Creature Corner: Legacy Effects’ Shane Mahan discusses bringing Wendigo to the big screen for ANTLERS


Last weekend Scott Cooper’s Drink has finally made its way to theaters around the world after a delay linked to the pandemic. Produced by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and based on the short story by Nick Antosca, Drink is the dark tale of the insidious nature of trauma that takes the form of the Wendigo brutally annihilating anyone in its path.

For Shane Mahan and the rest of the Legacy team, Drink marks yet another collaboration between award-winning FX studio and Hollywood’s biggest child monster, who previously collaborated with their team on The shape of water. “We first met Guillermo on the original Pacific Rim. Our tasks there were the mechanical suits, so it was a very mechanical oriented show, but it was really a great opportunity to get to know Guillermo at the time. I find him to be a true soul mate in terms of; he loves to create creatures. With Guillermo, I have the impression that he takes great pleasure in collaborating with any team and however easy it is to work with him. And so, this one being with Scott Cooper, who had never made a creature movie before, Guillermo was looking for Scott in creature terms. Scott himself put the mood, the drama, and the setups into Drink, which he was pretty amazing for. “

“At Legacy we don’t often do horror movies. We do a lot of adventure movies, action movies and create fantasy characters, but very few movies come to us that are real horror movies. , and with something that’s a whole new character too. So the possibilities with Drink were exciting. They sent me some top-secret initial Guy Davis sketches, which were the basis of the creature, but that changed a lot in the process. “


Shane and the rest of the Legacy team were able to use Davis’ artistic vision as a creative basis for the design of the Wendigo that they needed to be able to fully achieve for Drink, and by incorporating comments from Cooper and del Toro, they were able to bring this nearly 10-foot-tall beastly monster to life for the film. “Guy’s designs were essential in helping me understand what needed to be manifested in the real world for his character. Here we have a small army of really talented artists who then start creating computer mockups and mockups. in clay, then we received verbal directions from Guillermo and emotional cues from Scott. “

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“From there, we went through an exploration process with different faces, different ideas of surface textures for the creature, and then, on top of that, I had to figure out how to make it all work on set. It’s a nine-and-a-half-foot tall creature with eight-foot-long arms and a head full of huge horns, so you start to run into the problem with the physique and the weight you had to return to the day of Aliens, and the infamous trash bag test, which has become an industry term now. But back then when we were creating the Alien Queen, we built a Test Queen out of a foam core and trash bags to see how she would move. So, using these lessons from the past, we did the exact same for Drink. “

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“We asked Ted Haines to build a fairly rudimentary looking portable structure that an actor would be inside doing all the movements of all of the Wendigo’s appendages and making the acting body for the creature. His head was in. the creature’s chest, and its arms and legs were actually exposed in tracking point clothing that would be removed after the fact. But once the demo creature was done, we brought in Guillermo and Scott to examine it so that we could make sure that this creature was going to be able to do the things they needed for the movie. And from there it was just a race against time to make the creature and set it up on time. Mahan added.

This proverbial race against time wasn’t the only challenge Shane and the Legacy team faced while building the Wendigo for Drink – they sort of had to create this larger-than-life monstrosity that seemed to have real weight, but it also had to be light enough to move easily throughout production. Mahan discussed these challenges as well as how the natural elements of the Oregon environment in Drink helped influence the design even further.

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“I think the biggest riddle we’ve come across Drink is that the creature must be light; otherwise, he won’t be able to do anything on the set, ”Mahan explained. “It has to look heavy, and it has to look made of certain materials, but it has to be very light for it to be kind of an illusion. At one point, we were following Guy’s paint schemes from his illustrations where there were blues, reds, and bone colors, and things like that, because that was the original directive, because we always honor the artist’s concept art. But Guillermo and Scott got this revelation that because this creature is from the mine shaft, they are in a mining town, and the myth of the creature is linked to disrespecting nature or overexploitation of natural resources. ; they thought it made sense to tie those underlying themes to the Wendigo’s final look. “

“They decided that the Wendigo should be rusted like old iron ore, and that the chest should look like a smoking stove, with those ashes inside. I became obsessed with the idea, and Rob Ramsdell and I have worked on so many concepts on how to make a translucent chest with colorful twinkling lights that make molten earth look like it is coming out of it. Next, Dennis Berardi [senior visual effects supervisor] and his company created CGI embers that floated around and out of the chest. It created a very strange, interesting and unique look. “

