Ever wonder what it is like to work at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) on a Star Wars film? Today’s guest is one of my best friends, Dan Cregan. Dan and I go way, way back. He worked with my doing VFX on my first film BROKEN.
We’ve continued to work together over the past 12 years. Dan has moved up in the VFX world working on blockbuster films like:
- Star Wars: Rogue One
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- The Martian
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- X-Men: Apocolypse
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
- Fantastic Four
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
I wanted to bring Dan back on the show to share his experience working behind the scenes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and ILM. Enjoy my conversation with Dan Cregan. May the force be with you.
Alex Ferrari 0:21
And today we are going to release a special episode. And it is an episode with my good buddy, one of my best friends in the whole world, Dan Cregan, who is a VFX guru or slash Jedi. And he worked on not only Rogue One at ILM, but he also just finished working on the last Jedi and I wanted to haven't had him on he was number episode number six of the original time he was on the podcast. And he's one of the rare re invites the comeback. And it's been almost over 200 episodes since he's been here. And I wanted to dig in. He's been very busy. He's worked on a lot of big movies over the course of the last couple years. And I really wanted to dig in on what it's like to work at ILM, what their workflow is like what the effects are like, working at that high level and advice for VFX artists, advice for filmmakers on how to deal with VFX artists. And we also geek out a little bit as you know we would so without any further ado, here is my conversation with VFX Jedi Dan Cregan. I'd like to welcome back onto the show returning champion Dan Cregan. What's up brother?
Dan Cregan 2:47
How's it going?
Alex Ferrari 2:48
Dan, you are my you. I think my first or second interview. You know you were you were episode six, or you were episode six. But you were one of my first actual interview is not just me yapping. So it's been over 200 episodes since.
Dan Cregan 3:08
Alex Ferrari 3:09
So it's insane, brother. So thanks for coming back. And you've been busy
Dan Cregan 3:13
This little thing you're doing and it might be taken off a little bit, you know, a little bit.
Alex Ferrari 3:16
It's it's you know what, it's helping a lot of filmmakers and a lot of artists out there. And that's that's the goal and what I do with Indie film hustle, but yeah, it is it's taken up more of my time than it did back when I recorded originally. And you have been semi busy as well as
Dan Cregan 3:33
A little bit over a little bit
Alex Ferrari 3:34
Over the last couple years. Last we heard you were working your your big movie had Buffett just finished was Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Hobbit. But since then you have what you finally got to Mecca, which is for all visual effects artists, Industrial Light and Magic. And I wanted to bring you on the show because this week, the last Jedi gets released. And I have an inside friend who was there while making it you helped make the movie and has yet and has, from what you tell me seen it at least 20 times will be by the way, no spoilers at all. So don't worry about spoilers for the movie. But before we even get to last Jedi, as long as I've known you, you've always wanted to work at ILM, Industrial Light and Magic for anybody who doesn't know what that is. And what is it finally, what was it like finally getting to like walk through those hallowed halls and work?
Dan Cregan 4:31
Well, it was very surreal. I mean, maybe that's an overused thing to say, no, this was surreal, but it was surreal in in the very definition of the world word. You know, I was lucky for one I got to work in ILM San Francisco. Now I'm not you know not to say anything against the other branches because there's one in Vancouver. There's one in London, there's one in Singapore. But you know San Francisco is where it all started. That's where the original players still are. You know, that's where the history is, even though they're not in their original building the Presidio has got a lot of history in it, since I think they started episode three at the Presidio. So like 2005. And so, but all the old props are there, and it's like walking through a film museum every day, and all the original posters, and I've seen 95% of all these films on the wall. And, you know, and it's funny, because a lot of the younger artists will be given tours, their family and friends through the, through the facility. And, and they don't know, so many of these movies that I grew up on, that are on these walls, and I and I always had to bite my tongue and try not to interject with, you don't know what that is, this is so and so. Or this isn't something else, you know. So it was, um, it was like being home, you know, and I'm an East coaster, you know, I'm from South Florida. Like you, I hate to remind you of that
Alex Ferrari 5:52
I am I am
Dan Cregan 5:54
So but you know, but I felt very at home in that place. Maybe not in San Francisco as a whole, but, but when I was at work there, it just felt like where I belonged. Because everywhere I looked was a piece of film history, things that I have obsessed about and thought about and probably given way too much time thinking about for that matter. And just being able to walk through those halls and and, and, you know, walk and see directors come and go and and sometimes actors get tours, and they come and they give speeches and man and there's nothing like it. I mean, I dreamed of being in the film business. And this was the epitome of being in the dome business, you know,
Alex Ferrari 6:32
Yeah. And I wish I would have taken you up on the offer to fly up to San Francisco and take that tour. I really do. I'm hoping that you get another gig there soon. So I can actually just jump on a plane for a day and get up there and, and take the tour. It was just hard. talking to my wife about my baby. I'm just gonna jump on a plane and golden tour ILM with Dan for a day. She's like, how old are you? I'm like, I know. I know. Oh, you have been taking a selfie with Yoda found in our two Oh, I would have made an entire event. And the tribe would have would have thanked me for it. But maybe next time I'm sure you'll get called back. So the first movie you worked on at ILM was Star Wars Rogue One, which was your first Star Wars film? It was and arguably one of the best in the in the entire saga in my opinion. I loved it. What did you think of it?
