AS: Does your team do physical models?
DG: Sure. White cards.
AS: You’re talking about foam core models?
DG: Yes. I call them white cards. That’s just to get volume up. You do 3D models and the concept artists take them and paint them and that gives you some volume. My staff will do all of them as white cards. So the director can actually get down into it. Lipstick cams for the fly-throughs. So they can feel what it’s like. Of course as we start to build I always invite them to come down and get a sense of it and see the process. And then the day before shooting I invite them. Everything is done and dressed and that’s where the magic begins.
AS: So the director and the producers will come and see it as you’re working on it?
DG: Always. There’s no reason not to have them come. They’re paying for it and it’s their movie ultimately. Everybody should be involved with the process. The director sees where it’s going and they get excited about it. When they come in I want to hear one word, Wow.
AS: That’s the goal.
DG: I say it to myself when I come in once everything’s decorated! We finally walk away from it and then come back in. Of course the thing that we don’t usually have at that moment is the lighting. However, what I like about working with Roger Deakins is that with Roger we’re integrating the lighting as we go.
AS: He comes to the set as you’re building it…
DG: That’s part of why Bladerunner 2049 looked the way it did. We integrated all the lighting. Roger Deakins saw our work and his lighting scheme was in concert with what we were doing. This is the luxury of having a big production. That’s why films are so powerful when you have the time and the finances to support them.
We built 85% of Bladerunner 2049 as physical, scale models. WETA also did massive model work. I like that technique because it gives volume, especially for lighting, The lighting is the trickiest side and it sets the reality. You can extend off of that and the digi guys can come in and sweeten it. They have all the perfect references. But the lighting always gives it away. Our book, The Art and Soul of Bladerunner 2049 tells the whole story.
Thanks to Tom Lisowski (alias Art Stars) and Dennis Gassner for this look into a fascinating passionate world. I like that Gassner says he IS a director, and shows how that is true.