Let’s dive deep into the Making Of Mad Max
In this making of Mad Max: Fury Road post, we’ve put together the best articles, interviews and videos we can find on how this film was made. Mad Max: Fury Road has been one of the biggest reboot success stories of 2015, although it was hardly surprising. If you put Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in any film it’s probably going to get some traction. If you combine that with one of the biggest cult franchises in history and a not too shabby budget of $150m…it’s going to be okay.
There are of course many films that on paper should be a hit, but they don’t quite make it to the high box office sales predicted. Jupiter Ascending anyone? So why do some films smash the box office and others don’t? Well, because they didn’t deliver on the promise the A-list cast and crazy budgets make. There are a lot of moving parts in a film production. Cinematography, directing, lighting, screenwriting, acting, VFX, SFX…the list is endless. For a film to be truly successful, all of these elements have to seamlessly work together. With that being said, let’s take a look at a film that did deliver, here’s the making of Mad Max.
In case you missed it, let’s start with the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Fury Road is the fourth instalment of George Millers Mad Max franchise and to date, the most successful. Miller approached the script wanting to engage with audiences throughout the world, regardless of native tongue and culture. The idea was to use culturally common symbolism that is recognisable by cinema goers throughout the world. So, Miller relied heavily on visual storytelling. Which may not surprise you, given the epic nature of this films cinematography.
We love the old-school live-action style of Fury Road, it created such a unique and immersive experience. Miller had toyed with the idea of making this film as an animation, Anime style. Imagine that! I’m sure it would have been a masterpiece all the same but we’re glad he made the decision to go with live-action.
Variety published an article about George Miller and the story of Mad Max. How it launched his career 36 years ago and how it’s still drawing in audiences today, you can read that article here.
The Visual FX of Mad Max
It’s obvious where to start when writing a making of Mad Max article. With the visuals. This film looked phenomenal, thanks in no small part to the stunning visual FX created by Alter Ego, based in Toronto. Although most of the film was live-action, there are always VFX going on in the background. This 30 minute behind the scenes video gives you a complete overview of what happens, well, behind the scenes.
It’s unusual to find such an in-depth behind the scenes video for films (maybe not so much these days) like Mad Max. The above video goes into great detail about how the team behind fury road created the stunning film. We hear from (among others) the art director and the fight director, we see how they captured some of the stunning shots and how they created the iconic vehicles.
Wether you are a fan of the film or not, the behind the scenes video will give you a small glimpse into movie making on this humungous scale. If you are a budding filmmaker, this is exactly the kind of video you should be watching each day.
The Cinematography of Mad Max: Fury Road
One thing everyone can agree on with this film, is that it looks stunning and that kind of thing doesn’t happen by accident. The cinematographer on Fury Road was John Seale.
John Seale is renowned in the business for his stunning cinematography. He won and Oscar for “The English Patient” and at the young age of 70, he found himself in a desert surrounded by post-apocalyptic vehicles and landscapes shooting a new Mad Max film. Not bad, eh?
The below video shows David Cohen from Variety talking to John Seale about how he created such engaging visuals.
“The film was never really a what if film, which a lot of films can be.” notes Seale, “What if we do it this way? What if we use this angle? What if we shoot it there? It wasn’t that at all. It was this is where it goes because this is where the storyboard literally places it.”
Editing Mad Max: Fury Road
The next thing to look at in this making of Mad Max, is the editing. The film contained 2,700 shots…that’s a lot of shots to edit.But it’s not just 2,700 shots, that’s 2,700 decisions that needed to be made and put into the timeline. For any film, that would be considered a huge amount of shots. For Fury Road, they had over 480 hours of footage to choose from to create the 120 minute film.
Fury Road took two years in post-production to make those decisions so you can imagine the logistical nightmare this kind of process takes. Luckily, George Miller uses the editor Margaret Sixel. Margaret and her team took to using cutting edge technology, the AVID MediaCentral Platform.