Dan Cregan 7:24
I am really fond of it. Um, I I you know, it's funny I there's a lot of things about it that I love even more than Force Awakens as far as it feels so tied to the original trilogy I grew up in and and, and having Vader in it and everybody's like, not only do you have Vader in your movie, you have the Vader seen that now people may be considered the greatest Vader's seen in all of Star Wars. And so it's just cool to have my name on on the credit roll of that film. And, and, you know, I overall think the movie was a tremendous success. I think the last 40 minutes are where it really sings. I think the last 40 minutes of that film are just perfection. I think there's there's a little too much like planet hopping in the in the first half. And I think it's like just a little confusing, and he doesn't find its rhythm. But once it does, I think the thing is absolutely, just as strong as they come. Now I you know, whenever anybody asked me about any film I've worked on, I always have to stipulate that I don't have a clear vision of it. Because when I was working on Rogue One, I watched it in pieces the same as I did later with last Jedi. I just kind of I saw most of the film before and thought in theaters, and I saw it out of continuity out of order. And I saw it evolve and have different versions. And and you just tend to love it. I mean, when I saw the Vader hallway scene, before, you know anybody else, I jumped out of my desk, you know, I was like, Whoa, you know, and, and the lay ending I said, Whoa, this is crazy. We're really doing this and all those things were amazing, even though I didn't get to work on those shots, you know, so it was amazing just to have to be a part of the team and see those things. And now that everybody's seen them, you know, I couldn't talk about them. I can't you know, you know, I signed so many legal documents and nobody wants to hear about it before it comes out anyway, it would be spoiled. And so when i when i do finally watch it, I have the added baggage of any film I work on I have the added baggage of knowing how it came to be which not it doesn't ruin my enjoyment of a film but it definitely taints it in a certain way to where I can't give a 100% clear review of something that I enjoy it now I have so many friends who are Star Wars fans and they and they were all talking to me oh it's the best since Empire and it's amazing and I love it more than then you know anything that's come out in Star Wars since the original trilogy and you know so I've heard a lot of that and i and i love that I've been a part of it but to me there's there's a slight difference when you When you're behind the curtain, and you see all the pieces come together, it takes away a little of your objectivity. So that's the cost, the cost of achieving your dream of working on on your childhood fantasies is that you do put a little dent in those fantasies, at least, you can enjoy the new ones as a fan. And, and that being said, When Force Awakens came out, it actually was the other way around. I hadn't worked on it, but I had friends who worked on it, and I was jealous, I was so jealous, and it ruin the film a little bit for me, because all I could think about was I wanted that job so bad. And I didn't make it and now here it is, and now Han Solo is dead. And I'll never
Alex Ferrari 10:38
No one people have seen it.
Dan Cregan 10:41
Um, Force Awakens has been out for how long? Two years?
Alex Ferrari 10:45
Okay, you know, what, if whoever's listening has not seen Force Awakens yet, and you're a Star Wars fan, I'm sorry, sorry. It's just,
Dan Cregan 10:51
If you're a Star Wars fan, and you haven't seen the Force Awakens, then there's something wrong
Alex Ferrari 10:54
That at that point in the game, there's something wrong. And I remember you telling me after Rogue One came out that you literally had because you are in your computer, you can at your workstation, you can bring up any sequence you want, right in the in the data in the off the hard drives. And you would literally have this debate or stuff on loop, right?
Dan Cregan 11:17
I did, and sometimes fellow artists who are working on other films that are sitting around, you don't want to be subjected to that either. They're like, Don't show me Don't talk to me, don't tell me I don't want to hear it. It's so hard to save spoiler free when you're when you're working on a film. And, you know, we have access to all the dailies one of that's one of the advantages of being at ILM is that sometimes same as when I was at wedo. Working on the Hobbit, you have access to the whole film. A lot of times when you're at the smaller VFX houses, you only have access to the part of the film you're working on. Like when I was working on Spectre, the James Bond movie, I would have loved to spoil the whole thing for myself, but we only had access to the mountain Shea scene that I worked on and, and that was better. So if I get to work on a small bit of a movie, I actually can watch the movie like a fan, right? I only know my 15 minute or 10 minutes sequence that I was privy to so that that can be that can be nice, you know? So there's definitely a price to pay for knowing, you know,
Alex Ferrari 12:12
Now, I'm going to ask you, I'm gonna ask you a simple question. You can say yea or nay. I'm just going to ask it since Rogue One had a bunch of behind the scenes, we can call it drama. There was some amazing footage shot and shown in those trailers. Do you have any insight on what was going on back there or anything like that? And you can easily just say, Alex, I can't talk about
Dan Cregan 12:36
Well, it there's nothing for me to say I was brought in. And one of the reasons I got my big ILM break I think and I'm and I am kind of partially guessing here was because of the reshoots because of the changes made to the film. The VFX deadline got pushed, they needed help to finish the movie on time to make its December release. And, you know, that's how I got in the door. It's hard to get that first job with ILM, or at least it was for me anyway. I mean, I I think it was my I want to say my sixth try.
Alex Ferrari 13:10
You know, that was that was a try that you told them that you worked with me on broken obviously. Yeah. And that's what opened the door. Got it, obviously.
