October 12, 2023
Will Harrington

How Gareth Edwards made The Creator for only $80 million (2 minute read)

By Will Harrington

When Gareth Edwards pitched the idea for his original sci-fi epic The Creator, studios told him it would cost $300 million. Luckily, Edwards envisioned a moviemaking process, allowing it to be made for less than nine figures.​ Through smart and efficient allocations of resources, he and his team were able to make the globetrotting visual splendour of his dreams.

The cost-cutting measure that perhaps has been generating the most buzz is Edwards’ choice of camera. The Creator was filmed on the Sony FX3, a “prosumer” digital cinema camera that retails for just under USD 4000. Lightweight and not much bigger than the DSLR a hockey dad brings to his kid’s game, the image it outputs is good enough for the big screen and IMAX screens. This departure from the norm of massive six-figure camera rigs allowed Edwards to save money and be more agile on location.

And The Creator was shot overwhelmingly on location. The film was shot in over 80 locations around the globe, namely Thailand, Tibet, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Edwards has explained the decision simply by saying that a flight costs less than the cost of building a set. So, they embarked on a mission to find locations that matched their vision for each scene. This allowed the filmmakers to get most of their sci-fi world directly in camera, informing the layer of visual effects added to make it genuinely otherworldly.

While larger films typically need crews numbering in the hundreds for major sequences, Edwards kept the film’s crew as small as possible for the needs of each scene. That meant flying crews as small as four to remote locations for simpler dialogue scenes and crews of just ten for most other scenes. Edwards also did the camera operation himself and, with his collaborators, designed a portable lighting system that drastically reduced the cost and time of setting up traditional lighting rigs.

After the film was done shooting, Edwards and his team edited the film to its final cut before working on any of the visual effects. This saved significant money compared to today’s Marvel-ized industry standard of CGI artists creating and tweaking scenes repeatedly, only for them not even to be included in the final cut. Further, with so much being shot on location instead of in front of a green screen, the film’s visual effects philosophy was somewhat backward in that the fantasy elements of each scene were determined by what was captured on location, making each in-world region feel more realistic.

Everyone says, “Thank you, Gareth.”