BRIDGE OF SPIES: Sven Martin – VFX Supervisor – Pixomondo

Amazing behind-the-scenes VFX shots and information on how the “death strip” sequence was created for Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (2015).

All about Bridge of Spies

BRIDGE OF SPIES: Sven Martin – VFX Supervisor – Pixomondo

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Steven Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures

2015
Newly formed company Amblin Partners co-produces Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One with Warner Bros.

Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures – where his professional career began in 1969. Universal signs a five-year deal to market and distribute films produced by Amblin Partners.

The LA Times reports Amblin Partners has more than $300 million in financing lined up and is expected to produce four to seven films a year.

Amblin Partners – a film, television and digital content creation company – is formed by DreamWorks Studios, Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment and Entertainment One.

For the first time since the foundation of DreamWorks in 1994, Spielberg decides to invest some of his own money: $50 million.

According to the company’s press releaseAmblin Partners “develops and produces films using the Amblin, DreamWorks
Pictures
and Participant banners and includes Amblin Television, a
longtime leader in quality programming.”

The company will release family friendly movies with the Amblin brand, adult fare under the DreamWorks label and films with a social-justice element under the Participant label.

Upcoming film projects include: Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans, Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train, and Lasse Hallström’s A Dog’s
Purpose
.

Steven Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures

2015
Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres in Los Angeles. More than 5,000 guests attend the world premiere in all three theaters on Hollywood Blvd.: Dolby Theatre, Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre.

Before the screening, director J.J. Abrams thanks George Lucas, the mastermind behind the Star Wars universe, and his longtime mentor Steven Spielberg. “It is an honor to be here
with you at this incredibly low-key premiere
,” Abrams quips.

Then he speaks directly to Spielberg:

“I owed you everything already
before you lobbied for me to get this movie. Dude, I’m tapped
out.”

Abrams thanks the Star Wars crew before bringing the stars onstage. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford all receive standing ovations.

Celebrity guests attending the premiere include directors Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, Colin Trevorrow, Edgar Wright, Jon Favreau, and Roland Emmerich.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the 7th installment in the main Star Wars film series. The cast includes Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Simon Pegg and Max von Sydow

J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of the original trilogy films The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), rewrite an initial script by Michael Arndt

George Lucas serves as creative consultant during the film’s early production. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy is overseeing production (budget: $245 million). 

John Williams, who created the music for the previous six films, returns to compose the score.

The film breaks many box office records, becoming the highest-grossing installment of the franchise, with a worldwide gross of more than $2 billionStar Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens receives five Academy Award nominations

Two sequels, Episode VIII and Episode IX, will be released in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

2015
Walt Disney Pictures releases first teaser trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming fantasy adventure film The BFG (2016). It’s the first time Spielberg directs a live-action 3D film.

The talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – unite to bring Dahl’s classic children’s book The BFG to life. The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982).

The film tells the imaginative story of a young
girl
and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant
Country. The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big
Friendly Giant
and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country, e.g. Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement).
Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he
is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a precocious
10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious
giant who has brought her to his cave, but comes to realize that
the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a
giant before, has many questions. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen
(Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious situation, but
they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall),
that giants do indeed exist. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

After his impressive portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies (2015), Mark Rylance once again plays a major role in a Steven Spielberg film. Principal photography for The BFG begins just three months after Bridge of Spies wraps.

Filming locations are: Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada), Blenheim Palace, Woodstock (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom), Buckingham Palace, Westminster (London, United Kingdom), Skye, Highland (Scotland, United Kingdom).

The film’s score is composed by John Williams. Other regular Spielberg-collaborators are: Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, Editor Michael Kahn, as well as producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. The stunning visual effects are created by Weta Digital.

The film is a co-production between Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

Release dates

2015
Helmut Schmidt dies
, aged 96.

One of Germany’s most popular politicians, Schmidt made his name on the national scene as a state politician in Hamburg during severe flooding in 1962 when his foresighted emergency management helped to prevent a much worse disaster.

Schmidt served as German Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, guiding West Germany through some of the tensest moments of the Cold War, economic turbulence caused by the oil crisis and the terrorist threat posed by the Red Army Faction (RAF). By supporting the NATO Double-Track Decision, Schmidt acts according to his geopolitical conviction, but is losing support among parts of the population who oppose rearmament. As a result, his social-liberal coalition breaks. Following a vote of no confidence initiated by the opposition, Helmut Schmidt resigns as Chancellor.

From 1983 until his death, he was the editor of the prestigious German weekly Die Zeit, and attained the status of an intellectual and moral authority for many Germans, despite his acid-tongued verbal attacks on opponents. Schmidt was also an accomplished classical pianist and author.