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“One thing that happened during the process was that we got rid of the eyes. The eyes were becoming a problem, so we went for a face without eyes which I think works great. given, Guillermo asked for a tube in the creature so that the steam could come out of his nose. Then I made some really strong black coffee, and it looked like the creature was dripping with rust, motor oil. and steam all over the place. One of the other things I really liked about this guy created was in the fur of the creature’s neck; he incorporated all these five inch long wooden miniatures. It doesn’t make sense, but because the Wendigo is a mythical beast, that doesn’t have to make sense. But I do think that when you take all of those elements and incorporate them into one design, the Wendigo turned out to be quite beautiful to the end.”

There is a proven adage that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but this same reasoning could apply to filmmaking, as it takes a range of talents brought together in an effort to help realize the full potential. director’s vision of this project. While it was the efforts of Shane Mahan and the incredible team of artists and designers at Legacy that were behind the creation of the Wendigo for Drink, Mahan credits several others with the creature’s on-screen success in the final film.

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“Dorian Kingi was the actor inside the Wendigo costume, and he did really well,” Mahan explained. “Before he even started he would come to the studio at different stages and put on the costume so he could start figuring out what to do when it was time to shoot. We were shooting test footage, and we were watching what we were doing. turned to see what worked and what didn’t. Dorian also had his own ideas, so by the time he set himself up he had a solid understanding of what he needed to do in that costume to give life to this character. “

“The director of photography Florian [Hoffmeister] also did a great job of making everything look really haunting and beautiful behind closed doors, and for the more complicated shots, we all got together to figure out what we needed to do to make those shots come true. There was a series of storyboards, and we were going through them with Scott, the visual effects company, and stunts. The rule I had was basically, because of the creature’s physics, he couldn’t descend from the ground quickly, and he couldn’t descend to the ground quickly, so there were certain planes that had to be fully CGI. The complete character was scanned, then we marked on the storyboards: “Animatronic Creature”, “Animatronic Creature Insert Hand”, “Creature with Digital Legs”, “Complete Digital Creature”, and so on. This kind of planning dates back to the days of jurassic park, where we needed to figure out what we could do behind closed doors and where we would need to rely on technology. And if you stick to that plan and everyone knows what to do, then it works, and you’re all in a pretty good position during production. “

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“The only other thing we did, other than the final creature, was the father’s envelope that was left in the attic after the creature emerged that came out of his skin. Everything was meant to look. all burnt and translucent, and that’s something that I worked on with Mark Killingsworth. I showed him the technique, and he really got into it. There was also another company[LindalaSchminkenFX)withwhomwehadtosharetheworkbecauseithadtobuildthiscreatureatthesametimeasittooktheeffectofdoingthejoboftransferringthetraining[theywerealsobadlydamagedLindalaSchminkenFX)thatwehadtodivideuptheworkwithbecauseitwasnecessarytobuildthiscreaturesimultaneouslywiththerestofthemakeupeffectsTheydidreallyniceworkwiththedeadbodiesandthemakeuptransformationstoo”[LindalaSchminkenFX)avecquinousavonsdûpartagerletravailcarilfallaitconstruirecettecréatureenmêmetempsquelerestedeseffetsdemaquillageIlsontégalementfaituntrèsbontravailaveclescadavresetlestransformationsdemaquillage”[LindalaSchminkenFX)thatwehadtodivideuptheworkwithbecauseitwasnecessarytobuildthiscreaturesimultaneouslywiththerestofthemakeupeffectsTheydidreallyniceworkwiththedeadbodiesandthemakeuptransformationstoo”

“And I have to say Scott has always been so charming and so enthusiastic to work with that it was a joy to go on set. Drink was really just one of those movies where everything clicked. And when you have a whole team behind the camera that are wildly happy, enthusiastic, and encouraging, it really makes your job easier when everyone is on the same page because all of those worries you usually have aren’t anymore. a preoccupation. The whole experience was just wonderful, ”added Shane.


Photos courtesy of Searchlight and Legacy Effects. Photograph by Irvine Green and Matt Alavi.

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