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Exclusive: How VFX expert Habib Zargarpour turned writer-director in THE SQUADRON!

Exclusive: How VFX expert Habib Zargarpour turned writer-director in THE SQUADRON!

Taking Flight in THE SQUADRON: VFX expert Habib Zargarpour on becoming a writer-director and the getting the balance right with real VFX.

In the third of our series of interviews, our Ian Kennedy asks Habib about his transition to writing and directing, the unique eye his new film will give to WW2’s aerial warfare, and why VFX pros have to keep it real too.

IAN: So next for you is THE SQUADRON which you’ve written and are directing!

HABIB: Yes, we’re doing a lot of visual effects shots for this shoot, we’ve got a lot of actors in cockpits, we’ll have to replace the background with what’s going on in the skies. It’s very tricky to light and to put greenscreen around real authentic planes, because the light has to move to show that the plane is moving, but you don’t want something [a heavy light] that could fall and wreck the [actual] plane, so we have to be super-careful with that, there’s a lot of technical challenges to it.

IAN: I was lucky enough to be consulted by Alex Ross (THE SQUADRON producer and WriteMovies founder) about one of your very early drafts of this one, it was fascinating to see how visual your ideas were – too many writers come from the opposite direction, getting heavy with dialogue and exposition, and you’re coming from the other way round with that.

HABIB: This is interesting to hear, because I don’t know any different, from you guys’ point of view! I do know I’m getting better at it for sure, it really helps to see how things evolve once you start shooting, we also got great synergy between the actors when we shot in a warehouse in Vancouver, them playing off each other. When I wrote I had the cast in mind, and things have worked out even better than I thought – they enhance it, they also bring stuff to the table by saying things like “I think my character would be more “…” in this situation, he’d say this other thing…” – so that’s woven into it. This next shoot should come together really well because all of these elements will come together, and hopefully the continued dialogue will keep getting even better at the same time. I’m looking forward to sending you a rough cut of the trailer, see what you think!

IAN: That’ll be amazing yeah! The pictures I have in my mind from what I’ve seen in the script are a really distinctive use of that whole World War 2 setting. Sometimes we feel like we’ve seen all there is to see of that conflict, but there’s always more to explore and it felt like you’ve put a good new edge into that.

HABIB: I had a lot of fun preparing for it, even though the timeframe was very tight, I only had 4 weeks to get all that in mind, finishing the script, getting the props, getting wardrobe, all the logistics for the travel and permits and things like that. One of the more fun things was to design and 3D print and build the props that I couldn’t find, and others that I wanted to custom design, taking advantage of my ArtCenter experience, building models of products that look authentic. I was able to apply those and use the latest technology – I have a 3D printer that I use, that gets the models and then we do the finishing and polish on them. The other things are all authentic that I was able to gather over a long time, by going to air races and going online on eBay, there were these authentic goggles and flight caps. A lot of things needed adjusting for size because people were smaller then, which was interesting!

IAN: CGI has really taken over so much of VFX in recent decades. Have you missed working with physical materials and objects, like the models you’ve brought back into THE SQUADRON?

HABIB: [You should use] whatever can be done the most easily that makes the most sense and most helps the actors – you’d want to do something practical, if it’s something they’re wearing or touching. I myself had to do a lot of CGI for some of the very complex aerial combat scenes. That’s always a question of how much of the real you can bring in. Theoretically you could shoot someone against a greenscreen and put the whole airplane around them, as opposed to filming them in a real cockpit around them, each of those brings different challenges and pros and cons to it. Usually, the more you can get the real stuff in it, the easier it’s gonna be to get the right look.

IAN: And there’s been an audience backlash against overdone excessive CGI and unreal characters, so it’s important to keep that balance.

HABIB: Yes, and I recently saw Dunkirk, and I know Christopher Nolan’s a massive fan of ‘as much practical as possible’. I’ll send you my trailer rough cut soon too…

IAN: Definitely. And we’d love to talk about your work as a lead designer in famous computer games too!

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

Hollywood Box-Office Flopbusters: A Summer to forget

Hollywood Box-Office Flopbusters: A Summer to forget

Summer Box-Office flopbusters – Notice the trends of Summer flops to avoid the same pitfalls.

A Summer to forget for Hollywood… the worst grossing Summer in the last ten years, but just why has this happened?

The content has been there. WONDER WOMAN, SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING, BABY DRIVER, THE DARK TOWER, DUNKIRK, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. Of course, they’re different in quality and appeal, but these belong to some big franchises and film companies. But, this Summer has not been so hot.

It’s hard to remember many other films beyond these. If I asked you to name 15 films released since the start of June you’d probably struggle – hell, we’d struggle!

One of the issues is the ease which moviegoers can check a review and decide on whether it’s worth going to see and spend their hard-earned cash on. It takes less than 30 seconds to open up the IMDB app on my phone to check the Dunkirk rating (8.4/10, not bad, Nolan). And this is no doubt how a lot of people are choosing to see films now.

And so many of those low scoring films will just be forgotten. Remember how the BAYWATCH movie was released this Summer, or PIRATES 5 at the end of May? No, me neither. It seems that Hollywood films are becoming more polarizing each year – we’re losing middle ground and average, yet enjoyable, rom-coms and now receiving either complete trash or filmmaking brilliance. We think that script development professionals deserve a bigger voice in the studios’ choice of projects and scriptwriting – and our founder Alex is compiling the research that’ll prove it, we’ve already had a look!

The lack of comedy seems apparent this Summer. Summer action films are always likely going to be a hit, but there’s very little engaging or original comedies or rom-coms out there. Which is just sad for the Summer. Now, we have to settle for things like THE EMOJI MOVIE… We used to get much better quality and ideas…

Maybe this represents a need for better and more original comedies, but there’s also a sign that Winter is becoming the time to release films. The Oscar bait is usually released around Autumn and Winter time, plus the STAR WARS franchise (and before it THE HOBBIT trilogy) was released around Christmas to increase revenue… and it worked.

It’s worth looking more deeply into what films have flopped and why. Try and spot any trends that occur in the failures and do your best to avoid them.

Read more on Hollywood’s horrible Summer here;

You can also see what sort of scripts are selling recently with Script Pipeline:


Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

© WriteMovies 2017