A state funeral is held at St. Michael’s Church in Schmidt’s hometown of Hamburg. The ceremony draws an estimated 1,800 invited guests, with thousands of people lining the streets to pay tribute. International guests include Schmidt’s longtime friends, former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who in his speech (held in German language) calls Schmidt “some kind of world’s conscience”.

2015
Steven Spielberg receives Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Barack Obama names 17 recipients of the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors

Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Stephen Sondheim and Itzhak Perlman are among the Hollywood notables who receive the honor on Nov. 24 at the White House.

Honoring Spielberg, President Barack Obama says:

“Steven’s films are marked most importantly by a faith in
our common humanity. His stories have shaped
America’s story, and his values have shaped our world.”

He also notes Spielberg’s work in founding the Shoah Foundation and jokes about playing a part in a future Spielberg film:

“Despite redefining the word ‘prolific,’ a Spielberg movie is still a
Spielberg movie. Somebody’s calling to see if they can book him for a
deal right now. They want to make a pitch. So there’s this really
good-looking president …”

2015
On Friday, November 13
, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurs in Paris, France. Targets are “ordinary people” and their ways of life; terrorists kill people in cafes and in a concert hall.

Originally, a suicide bomber wants to enter the friendly match Germany vs. France – but he is held by the security forces from entering the biggest stadium in the city. The terrorist organization “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) claims responsibility for the attacks which left more than 480 people injured and dead

People and organizations around the world and across religions express solidarity, in many cases via social media

In response to the attacks, the French government intensifies its air strikes against the terrorist organization in Syria.

2015, November 13

European Premiere for Bridge of Spies takes place in Berlin, with Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan and Sebastian Koch attending. Fellow directors Volker Schlöndorff, Tom Tykwer and Lana Wachowski are among the audience.

All about the making of Bridge of Spies: Read more

Spielberg on Melissa Mathison: E.T.’s Glowing Heart Was Hers

2015
In a TIME Magazine article, Steven Spielberg talks about the late screenwriter Melissa Mathison and her contribution to his upcoming screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG (2016).

Spielberg compares it with his experience of working with her on the story for E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982) while shooting Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981):

“I found working with Melissa that those 30-plus years had evaporated—it was just like being back in the cutting room on Raiders sitting on the floor with a bunch of cards strewn about, trying to figure out that story.”

Mathison was on set of The BFG every day of shooting in summer 2015, so Spielberg calls her “more than just a writing partner—she was a real on-set partner.” He adds:

“It did not feel like an adult was writing words, but
that they were coming improvisationally from the mouths of young people.
That was her magic and that was her gift with E.T., and she’s done the same thing with BFG.”

“I think her legacy will be that she could only tell a story that began and ended from the heart. E.T.’s glowing heart was, in fact, Melissa’s.”

In the same article, Kathleen Kennedy reveals that it was Harrison Ford who talked Melissa Mathison into writing the script for Steven Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982). Initially, she refused arguing she wasn’t the right writer for it, so Spielberg turned to Ford and asked him for help.

In an interview with EW, Steven Spielberg speaks about his first encounter with Mathison and what he remembers most about his friend and collaborator: Her ability to find wonder in unlikely places. 

“Like a mirage in Lawrence of Arabia…That’s what it was like the first time I set eyes on Melissa. We were shooting Raiders. It was in 1980, in the unbearable heat of Nafta in Tunisia, and amidst a couple of hundred Arab extras dressed in German uniforms, I saw what looked like an egret.This person was bent over, picking stuff up off the ground. I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ And she said, ‘You know, this used to be the ocean floor and look at all these fossils…’ She was right. Everywhere you looked on the ground there were fossils and seashells and all kinds of things in the sand.I said, ‘Who are you?’ And she simply said, ‘I’m Harrison’s friend.’ And I said, ‘Well, what do you do?’ She told me, ‘Currently, I’m a failed writer.’ I began to laugh and she began to laugh. Then I said, ‘What have you failed at?’ She said she had written a number of scripts that she wasn’t really happy with, and only one got made. When I realized she had written The Black Stallion, it stopped me in my tracks because it’s one of my favorite movies. Then I started asking her a lot of questions about The Black Stallion. Before she was even finished answering them, I said, ‘I have a story about this alien that gets stuck on Earth with a family of divorce, and … would you be interested in writing this with me?’  She said ‘No, no, no. I’m retired from writing now. I need to find another way to live my life.’ I started telling her the story of E.T. that I had thus far, not down on paper, but in my head. She heard it and said, ‘That’s really sweet and interesting, but I’ve retired.’

