Freddy Chavez: Immortals

Henry Cavill as Theseus in Immortals, in theaters 11-11-11

The much-anticipated Greek mythology battle epic Immortals debuted in theaters at number one at the box office this weekend. The special effects are a huge part of this movie. From Mount Olympus to a village by the sea to bloody battle scenes, the visual effects team had its work cut out for them. Freddy Chavez, a Visual Effects Compositor, was able to talk a little bit about his part in the success of this visually-appealing film.

AG: So let’s start by talking about exactly what it is you do. I know you’re the visual effects compositor, but can you describe what you do, in layman’s terms, for the readers?
FC: We recreate backgrounds, replace blue screens, use technology to recreate environmental elements, weapons, doubles and stuff like that. It’s a wide range of tasks.

AG: What made you want to do this for a living?
FC: When I was a kid, I loved horror movies. I used to take my dad’s camera and make movies, show them to my family and friends. It started as a hobby, but then I started working.

AG: You loved horror movies, and you actually got to work on the new prequel for the 80s horror classic, The Thing. What was that like?
FC: I grew up a big fan. I think it’s a generational thing. Nowadays, technology is so different. A large percent of the movie was done with computer effects instead of makeup effects. The makeup effects from the 80s were definitely a reference for us, though. It gave us a base to start with. We replayed it for 3D, and it came out great.

AG: What do you see for the future of special effects? What do you think will come next?
FC: That’s a good question. Everything started going so fast after Avatar and now 3D. Immortals actually started out as 2D but then we recreated it in 3D. It’s all just going so fast right now, it’s hard to keep up and to learn new technology. Each different movie is a different approach. There’s lots of change, but it’s all good change.

AG: Were you a fan of Greek mythology before working on this movie? If not, what did you learn or enjoy about it?
FC: I wasn’t born in the 50s or 60s, but the stop motion animation of Greek mythology movies was a great inspiration. I’ve just always been fascinated by movies, and working on Immortals was like going back to the stuff we used to love as kids.

AG: So you’ve worked on a lot of really great movies with crazy special effects: The Thing, District 9, TRON: Legacy, Eclipse, Avatar, Watchmen, etc. Is there one of these movies you liked working on most?
FC: I would have to say District 9. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects with Avatar as runner up which is a big achievement as well. That department was composed of myself and all the people from Image Engine that worked on different 3D and 2D departments. It was also fun because it was a sci-fi movie. I’m looking to go more into directing now.

AG: What advice can you give students as well as others studying computer design about forging a career like yours?
FC: At the moment, there are really good tools on the Internet. There is so much to learn. I went all the way to Canada and spent so much money. My advice is to take advantage of what’s out there on the Internet for free. There is a very good chance of getting a job if you build a portfolio.

AG: Anything else you think people need to know about Immortals?
FC: I hope people enjoy the movie. I actually haven’t seen it yet either on the big screen. We also have a new project coming out in a little over a year, with the director of District 9, and it’s called Elysium. It should be out in 2013. The company I work for, Image Engine, which is located in Canada, is working on it.

AG: What can we expect from you next?
FC: I’m hoping to do some more directing. I recently directed a short film called Shhh, inspired by Guillermo del Toro. I got the inspiration watching an interview del Toro gave about when he was a kid. It’ll hopefully debut in the fall of 2012.

AG: Well thank you so much for your time, I look forward to watching the movie.
FC: Thank you.

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