Share & Connect
Once the script was finalized for the new outer space action-packed ‘Lockout’, the directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger suggested to their mentor Luc Besson that they “previsualize” the whole movie in the form of a storyboard and animated modeling of the sets, including M.S. One, of course, and costumes. Luc Besson immediately agreed.
Even though the directors later deviated from the previsualization, it captures the desired visual atmosphere and testifies to the humor in the film. “With a very precise idea of the end result to hand,” notes Stephen St. Leger, we were able to strike the right balance between thriller and comedy because it would be very easy for the film to fall into parody or, on the other hand, take itself too seriously.”
Previsualization also offered a tool for the heads of department to picture the most complex action scenes and stunts to respond to the directors’ wishes. It was especially useful considering that the technicians were of diverse origins (British, Irish, French, Serbian). The power of the images transcended the language barrier.
In all, around fifteen people, including the directors, four story boarders and 3D graphic artists, worked on the previsualization for four months before the actors added their dialogue. “As a result,” says producer Leila Smith, “we had a kind of animated model of the final movie with all the key scenes, such as the freefall to earth and the motorbike chase.”
An optimized budget
Although the film was initiated and produced by EuropaCorp in France, it was shot in Serbia with English-speaking actors, while benefitting from Ireland’s tax incentives. Although the two directors are from Dublin, it was difficult to envision hiring sound stages there. “Dublin’s studios are excellent facilities but very expensive and we needed at least 1,000-1,500 square meters.
We had a decent budget, but it’s the directors’ debut feature and we constantly had to make trade-offs.” Eventually, it was decided that the shoot would take place in brand new studios in Belgrade, Serbia. Even so, in view of the many visual effects, EuropaCorp decided to entrust post-production to a specialized company in Dublin. This also enabled the movie to claim Ireland’s tax credit.
There was a further focus on budgets through set recycling. Several sets combined physical constructions and green screen, such as the clover-shaped LOPD with space and the Earth in the background, and the expressway where the motorcycle chase takes place. “For that scene, which involved a circular tracking shot,” recounts Leila Smith, “we resorted to using a system of hydraulic pistons to be able to move in every possible direction.” The sets aboard M.S.
One included the secure area where the character of Snow sticks a syringe into Emilie’s eye, the infirmary where they find several corpses and the general population area of the prison. The parts of the sets that the actors touched, such as the pillars in general population, were built and installed in front of a green screen in order to complete the picture in post-production.
Like a giant Lego pieces, the sets were systematically recycled. As a result, the shooting schedule worked around the availability of the sets. “Every day,” recalls Leila Smith, “the production designer checked with the directors, first assistant and us to be sure that any given scene was in the can, so that within a few days the set could be dismantled. While they were building another set, we switched to another studio.”
The film benefitted from the creativity of production designer Romek Delimata, who often found ingenious and unexpected solutions. Various locations in Belgrade, such as subway corridors and the dark alley reminiscent of ‘Blade Runner’, came into play.
The scene in the Oval Office of the White House was shot in an Amstel brewery in the suburbs of Belgrade. Producer Marc Libert says, “Romek is a geek, heavily influenced by ‘Star Wars’, who spent his time scribbling on photos of locations to sketch out the changes that needed to be made. That way, out of almost nothing, he obtained spectacular results.”
Image Courtesy of Lockout