Dan Cregan 13:17
You know, I had been trying to get an island for years. So, you know, this was finally the moment and it was Star Wars film and six weeks and you know, San Francisco home base. It was it was just amazing. I was like, yeah, that's incredible. So I so yeah, so I got out there and I thought well, what is it gonna be and there was no disorganization. It was it was wonderful behind the scenes I felt, you know, I felt like the media was blowing it out of proportion. Personally, to me, it really was. And maybe it's just the professionalism and the level of skill that Lucasfilm has, but all the work was was spot on it. There was no rush. And we were doing a lot of work on a short deadline, but there was no panic. It was all done very well. The director Gareth Edwards was there with us working with us, he was friendly. My VFX supervisor was john Knoll, who was amazing is like working with a rock star. He was friendly and calm and, and everything just worked like a well oiled machine. It was just so smooth. I was blown away. I I've done a lot of VFX work for a lot of films, and I've seen some pretty stressful situations. Yes. And be part of some. And Rogen was not that it was it was completely smooth. So I think the stories of the changes and you know, I got a little blown out of proportion. I think the changes that were made made the film considerably better. I don't think that there's ever going to be a cut with the extended footage that's going to somehow magically be you know, something different. I think what they went with was immensely better. I think everybody was on board and there you know, and it was just a It came out great. So I have a lot of faith in in Lucasfilm, and Kathleen Kennedy and everybody, I think they just do great work. And I trust them when they make changes to films. And what they do. A lot of people are like, Oh, it's the Disney influence, or Oh, we're trying to reach a certain audience. But I honestly think that they just want to make the best film possible. And they have the money and the resources and the time and they care enough to actually do it. So I'm a little less cynical having worked there. I'm actually I'm more of a fan of Lucasfilm and Disney in general about the way they do things then then I was before.
Alex Ferrari 15:37
I mean, I'll tell you what I mean, if Rogue One is them trying to hit a complete mass market, that's not the that's definitely not it. Because it's one of the darkest installments inside of Star Wars universe. Without question, I've yet to show it to my daughters, purely because there are some questions I'm gonna have to answer afterwards. So I'm just gonna leave that be. Even though they have the toys from Rogue One. They, they haven't shown it to him because it's pretty darn dark, actually, arguably darker than Empire, which is one of the darkest, darkest installments as well. Now, you said you worked with john Knoll, and for people for the audience. You know, the guys listening? JOHN Knoll is a legend. He's up there with Dennis Muir. And as one of the, you know, guys at ILM, who are just legends, but john Knoll specifically was if I'm not mistaken, please correct me. He was one of the original developers of Photoshop as well.
Dan Cregan 16:34
Yeah, him and his brother developed Photoshop Thomas No, which is the name you usually see when you load up Photoshop, but he was one of the original developers as well. Yeah, he co created Photoshop. That's insane. Yeah, exactly. And, you know, it was right around his time at the beginning of his ILM, tenure, you know, and and, you know, when he was working on the Abyss around that era, rather early 90s, and 8990, somewhere around there, and this was just the start of everything amazing. That's happened. You know, it seems like it all started at ILM. You know, really did I mean places like what an MPC and other places I've worked at they've, they've continued to legacy, but it all started with ILM.
Alex Ferrari 17:16
Oh, yeah. They were the they were the the Big Bang, if you will, of the visual effects industry without question. And john will was specifically your VFX. Supervisors. So you are working with john, on a daily basis. Correct?
Dan Cregan 17:29
Yes. I mean, you know, when you go into the screening room, he's he's the person giving you notes. And that's, that takes a little getting used to when you're coming in the first time, you know, I mean, I mean, some people I guess would be kind of unfazed, but if you know about the business or the history, I mean, it can be kind of a really intimidating thing. And but there is he's such a cool guy that there was there was no reason to be nervous or anything. It's just, you know, just another day at work there. You know, that's the greatest thing.
Alex Ferrari 17:57
Now. Can you talk a little bit about that process? What is the screening process? What is what it like notes, can you talk about that so the audience understands?
Dan Cregan 18:05
Yeah, you know, VFX studios tend to run the same way ILM wet uh, you know, MPC digital domain, all the places I've been, you know, they tend to have the same kind of workflow, you know, your assigned shots. You know, they have some kind of shot organizing system like a shotgun. That's a very common common one. You get assignments, you see the other people who are working on your shots and those assignments so you're working with other artists at ILM, you there's a lot of interaction with the other artists in the departments there's a lot of teamwork, there's there's a lot of communication, you're talking to the other people working on your shot, meaning CG artists or roto prep artists or, you know, dynamics, anybody you know, you're getting a lot more input from those people directly. So we're at other studios, sometimes there's a little more, it's already done by the time you get to it, do your part and send it along, you know, next person in the assembly line. So it was a lot of teamwork at ILM that I really enjoyed but it took a little getting used to. And then on a daily basis, you you do your work and almost every VFX studio, you have dailies you have daily dailies where you'll have your shot. Now when you get close to the deadline, you usually have morning dailies and afternoon dailies and then when you're really getting close to the end of the project you have like 10 o'clock at night evening dailies so you have like morning, mid afternoon and evening dailies and, and the problem with too many daily sessions usually is you get notes but then you don't have time to address those notes before the next daily session. And then your shots not in the next Daily Show session and then they're like where's the shot and the coordinators are are contacting you to try to find out where you are. But it's generally the workflow it's you're sitting at your desk you're working, you're using your your shot management system to understand where you are in the process. You're doing your work, you're listening to your headphones, you know your your shot comes up and you use it when you Did you know what i like this work I'm doing let me let me submit it in so my soups can look at it and give me some direction. You know, you, you create a stopping point, you submit your shot into dailies, you keep working. And then at some point, you're alerted, hey, dailies are going on your shots can be viewed by your supervisor Come on in, and then you go into the dailies room and, and view the shots. And that's pretty much and then you get more notes and you rinse and repeat until they say, all right, I think this is good enough for another supervisor or the director to see it, we're going to submit it to the director. And then you get those director notes where the director says awesome, and then on your way you go and you're on to the next shot. So that's, that's pretty much you know, that your job your daily life as a VFX. Artist.
