cameras that are in the toolset for DPs to be able to use.
And in this case, it’s really just my hats off to Greig and Gareth for just taking that … It’s just a little step to just let go of the sort of marketing of it being a consumer camera and just objectively judging what is the camera capable of, what kind of imagery can it create? I mean, we just live in a very fortunate time, as DPs, to have all these amazing options and camera systems that have different advantages, and disadvantages, and just provide us this great selection to choose from.
So in this case, the camera choice was really driven by the shooting methodology. Gareth, I think, really wanted to go back to the roots of Monsters, his first film that he shot, that he was his own DP on that film. This is a conversation that Greig and Gareth had been having for years, that I was sort of brought into at a certain stage in the project and was able to catch up on, their sort of years of debating and conversing about where things are in big budget filmmaking right now, and how maybe some of the choices that we make, in terms of logistics approach, but also equipment choice, maybe limit some of the creativity that could otherwise be unlocked if you just do that brain switch to say, “Hey, maybe we embrace this smaller camera because it opens up a different shooting approach.”
And so in this case, really, it was driven by the need to have a lightweight camera that was small. Gareth was operating the camera on this film like he did on Monsters, and a little bit of Rogue One as well. So, I think from his experience, maybe handheld operating via ALEXA 65, which is maybe the biggest kind of camera system you can get these days, realized that you can only do that for a few minutes before getting completely exhausted.
The small camera, we were able to pair with a gimbal and handhold that for, sometimes, up to 30 or 40-minute long takes. And that’s sort of the way that Gareth likes to shoot. So, he likes to shoot extended takes where he’s not cutting, but he’s staying in the moment with the actors in order to seek out and reach for moments of authenticity. And a lot of it is instinctual, reactive, spontaneous, and I think all of that is designed to imbue the film with a very immersive feeling.
And so, the small camera choice was ultimately driven by the logistics. And it just opened up this whole other world of filmmaking for us, while still being able to provide an image that was that enough of a quality for the visual effects and color grading work that needed to be done to it down the road.
Incredible. Greig, you’re a frequent collaborator with Gareth. Can you talk about collaborating with Gareth on this film to bring his vision to life?
Greig Fraser: I can. I was really pumped to be able to be involved in this, because throughout Rogue One, Gareth and I were consistently talking about how we could improve the process. And in fact, even now, I just sent Gareth a text message yesterday, I saw something on YouTube about a piece of kit that has just come out that I think will change the way he does his next film. So, I think the whole time we were talking about how we can improve the system, how we can improve the capabilities of us as filmmakers, to be able to get in, do what we need and get out and leave the smallest footprint.
And so, we’ve been working a long time to try and come up with a system to break those barriers, or break those boundaries. What I’m really proud of from a … I mean, obviously, I’m proud of the film and I’m proud of the contribution that R&I were able to make to Gareth’s vision. But also, what I feel is interesting, is I love the fact that nobody now can ever say to us, or to anybody else who is either reading this, that you can’t use that particular camera system to make a film.
It happens. Trusts me, it happens. And in fact, at the beginning, of course, everybody was saying, “Are you sure? Are you sure you want to use that?” Everyone was trying to come up with a reason why we maybe couldn’t use this. Not everybody; I mean, obviously everybody who had an opinion said, “Are you sure? Are you sure?”
And now, I feel like we’ve proven to the world that there’s no reason why you can’t make a film with this system, with the equipment that we use, which is a bit more prosumer-y, which is a bit smaller, which is less expensive economically. So, I feel kind of quite vindicated that we were able to create something of such quality with equipment that may, in the past, have been seen as being slightly less than professional. Have you got a comment, Owen?
Oren Soffer: Oh, just to add to that really quickly and just to mention, that that extended to the lighting and grip equipment that we used as well. Aperture was the main provider of our lighting on the shoot. They make low cost, low electricity draw LED lighting that was very flexible and helped us keep that small footprint. And we also used equipment that’s considered prosumer on the grip side; we had a Scissor Crane and a Kessler dolly, and some of these other items that are a lot smaller and more lightweight and nimble than their sort of traditional film set counterparts, that require a lot more support and crew.
So, I think that that mentality extended to the overall approach. It was the camera, the lighting, the grip equipment, the crew size. All of it was part of creating this filmmaking style that was a lot more nimble and quick and efficient. And it just required embracing some gear that you just don’t typically see on a major film shoot but is perfectly capable of delivering what we needed.
Obviously, this film touches on AI. Oren, this film obviously shows AI in kind of a different light. Do you think there’s a place for AI in the entertainment industry? And is there a way to show AI’s merits instead of its evils?
Oren Soffer: Well, it’s funny. I mean, the AI metaphor in the movie was not originally intended to respond to the current moment. The film’s written … If anyone just does the math a little bit, when the script was written it predated ChatGPT and any of these technologies even existing.
