At this point, you’ve either seen “Gravity” already or you’re just plain not interested. The movie made $716 million worldwide and it won seven Academy Awards just over two months ago. Director Alfonso Cuarón talked about the making of the movie on so many different occasions now that the film’s production history is probably common knowledge for those who consider themselves to be big fans of the film. But if there’s one group who can’t seem to stop talking about “Gravity,” it’s the Academy. They held an event at the DGA Theater this past week called “Deconstructing Gravity” where they conducted a Q&A with editor Mark Sanger, animation supervisor Max Solomon, and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber. Also present for the event was astronaut Cady Coleman who gave a speech commending the makers behind “Gravity” for their exceptional work.
During the Q&A part of the event, which was hosted by Bill Kroyer, the three men talked about how the use of previsualization helped to shape the film. As Sanger explains, “We would take these storyboarded scenes and give it to the animators who would then put together a very rough previs to try and tell the story better than with the boards.” Sanger emphasized that the painstaking process of making storyboards, handing them to the animators, getting the animation back, re-writing, and doing this process over and over again was crucial in making the film. “We did this on all sequences; we were blocking the movie in advance of the shoot. For two reasons: one, it was necessary to start telling the story and to know the shape of the film and know how the film would ultimately come together in a more cohesive way than with most other films. Second reason, the shots were so complex that everybody in pre-production needed to use the cut as their basis in calculating the logistics behind the shoot.”
Sanger and Tim Webber both humorously recalled how Alfonso Cuarón promised that the movie would merely be a six-week shoot. What complicated things and made the film’s production much more difficult to pull off was the combination of zero gravity and Cuarón’s signature long takes. Tim Webber elaborated on these challenges: “Alfonso was pushing the technique he developed on earlier films to use the long, roaming developing shots as a technique for storytelling.” And these long shots “added complexity to everything else you did in the movie.” He also noted that 70% of the film is made up of 17 shots. Good lord.
Lastly, Cady Coleman gave a speech noting the similarities between Hollywood and NASA and how they both capture people’s imagination. She had met Sandra Bullock through a family friend and she talked about the conversations she had with the actress and how that helped Bullock’s approach to her character. She concludes:
“You in Hollywood, you create movies, films and music. You will continue to inspire the next generations and so will we at NASA. Our children will see themselves in your movies and shows and also see themselves in our real life space dramas and our daily work in a place where failure isn’t an option but flying from place to place is a reality and exploration is unstoppable. NASA and my space station crew salute the makers of Gravity as fellow space travelers. We thank them for helping the world in visualizing our mission and showing everyone that there are explorers among us.” Watch below.