Saturday, September 12, 2015

Building a Fictional World

Just because it's The Wasteland, it doesn't mean that people can't make beautiful things.
– George Miller

A few years ago, I discussed an exhibit displayed at Seattle's EMP Museum about the movie Avatar from the standpoint of fictional world-building. Last week, Vinod and I sat down to watch the extras on our Mad Max: Fury Road Blu-ray, looking forward to similar insights into the world of Mad Max. Though we were disappointed there was no audio commentary for the film, the making-of featurettes were very interesting. They did a great job showcasing the thoughtful attention given to the creation of a post-apocalyptic dystopia that both expands and builds upon the world imagined by George Miller and Byron Kennedy beginning with the original film and continuing with my favorite of the series, Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior. My favorite featurette was Tools of the Wasteland, which covered the creation of the costumes and props.

When director George Miller says,"When you're trying to create a world that doesn't exist, you have to have some very solid ground rules," he succinctly points out what it is that sets sci-fi and fantasy movies with plausible worlds apart from those that fail to successfully immerse the viewer. You can extend the same train of thought to world-building in any creative medium. If the audience asks too many questions about aspects of the world that don't feel authentic, the illusion collapses.

Another great series of videos was released with the Blade Runner 5-disc "Ultimate Collector's Edition" DVD and "Complete Collector's Edition" Blu-ray sets. (That's a mouthful!) The feature-length documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner covers almost everything from the writing of the script to the concept art (see Syd Mead's incredible paintings in the video below) to the fraught production of the movie itself. Additional featurettes examine graphic design and costuming. So much attention to detail went into the creation of 2019 L.A. that artists working on the film even invented magazines about weird future subjects, illustrated the covers, and stocked them at newsstands barely seen in the background during street scenes. This is the dedication needed to build the kind of depth the best fantasy and sci-fi can offer. There's a reason both Blade Runner and the Mad Max movies have had such a massive impact on sci-fi visuals and filmmaking.

I encourage anyone interested in creating a believable (and beloved) fictional world to look for these making-of films. Please keep in mind these are featurettes for R-rated movies, so view at your discretion.

Do you have any favorite "making-of" featurettes or documentaries? Share them in the comments!


Larry MacDougall said...

Awesome post Emily. Thanks !

Emily Fiegenschuh said...

Thanks, Larry! I'm glad you liked it.