The new sci-fi film, The Creator, premieres today, Sept. 29, in theaters nationwide. The film depicts a future world where robots with artificial intelligence rage against the human population in a post-apocalyptic war. With themes of AI, its power, and the capacity of human connection, the new movie is a tear-jerker that challenges how humans view new tech and its impact. The deeply immersive and visually stunning film takes storytelling to a whole new level.
Innovation & Tech Today had the pleasure of speaking with Oren Soffer, a Director of Photography for the new film. Editor-in-Chief Charles Warner chatted with Shoffer about his pivotal role in the creation process, the inspiration drawn from other timeless films such as Star Wars and Alien, the tenderness of human connection and AI, the production process, and how to have the best cinematic experience both at a movie theater and in your very own home!
Innovation & Tech Today: Tell our audience what a director of photography does because it sounds really cool.
Oren Soffer: Well, the director of photography is basically in charge of the camera and the lighting. It’s basically about helping the director translate their vision and create the visual look of the film through the use of camera lensing and lighting.
I&TT: This was a visually stunning film. Like, I kind of feel like this is something iconic on the level of maybe Avatar. When people say you need to see this on an IMAX, I feel like that applies to this movie. Was that what you guys were trying to do?
Soffer: Yeah, I think we didn’t necessarily know we were going to get the IMAX release, which has been a really fun bonus. But we were definitely trying to create a cinematic spectacle.
But I did share duties with Greig Fraser, the other cinematographer. Gareth, Greig, and I all grew up sort of loving the same films, you know, Blade Runner, Alien, Star Wars, E.T.- that kind of cinematic spectacle and specifically science fiction. And a movie that sort of transports you to a different world, different environment, and a different kind of time and place is really what we were always inspired by as filmmakers. I think it’s any filmmaker’s goal and dream to be able to make something that aspires to that same goal of transporting an audience to a different place in a different world and creating imagery and world-building that is immersive, exciting, thrilling, and unique.
I&TT: Yeah, I think that’s what it felt like for me when I got to see the movie. It didn’t feel like watching a movie. It felt like an experience. It was not like I was just watching a screen, and there was a beginning and then an end and everything like that. It was immersive, and it felt kind of like I was in that world. Were you going for something like that?
Soffer: That is actually exactly what we were going for. So it’s very heartwarming to hear. That was our stated goal, and we worked very hard in preproduction and at the planning stage of the film to create the conditions to be able to capture footage that would create a world that felt real, lived in, and immersive.
So, it’s the best thing in the world. It’s the best compliment in the world for a filmmaker to hear that a movie didn’t feel like a movie and that it actually transported you.
I&TT: Yes. At the beginning of The Creator, it shows pretty quickly what happens to L.A., and then it shows the response of the Senate or some really important people. And I thought it was interesting how you made that grainy, almost reminiscent of some 70s or 80s stuff. So, can you just briefly speak on that because I thought that was a really cool way that you made that all work together.
Soffer: Yeah. Basically, Gareth Edwards, the director, had a very specific design ethos for this movie that was sort of the guiding principle behind all of these decisions, including those aesthetic decisions that you tapped into.
Gareth’s design ethos for this film is something that is actually inspired by the original Star Wars and George Lucas. The ethos is that if you want to create something that feels truly timeless, you don’t want to have anything in it that is grounded in today’s world, which is something that you see in science fiction- you see imagery and design that is contemporary but futuristic.
So that was the idea behind that, but the larger purpose is to create something hopefully that feels timeless. So, if you watch this movie in 20 years, it wouldn’t necessarily feel like it was made in 2023. It could have been made in 1970, or it could have been made in 2040 when you’re watching it.
I&TT: How long did this movie take to film?
Soffer: We filmed for 90 days. We also had weekends off and then four months of planning and preparation. So the grand total was… more like 9 months of total planning, preproduction, shooting, and everything that’s just planning and shooting. It was then edited, and the visual effects work went on for another year after that.
But this has really been a six or seven-year journey for Gareth Edwards specifically because he really started thinking about this movie right after Rogue One came out, which was 2016. So, this has been a long time in the works.
I&TT: So, was there an effort to, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth or anything like that, but to almost humanize AI?
Soffer: Yes. We knew that you needed to be able to identify and relate to all of the characters on the screen or AI. Gareth wanted it to actually be very visually clear that the people who are robots are robots and that humans are humans, but definitely did not want to make a distinction in terms of emotion and relatability to an audience between the two.
So, what we actually found very early on was the best way to do that was to not tell anybody that their character was a robot. At least not the background characters. In fact, the more naturalistic and human you act, the more believable the illusion is going to be when you’re turned into a robot because it’ll feel like the emotion and the humanity is there.
That was always the goal. You know, you don’t want to create a world where you’re asked to sympathize and identify with some blocky robot. It’s very hard to make out emotional connection, and the emotional connection is the core is the heart of the movie.
I&TT: That was really cool. So let me ask you this: how do you like to watch movies? What’s your preferred setup? You obviously have a tremendous eye, and you appreciate the cinematography, the photography, and everything like that. How do you like to watch movies? What’s your preferred tech setup?
Soffer: Great question. So I have to separate it between cinema and home as they are two separate environments. There’s a lot of pessimism about the future of cinematic exhibitions. I don’t share that pessimism. I think there’s never been a better time to go to the movies.
We have great options with so many great theaters, and all of these premium display formats are incredible. So our film is playing in IMAX, Dolby Vision, and in screenX, and these are all just like the highest picture quality and sound quality.
You gotta sit center of the center, in a middle row, a middle seat. Hopefully, the audience is on their best behavior- their watches are on theater mode so the glow goes away, and nobody’s on their phone, nobody’s chit-chatting. You gotta really immerse yourself and focus on the film and be in the dark room.
Now at home, you can’t go wrong with an OLED…I don’t have a surround sound setup, but I do have a nice Sonos sound bar. So that’s my setup, and of course, lights are off, and windows and curtains are shut. If it’s during the day, we have no light pollution filtering in and distracting from what you want that screen to be. That’s the sort of an ideal setup. And both the theater and home certainly benefit from a nice little bowl of popcorn.
I&TT: Oh, yeah. Gotta have the popcorn. Well, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I’m excited to share this with our Innovation & Tech Today and Residential Tech Today audience, and congratulations. It was a really, really amazing movie.
Soffer: Thanks so much. I’m glad you liked it, and I appreciate it. I hope people will get a chance to check The Creator out!