Academy Award® winners Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”) and George Clooney (“Syriana”) star in “Gravity,” a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. The film was directed by Oscar® nominee Alfonso Cuarón (“Children of Men”).
Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) in command. But on a seemingly routine mission, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone—tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth…and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left.
But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.
“Gravity” was written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, and produced by Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman (the “Harry Potter” films). Chris deFaria, Nikki Penny and Stephen Jones served as executive producers.
The behind-the-scenes team includes multiple Oscar®-nominated director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki (“Children of Men,” “The New World”); production designer Andy Nicholson (art director “Alice in Wonderland”); editors Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger (VFX editor “Children of Men”); and costume designer Jany Temime (the “Harry Potter” films). The visual effects were handled by Oscar®-nominated visual effects supervisor Tim Webber (“The Dark Knight”). The music was composed by Steven Price (“Attack the Block”).
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents an Esperanto Filmoj/Heyday Films Production, an Alfonso Cuarón Film, “Gravity.” The film will be released in 3D and 2D and IMAX®, and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.
At 600km above planet Earth, the temperature
fluctuates between +258 and -148 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is nothing to carry sound.
No air pressure.
Life in space is impossible.
“I have always had a fascination with space and space exploration,” states Alfonso Cuarón, the director, producer and co-writer of the dramatic thriller “Gravity.” He continues, “On the one hand, there is something mythical and romantic about the idea of separating yourself from Mother Earth. But in many ways, it doesn’t make sense to be out there when life is down here.”
Right now, orbiting hundreds of miles above the Earth, there are people working in a place where there is very little separation between life and death. The inherent dangers of spaceflight have grown in the decades since we first began venturing beyond our own atmosphere…and those increasing dangers are manmade. The refuse from past missions and defunct satellites has formed a debris field that can cause disaster in an instant. NASA has even given the scenario a name: the Kessler Syndrome.
David Heyman, who produced “Gravity” with Cuarón, attests, “This is a real issue. Every screw or piece of junk that has been dropped or left behind is orbiting at an incredible speed and if, or when, they collide, they create still more debris. It is life-threatening for the astronauts, the spacecrafts and possibly for us here on Earth, too.”
Starring in “Gravity” as novice astronaut Ryan Stone, Sandra Bullock learned about the problem from those most affected by it. She offers, “I used to think that astronauts wanted to go into space for the thrill and adventure. When I spoke to them though, I was so moved by their deep, deep love of that world and the beauty of Earth from their perspective, seeing the oceans and mountain ranges and the lights of the cities. It’s amazing to realize how small we are in this massive universe.”
George Clooney, who co-stars with Bullock, adds, “I grew up with the space race; I am a child of that era. I have always loved the idea of space exploration and am in awe of the people who do it. They really are the last of the great pioneers.”
But that exploration has also had its consequences. Bullock affirms, “It is heartbreaking to think about not only the destruction of this planet, but also about what we don’t see: the trash that is literally orbiting above us.”
That premise becomes the catalyst for a harrowing fight for survival in “Gravity,” which transports you into the awe-inspiring but forbidding vacuum of space.
The film opens in the silent abyss above the Earth’s atmosphere, where the Shuttle Explorer is in orbit. Mission Specialist Ryan Stone, attached to a robotic arm, is installing a new scanning system on the Hubble Telescope. Dr. Stone’s obvious discomfort in zero gravity is in stark contrast to Mission Commander Matt Kowalski’s apparent ease. On his final voyage into space, Kowalski, played by Clooney, is having a fine time testing the mettle of a new jet pack that lets him fly unrestrained by the usual tethers.
On the other side of the planet, the intentional demolition of an obsolete satellite has sent sharp fragments hurtling into space, setting off a chain reaction that puts the fast-growing debris field on a collision course with Explorer. The inescapable impact is catastrophic, destroying the shuttle and leaving Stone and Kowalski as the lone survivors. All communication with Mission Control has been lost…and, with it, any chance of rescue. Adrift in the void, the two must find a way to see past their own limitations and escape their inertia if they are ever going to get back to Earth.
“Gravity” was co-written by Alfonso Cuarón and his son, Jonás, marking their first official collaboration. “I was inspired by Jonás’s ideas for the movie,” Alfonso says. “I was very intrigued by his sense of pace in a life-or-death situation that dealt primarily with a single character’s point of view. But, at the same time, placing the story in space immediately made it more expansive and offered immense metaphorical possibilities.”
Jonás Cuarón adds, “The concept of space was interesting to us both; it is a setting where there is no easy way to survive, thousands of miles from what we call home, so it was perfect for a movie about surmounting adversities and having to find your way back. We also wanted it to be a realistic story, which required us to do extensive research to become familiar with space exploration in order to depict a plausible scenario.”
Early on, Alfonso Cuarón reached out to producer David Heyman, with whom he had collaborated on “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Heyman says he relished the opportunity to work with the director again. “I was so honored when he asked me to get involved. Alfonso is one of the great filmmakers, a man of endless creativity and imagination. He is so inspiring and just makes everybody around him better at what they do.
“What I loved about the script was that it was in certain ways a genre film, and yet it was so much more,” Heyman continues. “How could I not leap at it? Then the practical reality of what making the film would entail began to set in.”
The filmmakers soon discovered that they would need to push the boundaries of moviemaking to tell a story that transpires wholly in zero gravity. “I have to say that I was a bit naïve; I thought making the film would be a lot simpler,” Cuarón admits. “Yes, I knew it would require a certain amount of tricks, but it was not until we started trying conventional techniques that I realized in order to do the film the way I wanted to do it, we were going to have to create something entirely new.”
To accomplish that, Cuarón called upon cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber of Framestore. “From the get-go, Chivo, Tim and I decided we wanted everything to look like we took our camera into space. That would have been my dream, but, of course, that’s not feasible,” Cuarón smiles.
Simply put—though there was nothing simple about it—the filmmakers did not want anything akin to a sci-fi fantasy world, but rather to depict the stark realities of being marooned in the harshest environment known to mankind.
That objective turned out to be a game changer.
The filmmakers invented entire systems to generate the illusion of being in space in ways that were both totally convincing and utterly visceral.
Webber had suggested to the director that the only way to do it right was to create a completely virtual setting. Cuarón reveals, “I was initially skeptical; I wanted to achieve as much practically as possible. But after testing different technologies, it was clear that Tim was right.”
As a result, “Gravity” is a hybrid of live-action, computer animation and CGI, with sets, backgrounds and even costumes rendered digitally.
The most crucial element in conveying the sensation of being in space was replicating zero gravity. Given Cuarón’s preference for long, fluid shots, the tried-and-true method of traditional wires was not viable, nor was the use of gravity-defying parabolas in the aptly named “vomit comet”—a plane that climbs and then plummets, causing momentary weightlessness. The director elaborates, “With wires, you can see the strain on the actor; gravity is still pulling everything down. And the vomit comet only works for takes that are a few seconds long, and also not everyone copes very well with it.”
