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Set Visit: Gamer

Nov. 30, 2007by: JoBlo
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No matter how exciting the film at hand, being on a film set can often be a dull and tedious process. And yet, there was something extremely satisfying about being on the set of the upcoming action sci-fi flick from CRANK creators Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, tentatively titled GAME. Perhaps it was the warning of a crewmember as he yelled, "Falling body parts!" followed by a smattering of limbs being exploded into the air, as well as their eventual collapse onto the automotive wreckage below.

Normally studios set it up so that any observational visits to a set happen on an uneventful day of shooting. But based on my experience with the obviously action-packed GAME, I'm guessing no day of shooting will be without its fair share of explosions and body bags. This makes me all the more fortunate to be able to fill you in on the awesomeness of the sequence that was currently being shot.

But first, a little about the project.

THE FILM

PLOT: The movie is set in a dystopian future of implanted nano-devices, where the ultimate online simulation environment is humans remote-controlling other humans in mass-scale, multiplayer online gaming. The lead character, played by Gerard Butler ("300"), is a worldwide sensation, and the top-ranked warrior in a game called "Slayers." With his every move tracked by millions, he battles to regain his identity and bring down the entire system.

It's worth noting that this synopsis is only the tip of the iceberg, as the details behind the game, the futuristic society, and the characters add up to something decidedly more complex. To start, Butler's character (called Kable in the game) is, along with all of the other participants in the game, a prisoner on death row, and is actually being controlled a wealthy young boy named Simon (played by Logan Lerman, most recently seen in 3:10 TO YUMA as Christian Bale's son).

In other words, forget the PS3, 360, and Wii, this is the next generation of gaminga society where, if you're rich enough, your video game sessions will consist of controlling the movements of a real life person as they endure the brutality of each battle, and all of it's filmed for the world to see. Just don't plan on getting a second life if they die.

The film also stars Michael C. Hall (from TV's "Dexter") as the game's villainous creator, Alison Lohman and Ludacris as part of a resistance against the game (called HUMANZ), John Leguizamo as one of Butler's fellow prison inmates, and Kyra Sedgwick (from TV's "The Closer") as a reporter.

Here's a rundown of other info concerning the film's story:

  • If a prisoner completes 30 levels of the game, they are let free. Butler's character is currently at level 27.
  • Throughout the game, you are able to earn upgrades, which includes getting better armor and weapons.
  • There are other people in the game called Genericons, who are prisoners with lesser sentences.
  • Surrounding the players are "fly cams," which are orb-shaped video cameras that will be CGI'd in later.
  • "Slayers" is actually the second game created by Michael C. Hall's character, the first being "Society," a Sims-like version of "Slayers" without any violence.

THE SET

Lionsgate took the liberty of flying us out to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where filming is currently taking place (they were on day 9 of a 53 day shoot when we showed up). After enjoying the fine dining of the hotel we were set up in, a van came to pick us up and take us to the set. As we neared the location, off in the distance was what looked to be a stadium, with a metal ceiling covering the top. Dust clouds were emanating from the inside.

We hopped out of the van to get a closer look.

The entire set was covered in mounds of dirt. Wooden spiked barriers covered in barbed wire were littered across the arena, as were about half a dozen broken down cars, many of which were set ablaze. BMX bikers darted up and around the scene as a geared up Gerard Butler stood menacingly with his gun ready to fire. And then, an explosion. The fire launched full blast into the air, debris flying everywhere, and the temperature rising exponentially for about three seconds. It was at this point I realized, "This film is gonna kick ass."

Twenty feet away they had a collection of monitors showing the take being filmed, but the directors were up close and personal on set, with Mark Neveldine operating the camera.

Surrounding the area were backlit white sheets, which we were told would later be turned into holographic advertisements. It will be interesting to see whether they go with brand-name products, or something made up. At any rate, it was confirmed they'd at least be "exotic," probably giving off the vibe of those whacked out commercials you might see in Japan.

Also occupying the set were a small group of extras playing Genericons (discussed above), spread across bleachers on the sidelines. Additionally, we were informed that everything surrounding the arena would all be CGI'd in later, basically having the prisoners battle in a confined, isolated part of the city.

Having just finished one of his takes, Gerard Butler rose from the storm of dust and removed his army vest. The just recorded dailies played back on the monitors as he chugged down a cup of coffee, watching attentively. It's looking good. He then proceeded to gear up again and get right back into the action.

