Sharlto Copley’s latest project is in theatres now and breaks new ground as a first-person-perspective action film. He gives Lindsey Schutters insight into the behind-the scenes chaos that made this landmark film possible.
On the risk of shooting on Gopro: “I saw the music video Ilya (Naishuller) did for a band and I thought the action was definitely going to work, but I was worried about how much narrative you could do and will a narrative story work.”
On the durability of Gopros: “In the end there were about 14 used. They would get damaged – interestingly, not because the lenses would break, just the connector port where you plug the Gopro in to a monitor got damaged. That’s sort of the weak point because no one was thinking that you’d plug it in while it’s on your motorbike. The Gopros themselves were fine.”
On talking straight to camera: “It was a very challenging film, the hardest I’ve made by a long way for many reasons. From an acting point of view: normally you act with another actor or have an eyeline to follow like a tennis ball or a mark on a wall. There were 12 different people playing Henry. Mostly stuntmen, but also the DOP (director of photography) and the director in scenes that didn’t require any stunts. What happened is we had two Gopros mounted on a rig that would sit just under the human eye. The most challenging thing was not looking into the actor’s eyes that were sitting directly above the camera because the human eye naturally draws you to it. Sometimes I was acting with a stuntman who I had to help out and sometimes the director would be acting with me. That was difficult because the director would be there with me and suddenly gone, still physically there, but focused on just framing.” On coaching stuntmen: “Shooting from just the one angle put enormous pressure on the stunt co-ordinator, and by extension on the stuntman who would normally be completely focused on the stunt and go into a zentype place where he’s very calm and very focused. Now you have to say to him ‘Listen, while you’re in your zen space and you’re set on fire, look up and film the actor who will also be set on fire, frame him properly, then look down and see your arms burning, and look up to see him burning. Hold it for as long as you can before you dive out the bus, don’t break the Gopro when you dive out. We want to see some action, so you can’t tuck your head in. And on cue look back and film the other guy when he comes flying out of the bus window.’ When you have a sequence like that that you’re trying to do in one shot and you’re asking the stunt guy to be a cameraman as well, it’s a real tall order. I just take my hat off to them.”
Like other dive coasters, Valravn uses a short, wide train with three rows of eight people across. This allows every rider to be closer to the front so they can all better experience the free fall. The shorter train also allows Valravn to have tighter twists – kind of like making a right turn in a car instead of a bus.