Instead, the filmmakers employed a combination of groundbreaking techniques to bring the characters—and, by extension, the audience—into the breathtaking realm of space. Wires were used, but veteran special effects supervisor Neil Corbould and his team devised a unique 12-wire rig, which, with the help of expert puppeteers, enabled them to “float” Bullock for specific sequences.
For other scenes, the actors were secured onto specialized rigs that could rotate or tilt them at different angles. Cuarón and Lubezki were able to take advantage of more extreme angles with cameras mounted on giant computer-controlled robot arms, the type used in automobile manufacturing.
Perhaps the most ingenious new tool was a set piece dubbed the “Light Box,” which was conceived by Lubezki and Webber. Resembling a hollow cube, its interior walls were made up of large, flat panels, each fitted with thousands of tiny LED lights. As its name suggests, the purpose of the Light Box was to cast the appropriate illumination on the character, even, for example, in the pulse-pounding scene in which Ryan is spinning uncontrollably through space. With conventional lighting, that effect would have been impossible.
The lights, robot-mounted cameras and tilt rigs could all be synched with the aid of computers, allowing Cuarón and his colleagues, in essence, to move the universe around the actors, thereby giving the impression that the characters are moving through the universe. Through being the operative word.
“Gravity” had been envisioned from the beginning as a 3D cinematic experience. Jonás Cuarón says, “The concept was always to do this movie in 3D because we wanted people to be truly immersed in the imagery as well as the narrative.”
That said, Alfonso Cuarón emphasizes, “We didn’t want it to be 3D for the sake of things flying in your face. We tried to be subtle…to let you feel like you’re inside the journey.”
Despite all the technological breakthroughs developed in making “Gravity,” the journey that remained the most vital to the cast and filmmakers was the personal one at the heart of the story—particularly that of Ryan, who is alone for a large part of the film.
Bullock remarks, “I think it’s a story about what makes us try when it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel. What is it that makes you go that extra step just in case it was worth the effort to try?”
“It is very much a woman’s passage from a place of loss and being in an emotionally numb state to a place where she rediscovers her purpose and reason for life…and then fights for it,” Heyman adds.
“So for us,” Jonás Cuarón offers, “the meaning of ‘Gravity’ isn’t just what keeps your feet on the ground. It’s the force that is constantly pulling you back home.”
The director affirms, “Throughout the film there are constant visual references of Earth as this beautiful, nurturing place. And floating above it is a woman who is cut off from her nurturing self. We wanted to explore the allegorical potential of a character in space who is spiraling further into the void, a victim of her own inertia, moving away from Earth, where life and human connections reside. Amidst all the tools and effects, we were always clear that Ryan’s struggle is a metaphor for anyone who has to overcome adversity in life and get to the other side. It is a journey of rebirth.”
Houston, in the blind. To confirm:
Mission Specialist Dr. Stone and Mission Commander
Matthew Kowalski are the sole survivors of the STS-157.
In casting Ryan, who is in nearly every frame of the film, Cuarón knew he needed an actress who could handle both the physical and psychological demands of the role, which were equally daunting. He found her in Sandra Bullock, whom Heyman calls “a brilliant actor working at the height of her powers. She brought such truth and conviction to her performance.”
When we meet Mission Specialist Ryan Stone, she is all business, concentrating on the task at hand and not engaging in the playful exchange between the other astronauts and Mission Control. Even Matt Kowalski’s unending tall stories—all-too-familiar to those back in Houston—fail to distract Ryan as she works to implement her new scanning system on the Hubble Telescope. However, her focus and detachment are not driven by the job but by a personal tragedy.
“Ryan suffered a devastating loss,” says Bullock. “When I started delving into the character, I had to ask myself what I would do, and I’d probably do exactly the same thing she did. She withdrew. When Alfonso and I started talking about the character, it was clear we shared an understanding of her and also had the same questions. Why do we retreat when tragedy strikes, when being with others is what can save you? How often are we hit by life and won’t ask for help? In a way, what Ryan goes through is a compelling allegory for ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ She wanted to be alone and she got it.”
“One of the major themes of the film is that element of isolation,” Cuarón relates. “But it can be very scary for an actor to spend huge chunks of screen time on her own, not interacting with another human being. Sandra and I had many discussions about finding the balance between what she would say or not say, or by what actions she would express what Ryan is feeling. We agreed there should be a level of ambiguity to her character, but we also needed to anchor her emotionally. I think Sandra dug into some really dark corners to deliver what she did in her performance. I was more than thrilled and extremely grateful to her.”
Bullock has equal praise for her director. “It was the most collaborative experience I’ve ever had. I’ve admired Alfonso for so long, but working with him exceeded all my expectations. He is a master filmmaker and collaborator, who makes everyone around him want to give their best. He’s also an extraordinary human being…I mean, someone who is not involved emotionally, philosophically and spiritually could not have made something so profound.”
While aspects of her character evolved through Bullock’s conversations with the director, there were several constants that remained, beginning with Ryan being female. Jonás Cuarón says, “It was always important to us that the central character be a woman, because we felt there was an understated but vital correlation of her being a maternal presence against the backdrop of Mother Earth.”
Apart from that, the screenwriters needed Ryan to be an untested astronaut, who was there for her scientific expertise. “She, of course, had some training,” Jonás notes, “but she is a mission specialist, not a pilot, so when the shuttle is destroyed, she is unprepared to deal with such an extreme situation.”
The elder Cuarón observes, “The thing about adversities is that they take us out of our comfort zone. In order to do that with Ryan, we needed her to be new to spaceflight. But for the rest to make sense, we also needed a mentor figure—someone who could guide her through the process and help her figure things out.”
In “Gravity,” that mentor is Matt Kowalski, portrayed by George Clooney, who says he had a list of reasons for wanting to do the film, starting with the script. “I loved the screenplay, which is the first reason you ever want to make a film if you’re an actor. And I liked the character a lot; I thought he would be fun to play.”
Clooney continues that “Gravity” also presented the chance to team with two people he admires greatly. “Sandy and I have been good friends for very long time, but we never found the right vehicle for us to do something together. I have always had tremendous respect for her, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner to act with. And I think Alfonso Cuarón is one of the most interesting and talented directors we have. I honestly thought ‘Children of Men’ was a masterpiece, and have wanted to work with him. So everything about this seemed like a great opportunity to me, and I was proud to be a part of it.”
Cuarón describes Clooney’s character as “the counterpart to Ryan. Matt is very much at ease in that environment; he is as expansive as Ryan is insulated. If you were going into space, Matt is the guy you would want with you.”
Those on the set felt the same way about the man. “George is a life force,” states Bullock. “In many respects, he does parallel his character because Matt is the one who breathes life into every single moment; he loves nothing more than seeing the world from the vantage point of space. But what’s so electric about George isn’t just his face, it’s his voice. He has that voice that makes you feel like he’s a friend; he’s someone who has been there and can make you believe everything is going to be okay. It’s like that for Ryan with Matt. And that’s how George is to work with…until he starts causing trouble and then you have to watch your back every minute,” she teases.