Alex Ferrari 20:45
Now how many? And I know this is a long question, but how many departments on a typical shot like as your your comp, if I'm not mistaken, correct,
Dan Cregan 20:53
I am comp I am the end of the line. And the last one to do you know, a shot, I'm the one who assembles all the pieces together from the different departments to create the final shot that's in the film. The only thing that may be done after me is color grading, you know, and you know, in certain editing. For the most part, though, what you see on the screen is what left my computer, which is the cool thing, but uh given to me, you know, there's animators, there's layout, which you know, layout creates, you know, the, the tracking for a scene and the general the framework of the scene and make sure all the measurements are correct. And, you know, everything is, you know, properly blocked out. And then animation, you know, you if you have CG creatures or CG vehicles, they animation, just like an animated movie, that's where you get that. And then you have like lighting where they do all the texturing and lighting to make it look real. So what I received should already look very good. And when you're at a studio, like ILM and weda, the stuff is just beautiful. And you're almost like, wow, what am I doing here, I mean, because this already looks great. And it's my job to give it that little extra bit, that little extra icing to make it I mean, some shots are different than others. I mean, some shots need work, it's just the nature of the beast. Some shots, you know, require a lot on the composite or to make them go across the finish line. If you can fix something in comp without sending it back to other departments, that's what you do. But if you if you can, if you have the time and you have the resources, it's better to send it back to the individual departments to be done right. And then back to me to just put in the final shot and move along. You're also but what how many departments on a shot depends on what the shot involves. So if it's just, you know, background and placement with green screen, maybe you don't need animation, maybe you don't need lighting, you just get DMP digital matte painting department gives you a matte painting, and you're keying it in and compositing and boom, you're good to go. And then it's done. And then other times you have a shots with, you know, affects simulate, simulate VFX simulate simulation, like smoke and rain or tornadoes or, or things like that. Or you know, and you have animation and you have digital matte painting and you have you know, like everything you can I've had shots with, with everything you know, and those are the ones that take a while. And sometimes it's a composite or you're just waiting for those elements to get to you and they'll give you other shots to do in the meantime, but you're just waiting for those things to hit. And and you know, that's that's the process. That's that's the magic that creates these films nowadays that all have so much it's done on everything you look at
Alex Ferrari 23:36
Now, what's where's the rendering done? Are you doing the rendering on your workstation, because some of these shots will take days, depending how complex is
Dan Cregan 23:45
Well sometimes your workstation is part of the render farm a chain of computers that's doing the actual rendering. But usually you don't have it on your you don't render locally on your own station, you're sending it to the farm. And these big VFX studios have these massive farms that can do amazing amount of you know, computational, you know, processing, you know, that can really turn the shots out. But of course, there's an old adage of, you know, oh, when we can render faster, this will all go quicker, but it never does. Because the faster we can render, the more complex we make the shots and the render time stays about the same. So we only tend to be just moving the finish line we never crossed the finish line sooner we just keep moving the finish line out so it takes the same amount of time. We're just covering a greater distance you remember one SD
Alex Ferrari 24:34
Was like a pig to render. Yeah, we're just doing like standard like the stuff we did together. 12 years ago. It took forever to render now, literally, you can render that on your iPhone. But we're not doing that anymore. Now we're in 4k.
Dan Cregan 24:49
Yes. wrongly, so don't get me started on whether you need to be in 4k or not. But yes,
Alex Ferrari 24:55
Please I preach brother preach.
Dan Cregan 24:57
Yeah, I mean, for most projects, 4k is overkill. 2k is more than enough. And sometimes HD is more than enough, quite honestly. But 2k is a nice resolution, 4k is just overkill unless you have a shot that specifically demands the extra detail, like moving a far distance in a shot. I remember on the Hobbit, we had a scene where, you know, Bilbo is in this giant, cavernous dungeon in the mountain and, and this camera comes from way down the hall and out and it zooms all the way by him on his face. And you know, you need, I think we did that played in 6k, I can't remember it was crazy, but you need the detail on a shot like that. And turning that in stereo and 40 frames a second 42 frames a second or whatever, it was just unbelievable. You know, it was, you know, you got to have the best computers in the world to turn that kind of, you know, those kind of shots around, you know,
Alex Ferrari 25:52
And that's the thing. And please, I want you to I want I want you to tell the audience from your perspective as VFX artists, 4k and dealing with 4k plates, and dealing with 4k workflow, because there's so many independent filmmakers out there who come to me, they're like, Oh, I want to color graded 4k, I want to master in 4k. And I'm like, Why? Why do you want to do that? And it's like, VFX heavy. And these poor VFX artists say yeah, I'll do it if they like, they just can't get it done. Because it's just too much rendering. It's too much bandwidth to push all of that, especially if you got 1000 shots or 500 shots. It's too much if you got one shot two shots fine. And if you're Guardians of the Galaxy, you want to shoot 8k on the new read. Absolutely. Go for it. You guys have the resources to do that. But from a VFX perspective, What's your feeling?