A bit later, writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor also made their way to the monitors, reviewing previously shot footage. Recognizing a couple of the other journalists (Peter from slashfilm.com, and Alex from firstshowing.net), they asked us how we were doing. "Haven't seen you before," Mark pointed out as he bumped fists with me. Apparently, they had a private party with a bunch of the online journalists at one of the past Comic Cons. Looks like I've been missing out. These are definitely the kind of guys you'd wanna chill and drink a beer with.

THE SCENE

As explained earlier, Gerard Butler's character Kable is one of the top competitors in the game Slayer. Our visit to the shoot took place while they were filming one of the four main action sequences (or, "games"), each of which we were told would be vastly different from one another.

Throughout the evening, we were able to see several different shots of the sequence being filmed. Surprisingly, this consisted of much more than just getting various angles of the same exact scene.

In one take, we find Kable escaping the bikers circling around him as he darts behind a dilapidated van, explosions going off in the background. In another, the camera chases after him like something you'd see in a war film, possibly acting as an indication of what a third-person view of the game looks like. And then of course, as mentioned earlier, there's a bit where a body is exploded into the air and the limbs come raining down. One of the legs actually dropped down on the truck just in front of me. Let me tell ya, you know you've had a good day when it ends with blown up body parts flying around you.

We were eventually invited to move closer in on the action, and Brian Taylor went on to elaborate on the type of shot they were working on next.

Taylor: I'll explain what this is; this is weird. So if you're standing in front of a 3D screen, and you're controlling a game, that's what this is. But what we're saying is that the environment the game is in is so realistic, and so three-dimensional, we're actually going to be bringing the kid who's controlling the game into the battlefield. On screen, it's gonna seem like he's controlling it at home. This rig will allow Logan Lerman, who's playing Simon, to actually be gliding along with Gerard, who's going to be running. But when you see it, it won't seem like he's moving; it will seem like he's standing still in front of a screen and tracking a character along like you would in Grand Theft Auto or something like that. It's a little bizarre. It will make sense visually.


Writer/director Brian Taylor

This take was easily the most intriguing of the night, and in case that explanation didn't quite make sense, it consisted of actor Logan Lerman (as the boy Simon, who's controlling Kable) sitting right in front of the camera as it rode across a track, with Gerard Butler running up ahead mimicking Simon's movements. I cannot wait to see how this type of in-world visual translates to the big screen.

OTHER COMMENTS

Available to answer some of the other questions we had was Executive Producer David Rubin, who kicked things off by discussing one of the other major battle sequences in the film.

Rubin: Did you guy get a chance to drive through downtown at all? We built this big structure down town, on the four corners. We are going to destroy it in the middle of one of the battles. This is right in the middle of downtown. Albuquerque had four corners that were vacant. Which is strange to see in the middle of a city. We took advantage of that, and we built a set. One of the major battles takes place in what we call "Container City". It's kind of exciting. We just shot the beginning of that battle last weekend.

Does Gerard Butler have his natural accent in this movie? Or does he speak with an American accent?

Am I allowed to say that? Does anybody want to hear that? He is speaking in an American accent for this movie. That is, when he speaks. There is a lot of action. There isn't a lot of dialogue.

Did Gerard come onto this movie after his success with 300?

Neveldine and Taylor have known him for a long time, and they have always wanted to work with him. This just seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Do the players know that there is someone playing them?

They have no idea. You see them trying to figure it out while they are being played in the game.

And that concludes this part of the set visit for GAME (the title for which is confirmed to change). Stay tuned for our short but sweet interview with Gerard Butler!

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10:23AM on 11/30/2007
i didn't read the whole thing, but from what i read, it sounds a bit like The Running Man starring Arnold.
i didn't read the whole thing, but from what i read, it sounds a bit like The Running Man starring Arnold.
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9:19AM on 11/30/2007

Power-ups?

No magic mushrooms, obscure porkchops or 1-ups here. Throw in some BFGs and I might be interested.
Mix of Existenz and Running Man perhaps.

Crank was a trip and this would establish them further.

Butler as Kable in this film would definitely rock as Cable (from X-Men)in a solo Origins film.

That's my take.
No magic mushrooms, obscure porkchops or 1-ups here. Throw in some BFGs and I might be interested.
Mix of Existenz and Running Man perhaps.

Crank was a trip and this would establish them further.

Butler as Kable in this film would definitely rock as Cable (from X-Men)in a solo Origins film.

That's my take.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
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