Clooney’s practical jokes have, in fact, become the stuff of Hollywood legend, but the parameters established by the production’s technology forced something of a moratorium. “It required a certain discipline because of all the elements that were already in place,” the actor acknowledges. “So I just put myself in the hands of the smartest guys in the room, beginning with Alfonso. But working with Sandy made it fun, so there was truly a lot of laughing.”
Heyman comments, “Both Sandra and George have a wicked sense of humor and were playing off each other. No one was safe from their ribbing. It was such a pleasure working with these two actors. They are not only totally committed and immeasurably gifted, but respectful of everyone and truly a joy.”
How did you get here?
I’m telling you, it’s a hell of a story.
Apart from the actor’s performances, almost all of “Gravity” was accomplished with a seamless fusion of CGI and computer animation, requiring the total orchestration of man and machine.
Production began with a process called previs—short for previsualization—wherein the entire movie was meticulously mapped out in the computer, encompassing everything from blocking, to camera angles and lighting, to design.
Visual effects supervisor Tim Webber says, “Previs can be very basic, but on ‘Gravity,’ we went much farther down the line. We needed to work out all the shots in great detail because so much was going to be computer-animated—the notable difference being that the CG-animated portions had to look completely photo-real. It’s not a cartoon and not a sci-fi fantasy; everything had to feel like real life, so we needed to have a precise idea of how it was all going to look and move together. We mostly used keyframe animation for the characters and camera, but we also gave Alfonso a camera and he was able to watch a virtual picture on the screen. As he moved around, he could frame the shots and plot all the action of the movie.”
Cuarón confirms, “We didn’t have the usual freedom of animation, as we had live-action elements that had to blend with the animation, and the live action was limited by what was preprogrammed in the previs. Tim tried to give us as much flexibility as possible, but most often, once we had made a commitment, that was it. Due to the technological process, the margin for improvisation and spontaneity was very small, which added to the challenge for Sandra and George. But watching their performances, no one will feel the limitations placed on them, and that is a testament to what amazing actors they are.”
Senior animation supervisor David Shirk and animation supervisor Max Solomon and their department were also faced with the juxtaposition of live action and computer animation, adding in the rules of zero gravity, where what goes up doesn’t ever come down. “We had to relearn physics since we were all used to motion arcs that are determined by weight,” Shirk remarks. “We had to forget all that and assume, for instance, if something is spinning, it will keep spinning forever until it interacts with something that changes that spin.”
“In outer space, there is no up, there is no down,” states Cuarón. “It took a lot of education for the animators to fully grasp that the usual laws of cause and effect didn’t apply. It was a learning curve for all of us.”
One learning tool that the animators used was called a ragdoll simulation because, as Solomon explains, “it’s basically a floppy character that we could throw in virtual space and it simulated how a body might move. It was quite useful to get people’s heads around how a character would fly. Where it was not useful was that people aren’t ragdolls; they have arms and legs that react to things,” he smiles.
During the previs phase, Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki could also establish the extended shots that have become a signature of the director—a prime example being the opening sequence that introduces Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski against the magnificent vista of space.
“From the beginning,” says Lubezki, “Alfonso wanted to do very long, continuous shots, which is something we have had success with on other films, but ‘Gravity’ was the first time I’d be doing virtual photography. With the substantial amount of CG, we found we could take that approach to the extreme. It allowed us to do what we called ‘elastic shots,’ where we went from an objective wide view to an extreme close-up of Sandra’s face, and then into her helmet to a subjective POV angle and then back out again to a more objective shot. It gives the audience that feeling of claustrophobia and a better understanding of what the character is going through.”
Webber adds, “Alfonso made good use of the camera’s capability to float around, rotate and spin in a virtual environment. Characters could roll upside down and the camera could go above, below or around them. In particular, when you have those extended shots, it meant you could keep everything going very fluidly and there was plenty of opportunity for uncommon camera moves.”
Over the course of previs, the filmmakers recognized a number of other obstacles that would have to be addressed. In some cases, technology had to catch up with the ambitions of the filmmakers for how they wanted to tell the story. One pioneering invention was the brainchild of Lubezki and Webber: the Light Box.
Lubezki notes, “We had to solve a very complicated lighting situation, which became clear during previs. Once we determined how the lights would affect the faces of the characters in the computer, we had to be able to match it in order to composite the live action and animation perfectly. I needed lights that could move fast and change colors in an instant.”
As often happens, inspiration struck where Lubezki least expected it. He recounts, “I was at a concert and noticed that the lighting director had cleverly used LEDs to create beautiful lighting effects and projections. I got very excited because I knew that could be the answer for us. The next day I called Alfonso and said, ‘I think I’ve found a way to light the movie.’”
Lubezki contacted Webber and they started doing tests, which, the cinematographer admits, were far from perfect. “There were glitches we had to sort out, like flicker and color hue aberrations. I have to say, it was Tim who came up with solutions to all the problems and brought the whole idea to life. Then Manex Efrem and his special effects guys built the box based on the specifications of what Tim and I needed. It was a true team effort. And when the Light Box came together, I knew it was not only going to be the way I could light ‘Gravity,’ but would impact the way I light movies for years to come.”
Standing on Stage R at London’s Shepperton Studios, the finished Light Box was constructed on a raised platform and stood over 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. On one side, steps led up to the sliding door that accessed the interior, and on the other was a gantry that connected the structure to its own “mission control”—VFX technicians positioned at a bank of computers. The glow from the monitors was the only illumination, apart from the Light Box itself, permitted on the soundstage.
“It’s quite a feat of geometry,” Efrem describes. “We built it so they could change the shape: bring in the walls, bring the ceiling down or change the configuration of the floor. Some of the individual panels were also hinged to allow them to open and close.”
The interior of the box was comprised of 196 panels, each measuring approximately two feet by two feet and fitted with 4,096 LED bulbs, which could cast whatever light or colors were needed and alter them at any speed.
Webber expounds, “They essentially worked like the pixels on a TV screen or a computer monitor. The terrific thing about the Light Box was that it didn’t just give us the ability to make lighting adjustments in a way that would be physically impossible otherwise, it enabled us to add a huge amount of complexity to the lighting, with subtle variations to both color and texture.”
The added advantage was that any image could be projected onto the walls, whether the planet Earth, the International Space Station (ISS) or the distant stars, “giving the actor the perspective of what their character was seeing,” Webber continues. “It was primarily so we could reflect the appropriate light on them, but it had the double benefit of being a visual reference for them, too.”
The filmmakers had to take into consideration where characters were in relation to the globe in determining the shade and brightness of the Earth’s bounce light. Cuarón says, “As much as possible, we tried to follow a course that made sense in terms of sunrises and sunsets and day into night, as well as the different environments—from the blueness of the Pacific, to the concentration of city lights, to the northern lights over the Arctic. We cheated a bit because we wanted to create an eloquent voyage that captures the breathtaking beauty of our planet.”