Dan Cregan 26:41
I feel like it just adds more time and effort. You know, it just makes things slower. And it just it stresses the computer out. And depending on the you know, the resources you have to render if you have a big farm and you don't mind the renders taking hours and hours and hours, even with the farm. I guess it's all good as long as it's not slowing you down. But in in the indie world, it slows you down way too much to be useful. I mean, you'd rather be moving quicker and getting more versions of a shot, then waiting longer to see each version. It's just very wasteful. It's just not necessary. I mean, you know, quite honestly, you know, 10 ADP actually blows up wonderfully. I don't know if there is a secret, okay, because I'm not privy to everything. Okay, I did a game of thrones episode. You know, Watchers on the wall and season four. Those episodes were intended EP because they're for HBO, for your TV. And they are beautiful. Well, they had before season five happened. They did a special IMAX showing. So it's nine and 10. The one I worked on was episode nine of season four. And so I go to an IMAX theater to see my work blown up to IMAX. No, they did. It's gorgeous. And ADP blow up 10 ADP blown up to IMAX and it's perfect. It's beautiful. I mean, it's not as ultra crisp and ultra sharp as if it was shot with an IMAX camera. But I was never once super aware of the conversion. And I enjoyed it so much seeing that episode on in IMAX. And and I just it got me to thinking though, if this can be done, if you can take 1080 p footage and make it really nice and IMAX, then what are we doing? Why are we spending all this time now? I've been doing you know, you know, an electronics store. And I've seen 4k displays doing 4k footage of like skydiving and stuff and cityscapes and you see all this little tiny detail. And I think that's amazing. But I've never seen that kind of detail on a film. And I've never seen that kind of detail in normal, you know, projects, so maybe we'll get there but that's just not something that I see very much, you know. Yeah. And, you know, even when you see a 4k restoration, say Ghostbusters and you see it projected at 4k. You're like, Okay, this is great. They went back to the original film and they you know, and it's 4k. But is there that much improvement now, HD was a big jump. And but if you really look at the 2k two HD gap, it's so minor that you're like, Are we really getting our money's worth. And then when you look at the 4k jump now I've watched like Netflix shows like daredevil and Jessica Jones at 4k, and I admit I see the extra detail and I enjoy it. I really, um, and I just don't know, though, that it isn't always worth it. It depends on the project. I think that if your pipe set up for it, more power to you. But if you are not absolutely set up for it, it is not needed. And there's not many places that are set up for it really there really isn't. You know, there just really isn't.
Alex Ferrari 29:57
I mean ILM, what a MPC. Those guys They're they're set up for it, but they have an insane amount of infrastructure to be able to push that. So like if I hired you, Dan for a VFX, shot on, like 10 VFX shots on an indie film, and they're all 4k down, you'd be just like, what are you doing Alex? And then I would probably try to charge you double or triple for it. Because that's the same thing I do. When someone comes to me, they're like, Oh, we want to master in 4k, I'm like, well, it's going to cost you another 1520 grand. Sorry, it because it's going to take so much longer to process it to deal with it to render it out to master it, it just adds a level of stupidity on a film that that is not going to be projected ever and 4k, generally speaking, I know a lot of people listening. Now we've gone off a tangent here for a second. But I know a lot of people are saying, Oh, well, you know, 4k, you know, future proofing? I'm like, come on it.
Dan Cregan 30:54
I mean, you can't you can't future proof everything. I mean, we could be you know, watching holographic projection usable film someday. And you know, and, and there's conversion process, the same way we turn, you know, flat films into 2d into 3d projected films, you know, we it can be done. And there'll be ways to convert old material, there always will be. If it's worth saving, it'll be saved. And it's just, it's it's just, it's just not very, it's just not very time smart to try to push that high resolution. We've talked too fast, too. I mean, if you look at how long it took us to do the HD jump from SD, in the production world? Sure. Why are we Why are we jumping? You know, past 2k, all the way to 4k, and you know, people talking about 8k televisions coming down the pipe someday I'm like, why? We're moving too fast. For no reason whatsoever. You know, it's, it's because I think the we got to sell electronics.
Alex Ferrari 31:54
Like now that now it's now cheap, HD, Ultra HD, which is the color space changing. And I get and I see that and I see what the process is for the Ultra HD. But yeah, you're right, you just have to constantly be selling the new thing. So it's a curved television, or it's this or this that or Yeah.
Dan Cregan 32:13
Now high dynamic range. I think that's pretty cool. Because, you know, we we've been working in High Dynamic Range when you're working on Raw, you know, dp X Files or E xR files, you know, like raw film, you know, raw digital, that has high dynamic range in VFX. world, we have to do that, because we need to see detail and the brightest brights and the darkest darks. So being able to manipulate that in the VFX process is important. So the fact that that range is starting to be preserved all the way to the final product. It's exciting.
