STARBURST: You’ve spoken before about being a fan of the original 1995 anime Ghost In The Shell, so was it more exciting or more nerve-wracking commencing work on the live action film?
Guillaume Rocheron: It was a very exciting prospect as I kind of grew up watching the original, and it’s really something that I’ve always loved. Through the years, every time you watch it you find so much depth. It’s just such an interesting world, and more and more relevant in today’s world. Because of that, I was really excited about making a motion picture. The original is fantastic, but we were looking to create something completely different. That gave us the creative freedom to play around with it, as what works as a cartoon doesn’t always work as a film. We got to design the world.
Was there an aspect of the world you felt most keen to explore?
It’s exciting because there’s so much. It’s a universe that has cyber-enhancements everywhere, over-population and the advancement of vast cities. It’s somewhere you need visual effects to bring to life, and you need the audience to go with you in the story. There is conflict between humanity and technology and that goes to the core of the story. The audience has to really buy the world.
You balanced practical and visual effects in the film. Was that part of making the world feel as real as possible?
Absolutely. Rupert (Sanders, director) always said that, even though there are such advanced visuals, he wanted the world to feel tactile. We embraced this approach and we aimed to film with some animatronics. The “shelling” sequence, for example, was designed on a computer and then we looked at what we could create for real and then film. We worked with WETA in New Zealand to build the skeleton, but filmed it against a blue screen and brought in the visual effects. So, in that scene, there’s a combination of the two; in the beginning of the sequence there is animatronic and visual effects, then completely visual effects, and towards the end it's animatronic again. We mixed practical mannequins with little touches. Our approach was to assess each scene and see what made sense and where. Finding the best combination was key, making sure as an audience you really bought into the world.
And was that the same with the cities?
Yes, we treated the city-scapes in much the same way. Some things we shot entirely on green screen as there was too much, such as the water fight. It was too complicated and choreographed to do practically. For the jumping shot, we shot on green screen, but we used Hong Kong as the backdrop. We found lots of streets that were gritty and imperfect. This gave us an incredible patina and palette to work from. We changed some of the architecture but we started from something that had happy accidents. Some restaurants had steam coming out of them or people would just walk across the shot. If you shoot everything on green screen you’re not necessarily capturing authenticity. Sometimes films can look too digital.
What do you think will be the next major advancement in visual effects?
It’s an intriguing question because it’s the same challenges as filmmaking challenges, but the Holy Grail is to create digital humans. Over the past few years, on this film and my next one, visual effects is a tool that facilitates storytelling, and we’re working hard to make it more readily available. I think the next big leap will be being able to visualise what you want on set or in pre-production, rather than just in post-production. That way, you can really look at a story or a script and visualise what you want. This will lead to better worlds being created and better characters being realised. There really is no limit.
Ghost in the Shell is available for digital download now and Blu-ray and DVD on August 7th.