Fortunately, as Webber relates, they had the best possible reference material. “We were very lucky that NASA was willing to share much of the information they’ve gathered, particularly in the form of photographs and film footage. Astronauts actually make very good photographers; we got some truly stunning images. We would look at the time lapse shots they did from the ISS and say, ‘Gosh, if we did something like that, no one would believe it was real.’ It was just so amazing.”
Bullock offers, “What blew me away is how they are able to show this world of ours to the viewer. I’d never seen it like that before and felt guilty that I had never appreciated it as much as I do now.”
The actress spent many days within the confines of the Light Box, which Cuarón says, in some ways, mirrored the solitude of her character. “She was essentially on her own inside this cube, secluded from the rest of the people on the set, with projections of the Sun and the Moon and planet Earth rotating around her. It was interesting because we had been concerned about how long we were going to be isolating her, but Sandra applied that creatively and was able to convey some of her own experience at that point.”
“There was no human connection, other than the voices coming through my little earwig, which helped because it made me feel so alone,” Bullock attests. “I’m glad it was done the way it was done, as whenever I started to become frustrated or lonely or at a loss, I was like, ‘just use it…use it.’”
While the Light Box solved some technical issues, it also posed the question of how to film the actors inside, without compromising its function. They had to devise a camera that would be small enough and flexible enough to fit inside a two-foot gap and then move as directed.
Once again, necessity was the mother of invention for Cuarón and his team.
The production utilized robots—the type used in automobile manufacturing—from a company called Bot & Dolly. A customized motion-controlled camera head was fixed to the end of the large robotic arm, which extended to position the camera inside the box at different speeds. Multiple axes provided the filmmakers with the ability to adjust the pan, tilt and roll of the camera via computer controls.
Cuarón comments, “The robot camera gave us unparalleled accuracy and consistency. Once the shot was programmed into the computer, the camera would hit the same spot on every take.”
The mobility of the lights and cameras did not mean the actors could remain stationary while everything revolved around them. In the floor of the Light Box the special effects team installed a turntable on which they could assemble an assortment of rigs that twisted, turned and lifted the actors, depending on the needs of the scene.
“It was very versatile,” Manex Efrem says. “We had one configuration that was relatively gentle, called the ‘heart-to-heart’ rig, which allowed Sandra and George to interact face to face while turning through space. Then there was the ‘tilt-plus’ rig, which was like putting them in a gyroscope.”
The tilt-plus rig resembled a cone of concentric metal rings encircling the body from the waist down. Once the actor was secured, the rig lived up to its name, turning and tilting them at extreme angles and at different speeds. However, it had to stop short of completely inverting the person since “it would put an obvious strain on the body that would ruin the appearance of weightlessness,” Efrem explains.
The semblance of weightlessness was key to the film. Executive producer Nikki Penny states, “One of the biggest challenges in making ‘Gravity’ was gravity; in other words, how to create the illusion of a lack of gravity and maintain it throughout.”
Different techniques of simulating anti-gravity were employed for different sequences, including a variety of rigs, as well as some traditional wire work. But for several scenes—including one where Ryan is traveling through the passageways of the ISS—it, in fact, took a great deal of effort to make her appear to glide effortlessly.
Conventional wires were not an option because they did not give the impression of floating that the filmmakers were after. To accomplish that, special effects supervisor Neil Corbould developed a breakthrough 12-wire system that could either be operated manually or remotely controlled by way of a computerized miniature replica of the 12-wire mechanism.
The dozen individual wires triangulated down from a complex pulley system called the head, with each of the wires having its own motor and capstan, which is a kind of spool. The wires were strung down and attached to an ultra-thin carbon fiber harness that had been molded to Bullock’s body and could be invisibly worn under even a tank top and shorts. Three wires on each side were fastened at her shoulders and three on each side were fastened at her hips, all to suspend her in air with no pendulum effect.
Ten months in the making, the intricate 12-wire system was equipped with separate servos that could propel Bullock in any direction or angle her up or down. It could also move at quite a clip—up to 75 meters per second—although, in the interest of safety, the drives were programmed automatically to shut down if it started to go too fast or put too much torque on the body.
The 12-wire apparatus resembled a marionette—albeit a very high-tech one—so the production brought in some of the best puppeteers in the business to man the controls. Robin Guiver, Avye Leventis and Mikey Brett had been among the artists who brought to life the title character in the award-winning play “War Horse.” On the “Gravity” set, they helped Bullock fly.
Guiver notes, “It’s very counterintuitive for human beings to be weightless, but in the world of puppets, we are able to break the laws of physics in graceful and expressive ways. We were applying the same skills to this task—finding a freedom of movement that would not otherwise be possible.”
Bullock says she and the puppeteering team cultivated both trust and an instinctive connection over the course of filming. “We got into a nice sync where they could tell the instant I turned my head which direction I wanted to go. They are true masters of the art.”
The wires and rigs could suspend and support Bullock, but she was aware that spending hours on end in them, day in and day out, would be physically demanding. To prepare, she engaged in an intense training regimen that began in the months leading up to production and continued throughout filming. “I pushed my body to the extreme,” she reveals. “Strength-wise, I had to know I could do anything Alfonso asked of me at any given point, so not a day went by that we didn’t train. It was part of what I could contribute to what these brilliant minds built to execute Alfonso’s extraordinary story.”
The actress also worked closely with movement coach Francesca Jaynes, who helped teach her to move as if in zero-g. The two watched footage of real astronauts, noting how every motion appears more measured. Jaynes says, “The speed at which you move in space has a rhythm that’s more balletic.”
That rhythm presented a different kind of challenge for Bullock: she had to move more slowly but speak in a normal cadence, a disconnect that is harder than it sounds. “It’s not how your brain would naturally talk and move,” she relates. “I had to retrain my body to react in the way it would react in space. Every single part of my being had to be used to execute zero gravity in a way that was poetic and lyrical.”
That goal is perhaps best reflected in a shot of Ryan in the airlock of the ISS. The sequence was one of the most intricate to film, requiring the synchronization of three robots: one with a revolving camera; a second holding the main light source, representing the sunlight streaming in; and a third that caused the air lock porthole to circle around the back wall, adding to the perception of rotation. Amidst the cutting-edge mechanics, there was also a very human element to the making of the scene. Under Cuarón’s direction, Bullock—who was secured by only one leg to a special bicycle seat rig—had to time her movements perfectly while smoothly transitioning her upper body and free leg without the aid of wires or puppeteers.
The result is a moment that is breathtaking in every sense of the word—one that, without a word, fluently expresses the film’s central theme of rebirth.
A large majority of the sets in “Gravity,” including the passageways of the ISS and its air lock, are virtual. Production designer Andy Nicholson remarks, “I was used to interfacing with visual effects in terms of extending physical sets and generating background plates and so forth. This was completely different for me because entire sets were fabricated only in the computer, but we would need to achieve photorealistic details throughout.”