Alex Ferrari 32:44
Yeah, and that's an i in as a colorist, it's invaluable. That's why I always like editing or color grading and raw. So now that we've gone off on a tangent, Dan, as we all I think, though, I think it is very interesting, hopefully, for everyone listening, but let's get into the last Jedi. And and you work on it. I'm sorry, as much as we can, as much as we can, contractually. So how long was the post production process? I know you weren't there the entire time, obviously. But what is a typical post schedule for a film of that magnitude?
Dan Cregan 33:19
Well, that's all over the place. You couldn't really answer that. I think ideally, it's somewhere around six months. I think that would probably be a sweet spot. But certain films take more time. Certain films take less time, you know, we we knocked out x men Apocalypse, I think in roughly three months, maybe four months. I mean, most of the work, the bulk of the work is done in three or four months.
Alex Ferrari 33:42
But you have that, but they had an insane size team at that point.
Dan Cregan 33:45
Yeah, they do. You know, we had 90 compositors on our show. It was, you know, a lot of a lot of churning a lot of a lot of movement. You know, and it really just depends on what the production decides on and the longer you have to tweak, you know, the better I guess, you know, so I want to say it was a no and I'm guessing because I was on the left at AI for three months. And it was still going on when I left. I think it was three or four weeks away from wrapping up. So that's a
Alex Ferrari 34:13
Pretty long stretch for for film for you to be away on a film. But well, yeah, no.
Dan Cregan 34:19
Yeah. I mean, usually I I tend to you know, and if anybody who knows me knows I like to spend less time on the road living out of hotels, so I try to keep my contracts three months and under. So I usually come in for crunch. I usually come in at the end like I was on row one for six weeks. You know, it was kind of my trial with ILM. I think this to get to know me, and then they brought me back luckily gratefully for last Jedi and that was longer at nearly three months, one week short of it. And you know, and I got to do a lot more on last Jedi and it was it was an amazing experience and and what was different about it was working so hard. out from release. So, you know, I finished in June, and the movies coming out a week from now and it was a long time to have it in my head and never be able to talk about it. That was a new experience for me having that inside me for so long and not being able to say a peep, you know, not a word. So that was different
Alex Ferrari 35:17
Now with them. What was it like working with Ryan Johnson? Because he seems like an just a wonderful energy, if you will to work with just a very calm dude. What is it like really work with him on behind the scenes?
Dan Cregan 35:31
Well, he, you know, to be perfectly honest, he was only unlike Rogue One where Gareth Edwards was seem to be at ILM every day with us, Ryan Johnson was I think he was down in LA, I think he was in your neck of the woods. So he would he would video remote in and look at our shots every day, which we all got to see as artists. So that's when we kind of worked with them remotely. In that sense, he did come up and sit with us on a few occasions and we got to you got the in person critique, but you know what, in person, and, you know, through the video conference that we would watch the shots. Uh, he's just the nicest guy and so even tempered, and, and just seems like a really genuinely great guy. And I'm so happy he's doing a new trilogy, you know, you know, cuz he's just, he's got the perfect temperament for it. He's, he's just, he just seems like the kind of guy you want to trust, you know, and, and he's not too high, not too low. But he's excited about what he's doing. And he's excited about, you know, what he's looking at and the work that we're doing. And it's such a thrill when you're watching when you're listening to the director, look at your shots. And then they're and they like, all perfect, great or, oh, I kind of like you learn so much about a director listening to a day after day after day, you learn about what they like, what they don't like, what their little hang ups are, what what what their personal preferences are, every director is different. And you have to restyle your your, you know, what you're doing, you know, for the director, that's why it's the directors film, you know, it, they're the ones calling all the shots on, on, even on the VFX process. I don't think a lot of people know how involved the director really is. I mean, they're, they're making every little pixel decision with the VFX supervisor, you know, and, and, you know, they're the last word, they're the one telling you this will fly, this won't fly. We need more smoke here, we need more lasers here, we need a better sky here. We need, you know, again, we
Alex Ferrari 37:30
Get a Yoda here. Yeah.
Dan Cregan 37:33
And, you know, and, and Ryan had to be one of the nicest directors that I've ever just had to just have the privilege of working around. He was just just a really nice guy and just, uh, just, you know, really earnest and, and trying to do the best job and he took it so seriously, and at the same time, kept it light and you can that you cannot put a price on a good working environment, just a good, happy working environment. My two shows that I lm the people have been great. My my you know, that. It's not always like that. I've been on a lot of films where it was high stress, high pressure, arguing, fighting angry. And my both of my experiences that ILM, everybody has just been so professional and so laid back. It's like, that's the only way I want to work from now on to me, it's, it's just not worth it. If you're working these long hours, he's 12 and 14 hour days and people are, you know, yelling or or, you know, or using you, are you Yeah, I mean, if you're gonna put in these hours and sacrifice what we do, the least we can have is a fun working environment. Because at the end of the day, it should be fun, we're not curing cancer, where we're, you know, making fantasy movies, you know, I mean, we're more making, you know, dreams, and then that should be a fun process. Because I feel like if it's, it's not a fun process, it's going to taint the end product in a way, you know, and you kind of see that in a lot of productions. And, you know, there is the, the the other way of thinking though, the whiplash way of thinking a movie I particularly loved if anybody's out there, you know what I'm talking about that you got to have tension and stress and be pushed to your limits to truly make great art. And, you know, there's a small part of me that believes that too. It's just, I think it's, it's just in the maestro, you know, the, the guy holding the baton, the guy that's that's setting that tone, and bringing the best out in you. They've got to know what they're doing. I can take the abuse if it's done in the right way. And I think there's something to be said for both ways. But if I had to choose and I think anybody would choose you prefer being happy all day in your working environment, rather than being pushed to the point where you want to throw a desk.
