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Friday, May 10, 2013

Behind the Scenes of Mud

An Inside Look From the Set

By Mike Sabga
Hollywood Correspondent, SilverScreenSurprises.com


Note: Mike Sabga – known affectionately as "3D Mike" in Hollywood – has over thirty years of experience in the industry. He has worked on many major motion pictures and television series – including "Ocean's Eleven," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "CSI: Miami," and "Brothers & Sisters." His most recent project was "Mud," for which he did Video Playback and Assist. He goes into more detail below and shares some great anecdotes from the set.

Working with Matthew McConaughey

I thought I'd seen it all. In all the 30 years of working in movies I thought I had seen professional actors. However, I must confess that working with Matthew McConaughey took the meaning of professionalism to yet another level!

For starters, let's consider the fact that Matthew was filming both "Mud" and "Magic Mike" at the same time. He would be in Tampa, Florida for "Magic Mike" during the day and then fly out to the White River in Arkansas at night while we were filming "Mud." That alone is stunning.

To add insult to injury, the movie was shot in late November, at the start of the bitterly cold Arkansas winter. This means that Matthew had to wear the skimpy white shirt and blue jeans all night long in temperatures almost below zero, while all the rest of us had our warm ski outfits on!

Even when director Jeff Nichols suggested to Matthew that we should stop for the night, Matthew would insist on finishing the shot list. I thought I had seen it all, but this was beyond greatness. Folks, I was ready to die freezing my backside!!!

Much respect, Matthew...

Filming in Arkansas

The colorful people in the small towns of Dumas and Dewitt, Arkansas, were very excited to have so many famous stars and big time crews coming into their towns and so they treated us very well. They made sure that Reese and Matthew had everything they needed. Considering that there were no five-star hotels in the area, this was not easy to accomplish, but I never heard either Reese, Matthew or anyone else complain about anything.

The Kids: Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland

Undoubtedly, my two favorite people of the film were the two child actors, Tye Sheridan (Ellis) and Jacob Lofland (Neckbone). They were incredible to work with: highly professional for their age, very well-mannered, and brought up properly – the old-fashioned way.

I thought to myself, these kids are not your standard city kids. So it turns out they live in Southern states, in areas where there is plenty of wildlife, trees and rivers – and this explains why the casting director, Francine Maisler, didn't have any problems picking them for these roles. The accent was there, the Southern attitude of growing boys, the curiosity of that age, the explorer spirit... No wonder these two kids had such a great chemistry in "Mud." They were instantly friends forever! You feel it throughout the film, and at the end, you know they are friends for life.

Southern Cuisine

The food was simply incredible. There is no way for me to explain with words how incredible and soulful the food was. You will have to go there yourself to find out. Matthew and Reese loved it. (Of course it helps that they are from the South!)

One incredible anecdote about these kids is that Tye brought a special treat for the cast and crew during the filming of the final shoot-out sequence between Mud and the bounty hunters, and this treat consisted of something called "Venison." It is a type of salami or sausage made of deer or elk – in this case a deer that Tye himself had hunted a few days earlier, and so he was very proud to bring something to the movie set that he had made himself. Everyone was very pleased, and I couldn't stay away from eating it!

A Word about Writer and Director Jeff Nichols

He is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas; a rising star in the world of independent films; a highly talented writer and down-to-earth director who drags you into the story by using the simplicity of life. This film, I feel, is his "baby." He wrote about his native land. He painted beautiful scenes for us with the camera and decorated them with amazing local music. Although not well-known yet, this director will be a household name in a matter of time.

Meanwhile, "Mud" and Jeff have picked up a "Palme d'Or" at Cannes, other awards as well, and are poised to pick up one or more Oscars in February 2014 – so we hope…

Working on "Mud"

I had two types of effects. One is called "Video Playback" and it pertains to the scene where the bounty hunters are in the small motel room and the old man walks in to have a chat with them. If you remember, there was a cartoon playing on an old television set. That is what I did for that scene sequence. I basically provided the old television, the cartoon, and I went to Arkansas to set it up and to "playback" the video of the cartoon during the filming of the scene.

The second video effect was what is called "Video Assist." This consists of a hi-tech video cart that holds various hi-def monitors and computers, which record what the film cameras see through the lens – and then this "video" is played back for the director and for Matthew during the final "shoot-out" sequence at the house boat. This is done so that they can review the stunts, the guns shooting, the angles, etc., and to make sure they "got" everything on film before they move onto the next scene. (This part of my job is one that saves them thousands of dollars.)

This is also done to match camera angles when doing the stunts (like when Matthew rolls on the floor inside the house as they are shooting at him, then when he jumps into the river, etc.).

These two types of video effects are just a small sample of what I do for a living.

In this film, they only required these two types of effects; but in other films, like "Ocean's Eleven," I also did many 3D animations for the computer monitors and TVs you see as part of the scenes.

If you haven't had the chance to see "Mud" yet, go see it! You will not regret it. I sometimes wait for years to have a great script like this fall on my lap, and I didn't hesitate to go out into the Deep South, braving some incredibly dangerous weather, to be part of this amazing film and to see it through. Enjoy it!

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