The intent really was as a sort of larger metaphor in the sci-fi canon, going back to Asimov, like robots and AI as a metaphor for “the other” and people who are different than us and all of that. And I think the movie sort of still maintains that a little bit, and is less about reacting to the current moment of whether AI is evil or not evil.
It’s a bit of a can of worms. I mean, if you open it a little bit, I’m happy to even just add my initial $0.02, which is, I don’t even like the term AI to describe the current technology that we’re discussing. ChatGPT, Midjourney, Runway, these are generative image models, there is no actual artificial intelligence involved. I mean, they’re sophisticated pieces of software.
And so, at the end of the day, once you make that mental switch, you realize that, well, technology is a technology at the end of the day and people are going to use it well, and people are going to use it poorly. And it’s sort of our job, as artists and filmmakers, to determine whether or not that kind of technology is appropriate for our workflow.
But it’s not about taking a moral stance on it. It’s more just understanding what it can do as a tool, what it can’t do as a tool and figuring out how that slots in. And I think maybe avoiding instances where it is being used in a way that it can’t actually do, it can’t actually function. For example, I don’t think anybody realistically really thinks that a generative text model can write a cohesive screenplay with characters and emotions and stories; that type of creation requires a human touch.
Now, whether or not you’re using that software as a support tool to, I don’t know, jog ideas or summarize an article or whatever it is, that’s another matter. And I think the same thing applies for visual filmmaking. But yeah, that’s my long answer to that question.
Greig, Gareth Edwards, what makes him stand out among other directors you may have worked with in the past?
Greig Fraser: Gareth is incredibly assured when it comes to his opinion, and also the way that he sees the world that doesn’t exist. His background is in VFX, he’s been a graphic designer and he has a background in VFX. So, he can walk onto a set and see the world in a way that nobody else on the set can see. That’s pretty impressive.
And then, add into that his ability to work as a camera operator. He operates a lot of his own shots, most of his shots. So, he’s able to take into account where things are, instantly. That’s a process that happens very quickly for him. Most other people on a film set see it as a separate thing, “Okay, well, there are VFX being added here.” He sees it as one whole entity, which I think is a bit of a super skill on his behalf.
What I love about Gareth particularly, he’s very English, in the sense that he’s quite polite to talk to and quite passive to talk to, but he’s got an incredibly strong will and a strong determination. He’s very stubborn in a very English sort of way. And I say that in a really positive sense, because if the day’s against him or the weather’s against him or the conditions are against him to get the scene or get the shot that he’s after, he just trudges through. He keeps going.
I’ve seen that a lot with Gareth, that he kind of just keeps going. He keeps going and keeps going until he gets what the scene needs, until he gets what the film needs.
You guys shot on real locations in this filming. Greig, you also worked on Dune 2. What can we expect from locations in Dune 2 as well?
Greig Fraser: On Dune 2, I can’t officially talk about it until probably Feb next year, because as you know, it’s pushed … It’s a bit of a shame, because I want nothing more than to be talking about that film as well. But with this film, I think what was really good about the approach was that everything was effectively location-based. Whilst there were things that were built and there were locations that were kind of augmented and sets that were built, for the most part it was a location shoot. It was location and it was organic, it was as organic as possible.
So, that was the original approach. Gareth also saw the financial ramifications of building versus locations and said, “Well, in most cases, the locations are better. And we don’t have to bill, therefore, we’re saving that money.” So, in terms of resource allocation, he decided that maybe those resources were better used somewhere else, in post, or VFX.
Oren, is there a particular scene that was your favorite to work on and that stands out the most to you?
Oren Soffer: Yeah. The shoot was so varied. It’s a road movie. And so, as we move through different locations, every single one of them has such a different unique look and feel and texture and presence that it is really hard to pick one, because they were all so different.
And each location we went to … I mean, we shot all over Thailand, right? So, there’s an aspect of this that you do not necessarily see in the movie, because it’s everything that’s behind the camera. And it’s these real places and these real locations and these real villages, and real villagers, that we’re interacting with and working with every day. A lot of the beauty of the film came from that.
From that perspective, we did spend a little bit of time in the south of Thailand on the beaches, in Railay Beach, if anyone’s familiar with that area, and in Phuket and Phang Nga Bay. And I think visually and inspirationally, that was definitely the highlight of the shoot in terms of the travelog of it all. Just being able to spend a couple of weeks in that area, with the white sand and blue waters.
I mean, anybody who’s seen The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio is very familiar with that sort of area in the world, then it’s quite visually stunning and beautiful and just very inspirational. I think most of my strongest memories from the shoot were from that area, both on and off set, just being able to live and stay by the beach. But also, the images we were able to capture in that natural environment was really special.
About The Creator
Against the backdrop of a war between humans and robots with artificial intelligence, a former soldier finds the secret weapon, a robot in the form of a young child.
Check out our other The Creator interviews here:
- Gareth Edwards
- Gareth Edwards at SDCC
- VFX Supervisors Jay Cooper & Andrew Roberts
The Creator is exclusively in theaters now.