Alex Ferrari 39:51
And I think I've pushed you on both ways, if I'm not mistaken. I've been in a very wonderful working environment and sometimes you wanted to throw a desk at me Never on my projects, though, when you and I work together, like on projects that I create, and we kind of work together on, we've rarely had any bumps of heads, but only when I bring in clients,
Dan Cregan 40:11
Clients. Yeah, it's the old clerks adage, you know, this job would be great. If it wasn't for the customers. You know, it's, it's it really is that, you know, I think everything we do, would be better if we were just calling our own shots and making our own stuff and just doing what we want. But as soon as there's a client involved, you know, you are at the service of the client, and that's always going to push you in places that you know, necessarily enjoy going. So, you know, I remember, even back when I used to do graphic design, you know, it was like, you give a client three versions of something, never give them something you don't like, because invariably, they will pick that one. Exactly. And then you're stuck working on the one you hate, you know,
Alex Ferrari 40:56
now what, can you tell me any stories or discuss anything about the last Jedi without giving away anything or them suing you? That's, that's the tricky thing, isn't it? I you know, I think just making up behind the seven funniest thing,
Dan Cregan 41:11
In general, and I don't think I'm spoiling anything or breaking any NDA is is, you know, the porg. Yeah. From the day I got to the studio, the poor were a hot topic.
Alex Ferrari 41:20
Okay, so so everybody, if so, if anyone who's not seen the trailer, you have to watch the trailer for the last shot, and there'll be this little adorable character. Screen screaming. And now there's toys at Target. And then Toys R Us because I've seen it with my daughters. And they're like, Oh, what's that? I'm like, I don't know. But it scares me. Cuz it's adorable. I think it's cute. But it could turn into a Jar Jar. It could go eat. Don't eat it after midnight. That's all exactly like it could go into the what, you know, the big, big critique of Jedi was that he walks was just to sell more toys and stuffed animals. It smells a little of that. But please tell me from your perspective.
Dan Cregan 42:04
Well, I think that's the core of the argument, I think, from the artists who are at ILM, who remember Jedi who grew up on Jedi were the ones that actually worked on Jedi that are there. I mean, it goes back to that whole was George right? That, you know, you got to have the flavor for the kids. I mean, these movies are made for all ages. It's not when one part of the audience claims ownership over something and says, I gotta have it dark and everything has to be like Empire. And I want everything angry. You know, I think
Alex Ferrari 42:33
You mean like DC sorry.
Dan Cregan 42:35
Yeah. I mean, you're you're being that that militant fanboy that that just wants it the way they want it. Nothing else is good enough. And I think you're missing the casual audience and a whole subsection of Pete, we don't tend to think about what kids would enjoy. And you got to do that when you're making movies. They deserve part of the film as well. Star Wars is not supposed to be seven. It's not supposed to be this dark and depressing world that doesn't have any hope. I mean, when you were, you know, watching, you know, Batman versus Superman, one of the biggest things is man, this is joyless. It's so, you know, and I agree. And that's, you know, and that's Oh, and some people like it, though, some people are like, yeah, that's setting us them apart from Marvel, and it's, it's, it's darker. And I think Star Wars always will have a fun kid part to it. And we, as fans have to come to grips with that. And, and I think the Borg are fine. But of course, when I was in the studio, you know, that some of the artists are like, I hate these little rats with wings. And you know, and other artists are like, they're adorable. I love them. I want stuff poured all over my desk. So, you know, they're diverse and they were diverse, from you know, the it's a site of divisive subject from the get go when I got there. And when I saw them, I'm like, what's going on with these things, you know, and now they're out in the world and, and already the conversations begin, people are like, oh, they're awesome, you know, when it's, it's yelling just like Chewbacca in the trailer, you know. Now there's another little TV spot out right now where Chewbacca is like brushing the pork off the console and knocking it down. And there's people going off Finally, Chewbacca is throwing the porn to the ground, you know?
Alex Ferrari 44:15
But that's genius. Because it's creating conversation. It's creating even the small amount of controversy within the fan base. It is getting people talking not that you need a whole lot of people more talking about. But it is it is a good way to kind of get them going. Get them revved up.
Dan Cregan 44:33
Yeah, it definitely was the thing. It was the thing we talked about most I think, you know, the poor guy, and it was the kind of inside joke and I think Ryan, you know, I think he knew that. You know, I think everybody was
Alex Ferrari 44:45
He granted right? He created Yeah,
Dan Cregan 44:47
I mean, I think they were they saw these from what I've read because I don't I don't know sometimes I'm just like you guys, I have to read this stuff. From fansites. I believe they saw some birds that were on that island were you know that they were on At the end of Force Awakens, and it gave them this idea, we should have the Star Wars equivalent of this bird in the movie, you know, and, and, you know, it's just a little flourish, it's not crucial to the film, it's just something that's it's gonna annoy some people and there's some people that are gonna like to flourish, but it's, I don't think in the end it will ruin your appreciation to port spoiler the poor don't rise up and overtake the first one.