I went back to the set and shot a couple scenes with Harrison and told him this curious story of bumping into Melissa while she was picking up seashells in the middle of the Tunisian desert. I told him I had offered her a chance to write a movie with me and she turned it down. Harrison said, ‘Sounds like Melissa…’ I asked, ‘Can you help me?’ He said, ‘Let me talk to her tonight.’ And so the next day Harrison came into work, and the first thing he said was, ‘I think she’s had a change of heart.’

When I sat down to talk to her about the script again a few days later, she said, ‘I wasn’t really listening to anything you were saying to me before, so why don’t you start over again?’ [Laughs.] She started to brainstorm with me and added all kinds of new ideas to the mix. And that’s when I knew that I had a partner. Melissa was back in the writing game.While I was in the editing room cutting Raiders, Melissa would come in two to three days a week, and we would just sit and develop the story. She would put everything on cards. Those cards became a kind of talisman, and defined the way I thought about Melissa’s creative partnership with me. All these little cards, where she wrote down either my ideas or her own, eventually became the first draft. She went away for six weeks and wrote the script.“When I finally read the script, I pretty much said, ‘I could shoot this movie tomorrow.’ We tweaked it and we changed just a little bit of the third act. At one point, E.T. got sick and was taken to a hospital, and the entire venue of the film shifted to a medical center. On second thought, it just seemed like a better idea to keep it at home and turn the house into a hospital, so that became the triage of trying to save E.T. and Elliott’s lives. Those were some of the very few changes. Of all the movies I’ve ever made, E.T. went through the least amount of revision. Melissa’s heart was just glowing over that movie. 

And the same darn thing happened 30 years later when we started our second collaboration on The BFG by Roald Dahl.The main difference was I didn’t have to talk her into writing this one. She had started writing it even before I came on board and had done three drafts before I started.It was the same energy and ease of conversation that happened all over again. I felt like I got into a time machine with her and went back to E.T.’s making, because the spirit that Melissa carried with her during her entire life had infected all of us, and she shaped The BFG into a portrait of a friendship. Melissa didn’t know she was sick at the beginning. The summer of 2014 was spent in a small garage in my house on Long Island, where we assembled the movie through [pre-visualized animations.] We made the entire movie of The BFG from beginning to end that way, and watched it and changed it. During principal photography in Vancouver this past spring, she was on the set every day, giving me the cards for the day’s work — just like on E.T

She seemed fine, but there were several times that she needed to go back to L.A. for personal reasons. I didn’t ask what the personal reasons were. And one time she was absent [for] four days. Then she came back and she seemed perfectly okay again. So her health issues came as a surprise to all of us.I’ve had a lot of time to think about Melissa since she died in November, and I’m not really sure she’s gone. I feel her presence more than her absence. I’m really going to start to hurt when that fades and I start missing her again in my life.I could speak for many of her closest friends — we’re all still in disbelief that she’s gone. The thing about Melissa was, she could just watch the traffic of everyday things speed by her, which was just fine with her because in her life she preferred to stroll. 

Moviemaking is often a lot of thunder and lightning, and Melissa was always the calm eye of the storm.She could relate to kids better than anybody I had ever met. On the set of E.T., she taught me on the first day of shooting that you never talk down to children. You get on their eye level and you simply fall into conversation with them. It changed my entire approach to directing children because I watched how effortless it was for Melissa to sit with Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert MacNaughton and just have a conversation with them.I think she understood the natural habitat of childhood. Melissa was all about discovery. And childhood is all about daily, even hourly, even minute-by-minute discoveries.Melissa was like a kid when she was making these little breakthroughs. Like how to tell a story, or how to find the right line of dialogue. Or how to find sea shells in a desert.

Spielberg on Melissa Mathison: E.T.’s Glowing Heart Was Hers

2015
Amazing Stories
gets a reboot at NBC.

The TV network signs a deal with Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller to revive the anthology series which was created by Steven Spielberg and ran on NBC for two seasons from 1985-87 focusing on fantastic and supernatural stories –  inspired by Rod Serling’s anthology series Twilight Zone (1959-1964).

Fuller writes the script for the pilot episode and serves as executive producer alongside Universal Television and Amblin Television. Much like in the original anthology series, Fuller asks directors to “come in and pitch” story ideas for their own episodes.

Contrary to early reports about Steven Spielberg not being involved, Bryan Fuller explains in an interview with Crave:

I have had three meetings on Amazing Stories, two of them with Steven Spielberg. So from my experience he is very involved. I’ve pitched him ten stories for episodes and he has approved five of them, and no story moves forward without Mr. Spielberg’s approval.

Title screen: © Amblin Entertainment