You might know Ben West from his incredible short FUGU & TAKO. He’s now creative director at Framestore in LA and he’s back with a new short film called OtherHalf, about a man whose legs have a different idea to living their lives than the rest of its body. Check out the film below and then read vfxblog’s interview with West about how he and Framestore made it.
vfxblog: Where did the idea for this film come from, and how did it come to be made via Framestore?
Ben West: OtherHalf is the third in a series of films I’ve made. Over the past year, I’ve been focussing on my comic book based on the short FUGO & TAKO and working on my feature Freaks. In the midst of thrashing out ideas, the image of a man who likes sitting on the couch while his legs go dancing came to mind so I ran with it.
I’ve always been attracted to stories about inner conflict manifested in ways you can’t ignore. FUGO & TAKO had a Japanese man who didn’t think he was getting enough attention then his head turned into a pufferfish. There’s definitely a running theme here. To me, a dude struggling to deal with competing desires literally breaking in two makes perfect sense.
I joined Framestore after making my film FUGO & TAKO. The great thing about Framestore is its commitment to storytelling. Most people make the assumption vfx is full of geeks slouched behind the box. Those same geeks are the storytellers of the future and Framestore gets it.
vfxblog: Can you briefly break down the vfx methodology for shooting the half-body scenes?
Ben West: I’m not a fan of making shoots overly technical. It’s all about performance and story beats. I spent a lot of time prior to shoot testing the approach with actors and effects artists to work out the best way to allow for performance and vfx to co-exist. A lot of the effects in OtherHalf were developed with a mix of in-camera propping, staging and vfx augmentation.
Legs wore a green gimp suit and the body had a chair as a skirt for the most part. Multiple passes allowed us to strip out the parts we didn’t need. Whilst editing, I fell in love with the green gimp, I’m a little sad to see him gone but his performance translates beautifully to the legs. In terms of vfx the team did an incredible job matchmoving the legs performance and dance moves with a digi-double.
The end result is a hybrid between vfx and the actor grounding everything in reality. It’s strange but real enough to allow the audience to suspend disbelief and follow this weird character journey.
vfxblog: What was one of the hardest part of making the film, either technically or nailing the story or edit?
Ben West: What I love about filmmaking is that almost every aspect is challenging. You’ve got to work with people who share your sensibility, making a good film is a team effort. As a director I try to ensure everyone understands how their role will inform the story and beyond that be an audience for the film. The rest is up to the collaborative process.