Magazine article Screen International

'Fantastic Beasts 2' VFX Chief on Puppets, JK Rowling and Brexit

Magazine article Screen International

'Fantastic Beasts 2' VFX Chief on Puppets, JK Rowling and Brexit

Article excerpt

Three-time Bafta Film Award nominee Christian Manz has been working in the Harry Potter universe for a decade and a half.

Visual effects (VFX) supervisor Christian Manz is 16 years into his work on the Harry Potter franchise, but he has all the enthusiasm of someone just starting out. “The exciting thing when you’re doing a film series is reading the script for the next one, but then knowing that as soon as you’ve read it, what’s in your head has got to stay secret for another two years,” he says.

Manz, who is creative director at VFX studio Framestore, was Bafta-nominated for best special visual effects for work on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, alongside VFX colleagues Tim Burke, Andy Kind and David Watkins. The nomination was Manz’s third of the franchise, after Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 in 2011 and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them in 2017. He explains that it is recognition of a lengthy involvement with each project. “We’re on it the longest — with VFX, you start really at the beginning. We started Crimes Of Grindelwald in January 2017, shot from July until Christmas, and were in post-production from Christmas until the end of September 2018.”

The entire VFX process is like making the film several times over, Manz says. They begin with “previs” (pre-visualisation), through which key sequences are conceived to assist Crimes Of Grindelwald (and Potter regular) director David Yates in understanding how scenes will look before filming. For this film, these included the opening carriage chase, the Zouwu (one of the titular beasts, resembling an elephant-sized cat) and the final scene in which many of the characters battle among blue flames.

Production begins while previs is still happening, and there are always members of the VFX team on set — often Manz or fellow lead supervisor Burke. “We’re there working with David not only technically — we’ve got a team of people who are there recording data and making sure we’ve got everything, but also advising.”

Puppets provide focus

In the super-advanced, highly computerised VFX world of 2019, some of that advice centres around… puppets. Not Punch and Judy playthings, but stand-ins for what will become a piece of animation, in scenes typically involving Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, zoologist of magical creatures and author of the story’s Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them textbook.

“Learning from the first film was really important,” says Manz. “The puppets can act. …

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