News 08.02.22

THE COLLABORATIVE SPIRIT OF THE POWER OF THE DOG: A TESTAMENT TO AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND’S PARTNERSHIP

Jane Campion’s stunning film, The Power of the Dog continued its history-making run for See-Saw Films and Netflix, with the film receiving a record 12 Academy Award® nominations.

Ausfilm Members, Alt.vfx, ARC FILM, Soundfirm, Spectrum films, Trackdown and Simpsons Solicitors brought their individual talents to the table.

The Power of the Dog has received the highest number of nominations for any film in this years’ 94th annual Academy Awards®. A stellar achievement for this official Australian and New Zealand co-production. Ausfilm congratulates Netflix, Jane Campion, and Aussies, See-Saw Films, Ari Wegner, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Peter Sciberras, Robert Mackenzie and Tara Webb and all the producers, cast and crew.

The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Thomasin McKenzie, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine, Peter Carroll and Adam Beach.

Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) inspires fear & awe. When his brother (Jesse Plemons) brings home a new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.

Written and Directed by Jane Campion based on the 1967 Thomas Savage novel of the same name the film was produced by Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier and executive produced by Simon Gillis, Rose Garnett and John Woodward. Production Companies include See-Saw Productions Pty Ltd  Big Shell Films Pty Ltd,  Max Films Productions and  Brightstar Films Ltd.

As an official co-production, the film was supported with assistance from the Australian Government through Screen Australia. With additional support provided by the New South Wales Government through Screen NSW.

AUSTRALIAN POST AND VFX COMPANIES COLLABORATE

Whilst the film was shot on location in the South Island of New Zealand, doubling for a Montana ranch in the USA, Australian picture-post, sound-post and visual effects companies delivered their services on this stunning production.

Ausfilm interviews Australian Oscar® nominees Editor Peter Sciberras; Supervising Sound Editor, Robert MacKenzie; Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer, Tara Webb; and the six Ausfilm member companies involved in this captivating production.

Kirsten Dunst as Rose Gordon In The Power Of The Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

ARC FILM

ARC FILM’s Co-founder and Editor Peter Sciberras has been nominated for Best Editing in the 94th Academy Awards® for his work on The Power of the Dog.

ARC FILM is an Australian-owned boutique post-production company specialising in editorial and post for film and television, with state-of-the-art facilities in both Sydney and Melbourne.

The Power of the Dog edit started at ARC FILM’S Collingwood studio, in Melbourne, in early 2021 before Covid hit pause on the production. Peter then travelled to New Zealand to work with Jane before the shoot wrapped. Upon the production’s return to Australia, they took up residence in the original Sydney studio for the remainder of the edit, a final project before relocating to their new ARC FILM Sydney studio space.

Getting to collaborate with Jane Campion on The Power of the Dog was an amazing experience. Finding and shaping the movie within our own studio spaces in Sydney and Melbourne was something special. I’m incredibly proud to be part of this film, and I’m so honoured to be nominated for my first Academy Award®.”

Peter Sciberras, Editor
L To R: George Mason as Cricket, Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

“It was such a pleasure having Jane and her team within our walls whilst working with Peter. ARC cultivates an environment that allows our collaborators the luxury of focussing on what matters most – telling their stories. It’s a welcoming, bespoke atmosphere built from the ground up with editing & storytelling at its heart. We hope to have been a positive influence in the experience of creating this stunning piece of work.”

Joseph Perkins, Managing Director of ARC FILM
L To R: Ari Wegner, Director Of Photography and Jane Campion Director/Producer In The Power Of The Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021

ALT.VFX

Alt.vfx produced the seamless visual effects for the film as the production’s visual effects partner. Alt.vfx handled full pre-production and shoot requirements, by acting as the studio supervisor and main vendor.

Alt.vfx – VFX breakdown

Shot on location in New Zealand’s South Island and studio-shot in Auckland, the visual effects helped play a part in this classic piece of visual storytelling from a visionary Director, Jane Campion.

Though very much a naturalistic film, Alt.vfx completed over 200 shots, extending the production design further than they could achieve physically on location, and extending or adapting locations to convince audiences that New Zealand was rural Montana in the US.

“This project was a real partnership with the director, the DP, art department, and visual effects. It was a great honour to work with a team like Jane Campion, Ari Wegner (DOP), Grant Major (Production Designer), Pete Sciberras (Editor) and the wider production crew at See-Saw Films.”

