Posted on Thursday, July 10th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
While you’re watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, you won’t suspect anything unusual about the way the film was made. But some scenes were shot with actors performing their roles more than 1,000 miles away from each other while director Matt Reeves directed over Skype, from 6,328 miles away. Reeves reveals to me that he directed sequences using Skype video conferencing with Andy Serkis performing Caesar in his performance capture studio in London while Jason Clarke interacted with the ape from a hotel room in Rome. Find out more about the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes skype filming, after the jump.
Reeves reveals how the performance capture technology allowed him to reshoot the final shot of the movie (no spoilers, don’t worry) with weeks left before the film was set to premiere, directing Andy Serkis over Skype:
This is the first movie where I’ve ever directed scenes over Skype. And mo-cap enables you to do that. And actually that last shot, when I realized that that was not the right ending, I went to Weta and I said, okay, so we gotta do something different. And they’re like, well you’re gonna need a performance. So we did a thing where Andy was in London and he was at [his performance capture studio] the Imaginarium. And we hooked up via Skype and I looked at a big plasma and I talked him through what was going on in that last sequence as he’s coming down those steps. And we basically did it over Skype. And then I got the take that I liked and I gave it to Weta and I said, okay, here it is. Go get to work. And they very quickly brought it to life under, you know, that was a crazy crash course. I was getting worried about that. I was like oh God, this is so late. And, you know, can you guys do this? And they’re like, we think we can do this. Our pipeline is set up and we have enough familiarity with how to do Caesar that we think that if you can get us the performance you want, that we can give you the shot that you want. And literally the final shot of the movie was the final shot that was finalized.
But that isn’t the only scene Reeves directed over Skype. Sometimes his actors weren’t even in the same city, or even the same country:
But there were other scenes, too, where I went back and wanted to change things that we’d already shot. And so Jason Clarke was in Rome shooting this Everest movie and he was in a hotel room after a day’s shooting. And we were on the Volume [in Manhattan Beach California] and he was performing the new version of the scene to Andy who was in a fluorescent room and he was on Skype. And they played off of Skype and then a few weeks later I went back and shot, I got Jason here in L.A. and I shot him and Keri Russell against greenscreen. And then I had Andy over Skype and they played to Andy on Skype. And I got that. And then we put that whole sequence together and that’s all been in the last six weeks. So it’s crazy what you can do.
Could Dawn of the Planet of the Apes be the first live action film to ever shoot additional photography across multiple countries using Skype? Reeves is unsure:
I don’t know if we’re the only one, or if we’re the first movie to have done a scene on Skype. But it’s certainly the first time I’ve done it. That kind of thing has been done where somebody is on a set somewhere and you send a crew and they get a shot of him against green screen. Like “oh, we couldn’t get him to come to L.A.” or wherever you are. But the idea of actors actually acting over the Internet off of each other, that’s gotta be a first. It may not be, but it’s certainly– (joking) I’m gonna take credit for the first. How about that?