Since the design team was largely replicating existing and well-documented structures, Nicholson and his department engaged in extensive research. “Without the huge amount of NASA photography and technical data in the public domain, nothing could have been as detailed. We wanted to base as much on fact as possible and then adapt as needed,” he says.
Nicholson began designing during the previs stage, where, he says, “we would start by developing the CG environments in a basic blocking manner. We then got feedback on what worked and what didn’t and we’d take that, roll it back and make the changes. Anything Alfonso approved, we would move forward on, all leading to the final ‘build,’ which was done by Framestore.”
Supervising art director Mark Scruton recalls, “It was hard at first to get our heads around designing things that would only ever be CG but that had to look like the real deal. We also realized that many of these things are in the public consciousness, which meant getting everything as bang-on accurate as we possibly could. We wanted it to look like we actually went to the shuttle or the ISS.”
Each of the hundreds of props, from large hand tools to the smallest bolt, was painstakingly studied and designed and then computer-modeled, generating a library of props that could then be used to digitally “dress” the sets. Taking into consideration that the ISS has been occupied by people of different nationalities, Nicholson added a few subtle touches to the set to reflect their diverse cultures.
They also had to reflect the fact that, even in space, there is wear and tear. “The space station has been continually occupied for almost 13 years so there are sections, inside and out, that show their age. We incorporated a degree of texture in the design and passed the information to the texture artists at Framestore. Every surface you see has a tremendous amount of layered detail, even if you’re just moving past it,” says Nicholson.
Equal attention to detail went into all the physical sets built for the production, including the Russian Soyuz space capsule. Nicholson confirms, “We found enough reference material to do a pretty faithful reproduction of the real Soyuz capsule, with a few intentional departures, like the side hatch. We were fortunate to get excellent guidance from real astronaut Andy Thomas, who taught us about the Soyuz computer interface and commands and about many of the internal features of the capsule. It was crucial for us to understand as much as we could about the way everything worked.”
Bullock had the same questions. “I wanted to know exactly how they operated and what would happen when I hit a certain button,” she remembers. “Everybody was very dedicated to making sure everything we did looked authentic.”
The Soyuz capsule set was built in segments to accommodate long, continuous shots, including a pivotal conversation between Ryan and Kowalski. Scruton illustrates, “We had five sections of the set on individual tracks so as the scene progressed, each piece would be moved out of the way to let the camera travel past. Then, on cue, each section would be quietly slid back for when the camera looked back at where it had just come from.”
Nicholson adds, “It was complicated because it was a lot of camera movement in a very small space. For some shots we had up to 16 people quietly pushing pieces of the capsule in and out, choreographed precisely to the camera. It took a while to figure out and carefully rehearse each shot.”
Like Nicholson, costume designer Jany Temime had to approach her work from both virtual and practical perspectives. The spacesuits in which we first see Ryan and Kowalski are computer animated. Temime says, “That was entirely new for me. I still got hold of the fabric so I could see the color and get the feel because it would be impossible for me to just work in the computer.”
Even in a virtual world, the color of the spacesuits proved problematic because “white is the trickiest color to light,” Temime clarifies. “Nevertheless, it had to stay white because the NASA suit is white and that was very important. We experimented with different shades of white and ended up lining the outer layer with gray, which solved the problem.”
While staying true to the color, Temime admits she did take a bit of dramatic license with the shape of the suit. “It has a slightly better shape with a little more waist and longer legs; otherwise, it would be a big, formless bag. It’s only little details, but they make a big difference. You pinch a little here, pull up a bit there, and it works like magic.”
The genuine NASA spacesuits are not only extremely bulky but incredibly heavy, with multiple layers of protective materials and systems for temperature control and to provide oxygen. All of that is necessary for survival in the vacuum of space, but on terra firma, it would have been unbearably cumbersome for Bullock and Clooney to perform in them.
Instead, the actors wore proxy suits. Temime describes, “They were overall the right color and fabric so the effect of light on them would be the same. Under that, they wore restriction suits, which is something we specially created to constrain the actors’ mobility and give them a sense of the volume.”
The idea of lead modeler Pierre Bohanna, the restriction suit was lightweight, with elasticized tubing that could be expanded to impede the flexibility of the actors. Bohanna says, “We talked to astronauts who told us that the real suit puts constant stress on the body; it’s like being inside a tire. We wanted to create something that approximated the same feeling, so, for example, as George and Sandra are moving their arms around, there’s a limit to how far they can go. It gives them something to push against and interpret what it would be like wearing a spacesuit without just having to try and remember to physically inhibit their movements.”
The actors also wore proxy helmets, which were replaced via CGI to the design specifications of Temime, in collaboration with Cuarón. Differing from the real thing, subtle changes were made to the shape and size to make them more proportional to the faces but still believable.
The visors of the helmets were entirely CG, and Tim Webber says that one of his biggest challenges was rendering the mist from the characters’ breaths on those visors. “We had to time it to how fast they were breathing and watch where the head was facing in relation to the visor. In reality, you wouldn’t see as much breath on the visor because the systems in the suits keep the air very dry, but for us it was a visual indication of their tension.”
Unlike the NASA suits, the less bulky Russian spacesuit worn by Ryan was an actual costume, made from an industrial fabric. There was also no issue with the color. Temime notes, “We dyed it a beige with a hint of green. We went through a long process to find that precise color to reflect the light properly. We also adapted it to give it a more feminine silhouette and added two zippers in the front, which is a change from the original.”
Interestingly, what would appear to be the simplest costume is the one Temime says was the most problematic. “For the under garments that Sandra is wearing on the ISS, we had to take into consideration the shape of the harness for the wires. It was difficult because we had to calculate exactly what was going to be covered, and how, and adapt accordingly.”
For a film set in a soundless world, sound became one of the filmmakers’ most challenging design elements. Cuarón attests, “There is no sound in space, and we wanted to honor that as much as possible. There are certain sequences when we strip away the sound, but we felt to sustain it for the whole film would alienate the audience.”
Cuarón and supervising sound editor and sound designer Glenn Freemantle took the approach of correlating sound and touch. Freemantle explains, “One of the concepts of sound is that it travels through vibrations. When you touch something, it resonates through that internal connection. So Ryan is touching and coming in contact with things and you hear through her.”
Sudden silence was also an integral part of the sound design. Cuarón carefully chose those moments, unexpectedly cutting away that aural link to remind the audience that the characters are in a void where nothing exists to sustain life.
Cuarón also utilized music to, as he says, “take the role of sound or give a tonal suggestion of sound.”
Freemantle collaborated closely with composer Steven Price to layer the two components. Price says, “It was great working with Glenn and his team. They were using vibrations and low frequencies to subtly underpin the action, so you feel the impacts without hearing them in the traditional sense. I wanted to do that in a different way with the music.”