Jason Hawkins, Alt’s VFX Supervisor
L To R: Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Plemons In The Power Of The Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

One of the big creative problems to solve was the ‘dog’ in the hills that Phil can see. The team discussed lots of approaches as to how they could have something subtly fit into the landscape, but it wasn’t until travelling to the location on an early recce that Jason found the inspiration for the final approach.

L-R: Kirstin Dunst & Jeremy Plemons in The Power of the Dog. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

“While scouting the environment at sunset we witnessed some magnificent shadows creep along the ridgelines, revealing all sorts of fleeting shapes and objects. While we still explored more sculptural approaches for the dog, the shadow felt to be the most elegant solution.”

Jason Hawkins, Alt’s VFX Supervisor

The main house the Burbank brothers live in was designed by production designer, Grant Major. Since it was only practical for the budget to build a portion of the house, the decision was made to extend it in CG. Using the plans and reference materials, Alt.vfx were able to rebuild a VFX-ready model of the house that could be seen from any angle, depending on the shot required. For the CG house, the team modelled and created 10,637 roof shingles, 1,229 wooden panels, and 38 windows, a complete model that blended perfectly with the practical build onset.

Kodi Smit-Mcphee as Peter in The Power of the Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

Like the house, the town of Beech started with some brilliant concepts and production design from Grant Major. However, with only one physical structure on-set, the town was embellished with post and VFX production. The town consists of 36 structures (a mix of houses and shacks), a water tower, train line, lots of CG debris, digital horses, cows, people, and distant digital matte painting environment extensions. 

As you would expect from an atmospheric western set on a ranch, cows feature heavily in the film. Depending on the shooting location, production had access to as much as 150 head of cattle on a day, the Alt.vfx team used a mix of both traditional 2D tiling and more complex CG to extend the herd in post. The team built a CG library of cow behaviours animated in Maya, with the individual cows able to interact (and avoid each other) through a custom AI brain built inside Houdini.

“The goal was always realism, by enhancing every department’s ability in post with a light hand, so that it felt like it was done on-set. We really strived to remain true to this amazing, complex story, and Jane’s vision. All of us are just so happy that we seem to have succeeded in doing that, as is evident by how the film has been received on a global stage.”

Jason Hawkins, Alt’s VFX Supervisor on the extensive work required in post to keep the naturalistic integrity of the film

BEST SOUND OSCAR® NOMS FOR AUSSIES ROBERT MACKENZIE & TARA WEBB

Australian sound editors Robert Mackenzie and Tara Webb were nominated (alongside our New Zealander neighbour, Richard Flynn), in recognition for the masterful sound edits which enhanced the subtleties and nuances of the film and contributed to its intensity.

“The collaborative nature in which all the individual talent involved, came together to achieve Jane’s vision, has resulted in a spectacular film which was a joy to be a part of.”

Robert Mackenzie, Supervising Sound Editor on The Power of the Dog

“The beauty and mastery with which Pete edited the film was exquisite in its subtlety. The foley walked by Mario Vaccaro & recorded by Alex Francis at Soundfirm is a standout feature of the soundtrack.”

“The VFX work (delivered by Alt.vfx) was so beautifully seamless, it’s really a testament to the work when it’s so well integrated into the film that you can’t see it.”

Robert concludes by saying “Our pre-mixes and temp mixes translated beautifully, and seamlessly from our mix room to Spectrum’s mix room.”

Kirsten Dunst as Rose Gordon in The Power Of The Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

Tara Webb, Sound Editor & Re-Recording Mixer discussed the process saying, “we spoke a lot about creating the expanse of Montana and the ranch vs. the Burbank house which was quite cold visually and oppressive. We spoke a lot about the background, the atmos, keeping to those performances and not having too much sound to distract from that.

We were always trying to create that stylised naturalism, but really not to take focus off what was happening.”

Tara Webb, Sound Editor & Re-Recording Mixer

“We did strip back a lot, but I think in the end we found a really good balance, where the audience focuses on the sounds that you do hear, which help with that tension and suspense.”

