Interview: Howard Berger and Dean Wright from “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”
Interview: Howard Berger and Dean Wright from “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”

The Massie Twins recently sat down to interview special effects artists Howard Berger and Dean Wright from the new film “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” during the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con.


The Massie Twins: How much bigger and better are the special effects for this movie versus the first one?

Dean Wright: It’s huge – we’ve both got double the work in terms of just shot count, and in terms of complexity, it’s double that, so I guess that’s four times, unless it’s exponential, but don’t get me started talking about math – it’s huge! Andrew has thrown just about every visual effect possible at us in this one. Environments are huge, and at the end we’ve got the river god that comes in to help. It’s as difficult as you can pack in, in terms of time, we’ve got less time than the last film. It’s a challenge that’s going to keep me up at nights for the next 9 months!

MT: When you get the script and see all of the scenes that will include special effects, do you get nervous or excited?

Howard Berger: I rub my hands together, and then ask how much time I’ve got to do it in. And then they tell me and I get a little nervous. It’s interesting to work with Andrew Adamson, because you get the script and then you see the pre-vis and then it’s like a whole different movie. The battle is like two pages in the script, and then you get the pre-vis and it’s like 200 shots. That’s the thrill of it.

DW: Both of us started this film, and we’re very fortunate that we did the first film together and created a great partnership and I rely heavily on Howard to make everything he can on set.

HB: And I rely on Dean to fix it all.

DW: (Laughs) I finish the green-bottomed ones and fix the ones they didn’t hire in the first place. When we first started on this, there wasn’t a script, just an outline. We knew just from working with Andrew that we had to extrapolate from that what the movie would be. For me it was a matter of going through it with the editors and trying to figure out what the scope was likely to become.

HB: We had to do all of it based on Andrew’s ideas and a treatment.

DW: Andrew’s very forthcoming about it.

HB: We know Andrew. We know what his sensibilities are and what he expects from us. That made it a lot easier.

DW: That’s what’s funny about this one, where there are new people working on the film. They’ll get the call sheet or the script and it’ll say something and they’ll say “oh okay this is what we’ll need because it’s on the script” and we’ll say “ You don’t understand, we’re going to need this and that instead.

MT: How do you decide which aspects to do with practical effects versus digital effects?

DW: I’m a firm believer that if you can shoot it on camera, do it. Ultimately stories change, the scenes shift, we have to change a performance, but that happens.

HB: I think that one of the reasons the first one was such a success and this one will be even better is because it’s such a hand in hand process. You want the audience to watch the film and not think “wow, that’s a cool visual effect”, or “that’s some cool makeup”.

DW: Audiences are very sophisticated now. They know from watching all of the DVD extras, we’ve given away a lot of our tricks, and a lot of them are very talented on computers themselves. They know what we’re doing. I come from a firm belief that if you’ve wowed the audience with a visual effect, you’ve blown it. You’ve hurt the film.

HB: You don’t ever want to take the audience member out of seeing the film. Seeing the first film I felt like I was in Narnia the entire time.

DW: Hopefully you’ll never know when the real stuff starts, ends, and when the digital comes in. At the end of the film, if you never thought that we did any visual effects, we’ve done our job.

HB: Luckily Andrew is that kind of director that wants to do as much as possible with practical effects. As a filmgoer, you want it to be tangible. That’s what always impressed me with the Ray Harryhausen films when I was growing up. The Harry Potter film that is out is just so digital, it lost me.

DW: I’m with Howard on that – between us using full miniature sets whenever we can, we created a castle and a complete 24 scale of it. We’ve got a 100 scale version of the entire village with mountains and the goal again is to create this world so people can believe it.