Cuarón offers, “I wanted the music to be textural, to blur the line between music and sound, so I told Steve I didn’t want any percussion. It was a challenge for him because he had to score all the action and suspense without some of the fundamental instruments he would normally use in a conventional action score. He began blending more electronics with acoustic instruments to cause pulsations in place of percussion. Once he landed the concept, he just started flying with it.”
“It was a case of building intensity in the music without the usual orchestra,” Price adds. “It freed me to try anything, and do my own version of what an action cue or an emotional cue would be. The great thing about Alfonso is he’s looking to push things as far as they can go, so you’re inspired to try things you would never have thought of.”
George Clooney says, “This is a film with an exquisite filmmaker at the helm and a wonderful actress at its center. It has themes that are unbelievably resonant, more than one might expect from a ‘space movie.’ It’s about coming to terms with your own death…or your own life. And I believe it will start a lot of conversations.”
Sandra Bullock reflects, “Going into this film, I had no idea what I was capable of on so many levels, physically, emotionally and mentally. It was body-changing, mind-changing, mind-bending. I hope people who come on this amazing ride will leave the theatre also feeling transformed.”
“‘Gravity’ may be the most challenging project in which I’ve ever been involved,” David Heyman states. “There were so many facets and everyone contributed so much to achieve something unique. It is beautiful, elegant filmmaking whose complexity and difficulty tested everybody to the umpteenth degree. But none of that is visible.”
Alfonso Cuarón concludes, “It was a total collaboration, combining all the different elements of the images and sounds and extraordinary performances. We want audiences to come along on this journey…to share in the experience of floating weightless in the stunning but terrifying realm of space.”
SANDRA BULLOCK (Ryan Stone) is an Academy Award®-winning actress and one of Hollywood’s most popular and sought-after leading ladies. She most recently starred opposite Melissa McCarthy in the smash hit buddy cop comedy “The Heat.”
In 2010, she won the Oscar® for Best Actress for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy in the true-life drama “The Blind Side.” Bullock also won a Critics’ Choice Award, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® for Best Actress for her performance in the film, which grossed more than $309 million worldwide and was Oscar® nominated for Best Picture. That same year, she received another Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for her role in the romantic comedy mega-hit “The Proposal,” in which she starred opposite Ryan Reynolds and which grossed more than $317 million globally.
Bullock had already earned praise for her work in several motion pictures when she had her breakthrough role in the 1994 runaway hit “Speed.” Her next two features, “While You Were Sleeping,” for which she earned her first Golden Globe nomination, and “The Net,” were both critical and popular successes. Under her Fortis Films production company banner, she also produced and starred in “Hope Floats,” which marked her feature film producing debut; “Practical Magic”; “Gun Shy”; “Two Weeks Notice,” opposite Hugh Grant; “Miss Congeniality,” for which she received her second Golden Globe nomination; and its sequel, “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.”
She has also garnered acclaim her performances in such dramas as Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”; the Truman Capote biopic “Infamous,” in which she portrayed author Harper Lee; and the 2004 Oscar®-winning Best Picture, “Crash,” directed by Paul Haggis, for which she shared in a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® for Outstanding Performance by a Motion Picture Cast. Bullock’s other film credits include starring roles in “All About Steve,” “Premonition,” “The Lake House,” “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” “A Time to Kill,” “In Love and War,” “Two if by Sea,” “The Vanishing,” “Demolition Man,” “Wrestling Ernest Hemingway,” “The Thing Called Love,” “Forces of Nature,” “28 Days,” the animated “The Prince of Egypt,” “Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood,” and “Murder By Numbers,” which she also executive produced.
In addition to her Oscar®, Golden Globe and SAG® Awards, Bullock has received numerous awards and nominations for her acting work, including two Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, four MTV Movie Awards, an American Comedy Award, ten Teen Choice Awards, and four People’s Choice Awards for Favorite Female Movie Star. Additionally, in both 2001 and 1996, Bullock was named the ShoWest Female Star of the Year by the National Association of Theatre Owners.
Bullock is also an active supporter of a number of important causes, including the American Red Cross, and New Orleans’ Warren Easton Charter School, the oldest public high school in the state of Louisiana, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
GEORGE CLOONEY (Matt Kowalski) has garnered numerous honors, including two Academy Awards®, for his work on both sides of the camera as an actor, writer, director and producer. He has, in fact, been Oscar®-nominated in more categories than any person in cinema history: Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Director, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, and Picture. In addition, he is internationally respected for his global humanitarian efforts on behalf of a number of important causes.
Following “Gravity,” Clooney has a number of projects upcoming in 2013. He is a producer on John Wells’ “August: Osage County,” based on the Tony-winning play by Tracy Letts and featuring an all-star cast, led by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. In addition, he directed and stars in “The Monuments Men,” about the race to save priceless works of art from the Nazis. He also co-wrote and co-produced the film, in collaboration with Grant Heslov.
In 2012, Clooney won his second Oscar®, as a producer on the Best Picture winner “Argo,” directed by and starring Ben Affleck. Among the film’s many awards, “Argo” was also named Best Picture at the Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards, and Critics’ Choice Awards.
The year before, he received dual Oscar® nominations, one for Best Actor for his role in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” and another for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on the political drama “The Ides of March,” which he also directed, produced, and starred in with Ryan Gosling. For his performance in “The Descendants,” Clooney also won a Golden Globe and several critics groups’ awards, and earned BAFTA Award and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® nominations, all for Best Actor. Clooney’s work behind the camera on “The Ides of March” brought him Golden Globe nominations, for Best Director and Best Screenplay, as well as Producers Guild of America (PGA) and Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award nominations.
In 2006, Clooney won his first Oscar®, for Best Supporting Actor, for his role in “Syriana” and, that same year, also received Oscar® nominations for Best Director and for Best Original Screenplay for “Good Night, And Good Luck.” It marked the first time in Academy history that an individual received acting and directing nominations for two different films in the same year.
Clooney’s work on “Good Night, and Good Luck.” and “Syriana” also brought him numerous other accolades. For the first, he earned Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and Critics’ Choice Award nominations, for Best Director and Best Screenplay; nominations for both a Directors Guild of America Award and a WGA Award; an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Director; and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® nomination for Best Ensemble, shared with the cast. The Broadcast Film Critics Association also presented Clooney with its Freedom Award for “Good Night, and Good Luck.” In addition, he won a Golden Globe Award and earned BAFTA Award, SAG Award® and Critics’ Choice Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Syriana.”
Clooney has since earned two more Oscar® nominations in the category of Best Actor: for the title role of the 2007 drama “Michael Clayton,” on which he was also an executive producer; and for his performance in Jason Reitman’s 2009 hit “Up in the Air.” He also received Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and SAG Award® nominations for both films.
Clooney partnered with Grant Heslov to form Smokehouse Pictures, whose inaugural production was the 2008 release “Leatherheads,” which Clooney directed, co-wrote and starred in. Under their Smokehouse banner, Clooney also starred in and produced 2009’s “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” marking Heslov’s film directorial debut.