PANAVISION

Panavision caught up with Australian Cinematographer Ari Wegner, ACS after Panavision’s provision of her camera and lens package on the highly acclaimed The Power of the Dog film. The package included Panavision Ultra Panatar large-format anamorphic primes, paired with Alexa LF and LF Mini cameras, equipment was organised through Panavision.

“It’s really important to have options. Working with Panavision, there’s the whole range from contemporary to vintage and technically correct to what I’d call ‘funky.’ We shot with Ultra Panatar 1.3x anamorphic, and obviously that’s not something you’re going to find anywhere else.”

Ari Wegner
L – R: Ari Wegner, Director of photography & Jane Campion, Director/Producer, The Power of the Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

Wegner expresses her excitement about working with Director Jane Campion, as they were able to commence designing the visual elements of the film one year prior to shooting. The prolonged allocation of time allowed for a relaxed, methodical and natural development of the film’s visual language to be established by the incredibly talented pair.

The resulting stunning cinematic product has garnered The Power of the Dog with a string of awards and nominations. These include the first woman to be nominated for a BAFTA in cinematography, the second woman ever nominated for Best Cinematography at the Oscars®, and Feature Film category from the American Society of Cinematographers.

Described by Wegner as restrained, deliberate and unadorned, the team were ever-conscientious to avoid heightening the audience’s emotional response or using manipulation through cinematic framing. Allowing the characters to speak for themselves rather than spoon-feed the narrative.

The Power Of The Dog Benedict Cumberbatch As Phil Burbank In The Power Of The Dog. Cr. Kirsty Griffin Netflix ©2021 Cross City

SOUNDFIRM

Melbourne and Sydney based post, sound and VFX studio, Soundfirm were extremely proud to have completed the picture and finishing of The Power of the Dog.

Across the production, Soundfirm supplied workflow development, data management, editorial equipment, colour grading, online, VFX and deliverables. With the utilisation of both their Sydney and Melbourne facilities, the post-process was delivered efficiently and seamlessly.

Joel Plunkett at Soundfirm studios. Image courtesy of Soundfirm. Thanks to See-Saw Films & Netflix.

“Completing the post-production for The Power of the Dog was a very special and rewarding experience. Working closely with the editorial department, VFX houses and key creatives like Jane, Peter and Ari; allowed us to polish and fine-tune the vision of the film into the internationally recognised feature film that stands today.”

Joel Plunkett, Soundfirm’s Online Editor

SPECTRUM FILMS

The final sound mix was performed at Spectrum Films in Sydney in their large sound mixing theatre on the Fox Studios Australia complex, by Robert Mackenzie, Tara Webb, Robert’s team and Jane Campion over the span of two months.

L-R: Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Kodi Smit-Mcphee As Peter in The Power of the Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

TRACKDOWN

Trackdown provided additional edit suites and ADR services including remote listening sessions for The Power of The Dog.

“It was clear during production that this film was bringing together the best talent Australia has to offer under the incredible vision of Jane Campion . It is absolutely no surprise it has been nominated for so many awards and has received such high praise. It was a pleasure working with Jane and the rest of the Sound Team on the project”

Liam Moses who worked with Jane Campion during ADR
Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

SIMPSONS SOLICITORS

Simpsons would like to congratulate everyone involved in The Power of the Dog.  It was our great pleasure to assist our friends at Fulcrum Media Finance with legals on a production loan to finance the Australian Government’s Producer Offset and the New Zealand Screen Production Grant for the film.”

Mark Bamford, Director of Simpsons Solicitors

SCREEN AUSTRALIA INTERVIEWS SEE-SAW FILMS PRODUCER EMILE SHERMAN 

Having produced both seasons of the hugely successful Top of the Lake, See-Saw Films Producer Emile Sherman was keen to continue his working partnership with Writer/Director Jane Campion.

“She (Jane) is a life-changing director, in terms of the relationship of working with her to not just what she brings as a director, but the experience of her as a person, he explains. She brings her whole person to everything she does.”

Emile Sherman, Producer, See-Saw Films

In this behind-the-scenes video Screen Australia’s Caris Bizzaca interviews Sherman who talks about the benefits of making the film as an Australian/New Zealand Official Co-production, filming on location in New Zealand and what he hopes audiences experience watching the film.

L-R: Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Kodi Smit-Mcphee as Peter in The Power of the Dog. Credit: Kirsty Griffin. Courtesy of See-Saw Films/Netflix ©2021.

THANKS TO