AS: For the subway car did you use a kinetic backdrop?
MF: Yes, for the subway scene with the Wallstreet guys we used massive VR walls.
AS: Big screens?
MF: They are giant stadium monitors made up of panels so they can be any size. They are now programmable and modular, you build them with video tiles. We had a subway car set in the middle of a stage with giant walls on each side that both give you something to look at, but also create interactive light. That’s the most important part. What in most of the movies I worked on until the last ten years was called poor man’s process- mostly spinning lights to give the impression of movement. Now we are in a brave new world.
AS: How big exactly were those VR screens?
MF: For the subway car they were 25’ tall by like 100’ long. It would be a sports fan’s happiest day to get that TV!
AS: In contrast to Joker, what is your process when you’re building sets for a movie like Noah…
MF: In that case the instructions are in the Bible. Literally, the dimensions are described in cubits (the distance from the elbow to the finger). Darren [Aronofsky] is a great director with great instincts. Most good directors don’t start by saying, I don’t know, what do you think? Especially if they are a writer/director. In that case Darren had a clear vision. His first comments were, It ain’t a boat. Whatever it is, it ain’t a boat. It floats but it’s not being sailed. And I agreed. Why do we always depict Noah’s Ark like a boat? Where were they navigating to? There’s no land! Where the hell are they going? It’s a raft. It’s a box. It’s a storage container. And that’s what the Bible describes. It’s x’ high, x’ wide, x’ long. Three decks. It’s all right in there. But the Bible doesn’t say anything about how there’s a little house on top and there’s a keel. That’s just us interpreting. And that’s all assuming that it happened. The Bible’s also a story that we sometimes get a little confused about, whether it’s science or whether it’s myth.
AS: Besides the Bible, what else were you looking at for inspiration?
MF: My heart is as an artist and with that movie I went to Anselm Kiefer. He can make beauty out of road tar.
AS: I can see that! You have all the black pitch on the wood outside the ark just like Anselm Kiefer’s paintings.
MF: The thing that is similar to Joker was this ugly and beautiful continuum. A box made of cut logs and tar- how beautiful can that be? But it was kind of cool. Noah was a real conceptual movie that was leaning into the mythology, whereas Joker was moving away from myth. Almost deconstructing myth into our own personal experience. Myth is there to make sense of things we can’t understand. But we all know what’s going on in the Joker’s world. It’s kind of rough out there. But do we know if there’s a God or not? My big fight with Darren was that I didn’t think God should be in the movie. There is a moment where Russell [Crowe, who played Noah] asks Him something and God turns the rain off. I was so mad. I wanted to leave the question open. I think Darren would tell you that there’s nothing we put in that movie that’s not in the liturgy, the Bible. Everything he did came from somewhere. Even the Watchers, the giants. Although it didn’t say how they looked.