Clooney was previously partnered with Steven Soderbergh in the production company Section Eight, which produced the “Ocean’s” trilogy, directed by Soderbergh and starring Clooney as part of an all-star ensemble cast. Section Eight also produced the 2002 film “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” which marked Clooney’s directorial debut, bringing him a Special Achievement in Film Award from the National Board of Review. Other Section Eight films include the aforementioned “Michael Clayton,” “Syriana,” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.,” as well as “The Informant!,” “The Good German,” “Insomnia,” “Far From Heaven,” “The Jacket,” “Full Frontal,” and “Welcome to Collinwood.” For Section Eight’s television division, Clooney executive produced and directed five episodes of “Unscripted,” a reality-based show that debuted on HBO in 2005. He was also an executive producer on HBO’s “K Street.”
His other film acting credits include the Coen brothers’ films “Burn After Reading,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” for which Clooney won his first Golden Globe Award, and “Intolerable Cruelty”; Soderbergh’s “Solaris” and “Out of Sight”; “The Perfect Storm”; “Three Kings”; “The Peacemaker”; “Batman & Robin”; “One Fine Day”; and “From Dusk Till Dawn.” He also lent his voice to the title character in Wes Anderson’s Oscar®-nominated animated feature “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
On the small screen, Clooney has starred in several television projects but is best known for his five years on “ER.” His portrayal of Dr. Doug Ross on the hit NBC drama series earned him Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award® nominations. Additionally, he was an executive producer and star of the Golden Globe winning 2000 live television broadcast of “Fail Safe,” based on the 1962 novel of the same name. More recently, he was Emmy-nominated for his producing work on the 2010 telethon “Hope for Haiti Now.”
ALFONSO CUARÓN (Director/Screenwriter/Producer/Editor) is a three-time Oscar® nominee, who has written and directed a wide range of acclaimed films.
He made his feature film directorial debut in 1991 with “Sólo Con Tu Pareja” (“Love in the Time of Hysteria”), a dark comedy starring Daniel Giménez Cacho and Claudia Ramírez, which was the biggest box office hit in Mexico in 1992 and garnered Cuarón an Ariel Award as co-writer. Impressed by Cuarón’s first film effort, Sydney Pollack hired him to direct “Murder, Obliquely,” an episode of the neo-noir “Fallen Angels” series on Showtime. The episode, starring Laura Dern and Alan Rickman, earned Cuarón the 1993 Cable ACE Award for Best Director.
Cuarón made his American feature film debut with the critically acclaimed 1995 motion picture adaptation of the beloved children’s book A Little Princess. The film was nominated for Academy Awards® for Best Cinematography and Art Direction, and won the Los Angeles Film Critics New Generation Award. That was followed in 1998 by “Great Expectations,” a contemporary adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, which starred Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro, Anne Bancroft and Ethan Hawke.
Cuarón then returned to Mexico to direct a Spanish-speaking cast in the funny, provocative and controversial road comedy “Y Tu Mamá También,” for which he received an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Screenplay (written with his brother Carlos Cuarón) and BAFTA nominations for Best Foreign Film and Best Original Screenplay. In 2003, he directed “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the third film in the most successful motion picture franchise of all time, based on the best-selling books by author J.K. Rowling.
Cuarόn’s next project, “Children of Men,” which he co-wrote with Timothy Sexton, was one of the most talked about films of 2006, and was celebrated by critics and film fans for its groundbreaking techniques, including several high-impact tracking shots. The film brought two Oscar® nominations to Cuarón, for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. It also received a number of other awards and nominations, including a third Oscar® nod for Best Cinematography, and two BAFTA Awards, for Best Cinematography and Best Production Design.
After producing friend Guillermo del Toro’s globally acclaimed 2006 film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Cuarón formed the independent production company Cha Cha Cha with fellow Mexican-born filmmakers del Toro and director Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu. The company produced Iñárritu’s Oscar®- and BAFTA Award-nominated 2010 feature “Biutiful.”
DAVID HEYMAN (Producer) is the producer of all eight “Harry Potter” films, which is the top-grossing film franchise of all time.
His other feature film producing credits include the comedy “Yes Man,” starring Jim Carrey; Francis Lawrence’s science fiction thriller “I Am Legend,” starring Will Smith; Mark Herman’s acclaimed drama “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,” starring Vera Farmiga and David Thewlis; and the independent drama “Is Anybody There?,” directed by John Crowley and starring Michael Caine.
In 2003 Heyman became the first ever British producer to be named ShoWest’s Producer of the Year, and in 2011, CineEurope named him Producer of the Decade.
JONÁS CUARÓN (Screenwriter) makes his major feature film writing debut with “Gravity,” which also marks his first collaboration with his father, Alfonso Cuarón.
Cuarón previously wrote, directed and produced the independent film “Year of the Nail,” on which he also served as cinematographer and editor. For his work on the film, he won a Special Artistic Achievement Award at the 2007 Thessaloniki Film Festival, where he was also nominated for a Golden Alexander Award. That same year, he directed the documentary short “The Shock Doctrine.”
Chris deFaria (Executive Producer) is President, Digital Production, Animation and Visual Effects for Warner Bros. Pictures. His recent projects include Zack Snyder’s blockbuster “Man of Steel”; Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”; and the record-breaking conclusion to the “Harry Potter” film franchise, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.”
He also served as an executive producer on Snyder’s animated adventure “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” and action fantasy “Sucker Punch,” as well as George Miller’s “Happy Feet Two.”
Spearheading the studio’s expanding efforts in innovative animation and hybrid filmmaking, deFaria was instrumental in the production of “300,” “Corpse Bride” and “Happy Feet.” At Warner Bros., he has also been involved in such film productions as the “Dark Knight” trilogy, “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Watchmen,” “Clash of the Titans,” and “The Matrix” trilogy. Prior to that, deFaria produced the hit “Cats & Dogs” and the combination animation/live action comedy “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.”
He is the recipient of three regional Emmy Awards and two NATPE Iris awards. His extensive television credits include numerous documentaries, primetime specials and longform projects, including, as producer, “In Concert Against AIDS,” NBC’s “And Then She Was Gone” and “Tremors II.”
A graduate of UCLA, deFaria is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
NIKKI PENNY (Executive Producer) came to “Gravity” with an extensive background in visual effects. She previously served as a visual effects producer on Louis Leterrier’s “Clash of the Titans,” Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and Wolfgang Petersen’s “Troy.” She also collaborated with Burton as the visual effects producer and unit production manager on “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
She had earlier been the head of production at the London-based effects house Mill Film Ltd., where she served as a visual effects producer on “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and “Gladiator,” and as digital effects producer on “Plunkett & Macleane.” Penny also had experience in production prior to segueing to the visual effects field.
STEPHEN JONES (Executive Producer) is currently executive producing the action adventures “300: Rise of an Empire” and “Hercules: The Thracian Wars,” both due out in 2014.