“By embracing Avid Everywhere™, they were able to overcome immense challenges, including harsh production environments, limited Internet bandwidth, and great distances between creative teams to deliver one of the most innovative and exciting films of this generation.”
Of course, editing isn’t solely about the logistics. In fact, many editors would argue the logistics are an essential part of creative freedom, which is the most important part of editing. With so many edits in the film, it was clearly going to be a fast paced movie. So how do you have a fast pace and fast edits while still allowing the viewer to focus on what’s going on. Compositionally, whatever was the centre point of that shot had to be in the centre of the frame. VashiVisuals put together a short video to illustrate this.
We all know how important colour grading is to a film, particularly a film that makes such specific stylistic choices like Mad Max: Fury Road. So it’s only right that next on the agenda for this making of Mad Max article, is to look at colour grading. The below video highlights how different the film looks once post is completed. The striking Mars-like orange that is synonymous with the film is nowhere to be seen when it was being shot…
As you can see, the film would have been a very different film without any colour grading. The grading was in the hands of Eric Whipp, co-founder and colorist of Alter-Ego in Toronto.
“Fury Road was a colourist’s dream. I was given a strong brief and the most amazing images, and then a year to just play and grade the way I thought would work best for the film”
Strangely, George Miller met Eric Whipp on a not-so-similar film, Happy Feet. That’s right, the animated penguin film that couldn’t be any more different to Fury Road.
Directing Mad Max
George Miller has an enviable CV, he’s worked on so many successful films. The original Mad Max films, Happy Feet, Babe: Pig in the City (seriously). He’s clearly got a knack for this directing lark.
“Alfred Hitchcock said it best when he said you try to make made movies where they don’t have to read the subtitles in Japan. So you try to make moving movies.”
Even when you’re a great director, shooting a film like Mad Max is a challenge. Shooting in the harsh environments of the desert, huge stunts and long hours are a health and safety officers nightmare. What you do have in your pocket as a great director, is to give your actors confidence. When they have confidence, it means the actors will follow you. Tom Hardy wanted to do his own stunts because he trusted the director (along with the stunt crews of course).
“I didn’t write it with her (Theron) in mind, the basic idea was apart form doing a chase, the thing that people were fighting over were human cargo, so they were the five wives. The only healthy creatures in the wasteland capable of breeding a heir for the warlord. So they needed a female road warrior. So Fruiosa was that and once we wrote it, I couldn’t think of anyone other than Charlize.”
George Miller gave a 25 minute interview to Vice magazine about the making of Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a great interview that goes into the filmmaking aspects and logistics of bringing a film like this together. Miller also talks about the characters and finding the right people to play those characters.
To finish off, we want to talk a little about sound design. Achieving the quality of sound they got on this film in the circumstances – desert, weather, massive car chases – was an impressive feat. The logistics or recording dialogue from a guy dressed head to toe in an elaborate costume while he’s riding on top of a post-apocolyptic truck is, well, difficult.
“I feel an immense pride, having done a couple of movies in the past. At the time it was awe-inspiring and difficult but now I look back with extreme fondness about the experience. At the time there were moments when I really wasn’t that fond of it.”
Oliver Machin talking on Tonebenders (full podcast below)
The below podcast is Tonebenders (an excellent podcast on sound design) talking to Oliver Machin, who was the Vehicle recordist on Mad Max. The podcast will give you an insight into the highs and lows of such an under-appreciated but important role.
What a lovely, lovely day!
There it is, the best interviews, videos and podcasts from the people behind Mad Max: Fury Road. This making of Mad Max article gives a glimpse of what it’s like to make a film of this scale. We urge you to go and find your own interviews and podcasts and share them with everyone. Then, go and make your own film! Or, there’s a rumour that there’s going to be three more Mad Max films, so get out there and you could be involved in the one of them.
Thanks for reading the making of Mad Max article, we hope you’ve learnt as much as we have learnt while putting this together. If you have anything to add, just use the comments below.