He was previously an executive producer on the films “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” “Knowing” and “Nim’s Island.” Jones also served as a co-producer on “Fool’s Gold,” “Superman Returns” and “Son of the Mask,” and as co-producer/unit production manager on “Peter Pan.”
Additionally, Jones was the production manager on the George Lucas-directed blockbusters “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” His credits as a unit production manager also include “Ghost Ship,” “Scooby-Doo,” “Red Planet” and “Quigley Down Under.”
EMMANUEL LUBEZKI (Director of Photography) is a five-time Oscar® nominee and BAFTA Award winner. He received two of his Oscar® nods for his collaborations with director Alfonso Cuarón on “A Little Princess” and “Children of Men.” His work on the latter also brought him a BAFTA Award and awards from both the American and Australian Cinematographers Societies, as well as a number of critics associations’ awards, including the Los Angeles Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics. He has enjoyed a long association with Cuarón, beginning in 1991 with “Sólo Con Tu Pareja” (“Love in the Time of Hysteria”) and also including “Great Expectations” and “Y Tu Mama Tambien.”
Lubezki’s other Oscar® nominations came for his work on Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow,” and the Terrence Malick-directed films “The New World” and “The Tree of Life.” For the last, he was again honored by the American and Australian Cinematographers Societies and the Los Angeles Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics, in addition to the New York Film Critics Circle, and the critics groups of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, among others.
He has since reunited with Malick on “To the Wonder,” as well as the upcoming “Knight of Cups” and an as-yet-untitled film project. Lubezki’s upcoming films also include Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman.”
His long list of film credits also includes “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “The Assassination of Richard Nixon,” “Ali,” “Meet Joe Black,” “The Birdcage,” “A Walk in the Clouds,” “Reality Bites” and “Like Water for Chocolate.”
ANDY NICHOLSON (Production Designer) has just completed work on the upcoming science fiction action drama “Divergent,” starring Kate Winslet and Shailene Woodley under the direction of Neil Burger. He also recently served as the production designer on Andrew Niccol’s sci-fi thriller “The Host.”
Nicholson has worked several times with director Tim Burton, starting in 1999 as an art director on “Sleepy Hollow,” for which he won an Art Directors Guild (ADG) Award. He earned another ADG Award nomination for his work as an art director on Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and has since collaborated with the director as a supervising art director on “Alice in Wonderland” and as a visual development art director on “Frankenweenie.”
Nicholson won another ADG Award for his work on Chris Weitz’s “The Golden Compass,” and received ADG Award nominations for Paul Greengrass’s “The Bourne Ultimatum” and Joe Johnston’s “Captain America.”
His credits as a supervising art director also include Johnston’s “The Wolfman,” Guy Ritchie’s “RocknRolla,” Nancy Meyers’ “The Holiday” and Anthony Minghella’s “Breaking and Entering.” His additional art direction credits include Tony Scott’s “Spy Game,” Wolfgang Petersen’s “Troy” and Neil Jordan’s “The Good Thief.”
MARK SANGER (Editor) most recently edited the upcoming action adventure “The Last Knights,” starring Morgan Freeman and Clive Owen. He previously collaborated with Alfonso Cuarón as a visual effects editor on “Children of Men.” He was also a visual effects editor on the Tim Burton-directed films “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
As an assistant editor or supervising assistant, Sanger also worked on “The Mummy,” “The World is Not Enough” and “Tomorrow Never Dies.”
TIM WEBBER (Visual Effects Supervisor) is an Oscar® nominee and four-time Emmy winner. He earned an Academy Award® nomination as a member of the visual effects team on Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster “The Dark Knight.” In addition, he shared in BAFTA Award nominations for the effects in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men.”
As Chief Creative Officer of the leading effects house Framestore, Webber has also served as a visual effects supervisor on such diverse projects as “Avatar,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Libertine” and “Love Actually.” His film credits as a visual effects supervisor also include “Notting Hill” and “Lawn Dogs.”
On television, Webber won three of his Emmy Awards for his VFX work on “Dinotopia,” “Merlin” and “Gulliver’s Travels.” He also won an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Main Title Design for “The 10th Kingdom.” In addition, he has directed a number of commercials.
JANY TEMIME (Costume Designer) has designed the costumes for six of the blockbuster “Harry Potter” films, winning a Costume Designers Guild (CDG) Award for her work on the final film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” She also created the costumes for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”; “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”; “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” for which she received a CDG Award nomination; “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”; and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.”
Temime most recently won a CDG Award for Sam Mendes’ James Bond action thriller, “Skyfall,” starring Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem. She previously earned a British Independent Film Award nomination for her costume designs for “High Heels and Low Lifes,” starring Minnie Driver. She had earlier won a BAFTA Cymru Award for her work on Marc Evans’ “House of America,” and the 1995 Utrecht Film Festival’s Golden Calf for Best Costume Design for Marleen Gorris’ Oscar®-winning “Antonia’s Line.”
Temime is currently working on “Hercules: The Thracian Wars,” being directed by Brett Ratner and starring Dwayne Johnson in the title role.
Her additional credits encompass more than 40 international motion picture and television projects, including “Wrath of the Titans,” starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes; Martin McDonagh’s “In Bruges,” starring Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson; Cuarón’s “Children of Men,” starring Clive Owen; Agnieszka Holland’s “Copying Beethoven,” starring Ed Harris; Beeban Kidron’s “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” starring Renée Zellweger; Werner Herzog’s “Invincible,” starring Tim Roth; Todd Komarnicki’s “Resistance”; Marleen Gorris’ “The Luzhin Defence”; Paul McGuigan’s “Gangster No. 1”; Edward Thomas’s “Rancid Aluminum”; Mike van Diem’s “The Character,” the 1998 Oscar® winner for Best Foreign Language Film; Danny Deprez’s “The Ball”; George Sluizer’s “The Commissioner” and “Crimetime”; Ate de Jong’s “All Men Are Mortal”; and Frans Weisz’s “The Last Call.”
STEVEN PRICE (Composer) is a critically acclaimed musician and composer who has lent his talents to films in virtually every genre. He recently composed the score for the film “The World’s End,” a science fiction action comedy directed by Edgar Wright. In 2011, he created the music for the sci-fi action film “Attack the Block,” for which he won several film festival awards.
After studying Music at Cambridge University, Price’s career began in the London studio of Gang of Four guitarist/producer Andy Gill. He went on to work as a programmer, arranger and performer for the film composer Trevor Jones, before an introduction to Howard Shore at Abbey Road Studios led to his role as music editor on “The Lord of The Rings” Trilogy.
An extensive period of music editing followed the success of these movies, seeing Price contribute to such film projects as “Batman Begins,” for Christopher Nolan, and “Paul,” for Greg Mottola. For the film “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” Price served as music editor and collaborated with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, composing additional music for the movie. Additionally he contributed original music to Richard Curtis’s film “Pirate Radio.”
Price has also scored several productions on major UK television networks, as well as advertising campaigns in both the UK and U.S.