Alex Ferrari 45:28
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Though I don't it's not like the wax is not
Dan Cregan 45:41
Gonna be the wax part to it really can't be because that's where he walks went wrong is that the walks were, you know, taken out stormtroopers and people can't deal with that. But this is a conversation. The poor, the poor are not I don't think quite suited to do that. So I don't think we're ever going to get to that point.
Alex Ferrari 46:01
And we know that and one of the cast members came out publicly says I hate them. Yeah, john boyega. Just like, I hate them. I hate them. I don't know what they're talking about. I don't know what they're doing. It's horrible.
Dan Cregan 46:16
The good thing is it's it's not a major part of the film. So they shouldn't you know, ruin or enhance it, you know, any part of the film either. They're just kind of there. And I think they can only enhance I don't think they can ruin I should say, I think they can only be there if you like him. But if you don't like him, I don't think they're going to really get in your way of enjoying this installment of the Star Wars saga. And you know, and
Alex Ferrari 46:38
Did you did you work on any shots with him?
Dan Cregan 46:42
With poor gut No, never had important shots. You know, I was I was not gifted with those shots. But I can say that I did have shots with the crystal foxes which which you've seen in the trailer as well? Yes.
Alex Ferrari 46:56
Those were those were I thought really cool. I can't even imagine what they just look insanely cool.
Dan Cregan 47:01
Yeah, they are amazing. And working on those was a lot of fun.
Alex Ferrari 47:05
And you say and you also had a Luke shot. If I'm not mistaken.
Dan Cregan 47:09
I did get to work on shots that contain Luke Skywalker. But no, that's all I can say about that's all
Alex Ferrari 47:15
I can say. That's all I can say. That's all we're gonna say. That's there's no ILM. There's no reason Lucasfilm no reason to to sue Dan. He said anything that's not been laid out in the trailers. We all know it's on the poster Lucas in the movie. That's all we know.
Dan Cregan 47:29
And when you when you sign NDA is, that's pretty much your guideline, you look at what they release in the world. And you know, you can talk about something that's on a poster or in the trailer, or, you know, as long as you're not saying anything about it, that shouldn't be public knowledge. But you know, to the young VFX artists out there, I would say the better thing to do is just not say anything, don't do what I'm doing right now, don't even dance around the edge.
Alex Ferrari 47:53
Don't go on a podcast,
Dan Cregan 47:55
Don't go on Alex's podcast and talk about what you do behind the scenes. Because I guess if I, right now, if I burn my bridges, and nobody wants to hire me ever again, I can at least take solace in the fact that I made it to ILM, and I got to work on Star Wars. And you know,
Alex Ferrari 48:10
I think you're safe. But yes, don't do this. Do not do what you're doing here. But don't think you've done anything wrong? Or very cool. Yes, of course, of course. But yeah, but you've got some history with this as well. So for young VFX artist, Dan has been around a little bit. So that Yeah. And he's also he knows I'm not gonna give him any gotcha questions.
Dan Cregan 48:32
Oh, and I am back when I was at digital domain, you couldn't speak with any form of media, without going to the public relations department, you know, because I was a full time staff member of digital domain. So, you know, there was no publicly talking about anything regarding the studio, they kept a tight grip on it, you know, and I, and mostly, I don't think the studios are too worried about it, generally, digital domain was, but since then, I've noticed the studios know that if you were to break your NDA, you're just costing yourself your career. So people are pretty good about not talking about what they work on, you know, and, and it's, it's, it's really easy not to talk when you know, you won't get another job if you talk about it. So I exactly, it's not a hard rule to really maintain. Because the tricky part is, here's the hardest part, if you have a family or if you have a home, and they start asking you and you're so that's so loadable here with everybody in your family and you can't even do that. Because you know, because you don't know where they're going to spread it,
Alex Ferrari 49:32
You know that it'll get back to you. Exactly. That's that I've never even asked nor would I want to because you'd be ruin the fun. So I yeah, you just don't ask things like that. of the insiders is.
Dan Cregan 49:45
No, I mean, it's a little bit of a burden to carry, but I'm not going to complain because there are far worse jobs to have. I mean it it does make you a little nervous sometimes and most of the time when you get a new VFX job. On day one, you're sitting there watching a video that tells you that About not saying anything you know about anything that you're talking or doing about, you know, just the best practices just shut up and pretend you don't even exist.
Alex Ferrari 50:09
Just you know, best practices is just be cool.
Dan Cregan 50:12
I tell you for me, though, it's it's hilarious to go to film websites and watch the rumors spread and see things. And you know what's real and what isn't, and just laugh at people and just kind of say, Oh, you're so far off? Or Oh, hey, you got it. But I'll never tell you You got it. Or, you know, it's weird to see, to know that. And to watch people speculate, it's fun. It's a lot of fun. You know, that's, that's why I wanted to do this right. So that I, so that I could be a part of this process and show from the other side. And, or, as Kevin Smith would say, know how the sausage is made. That's what he you know, I know how the sausage made.
Alex Ferrari 50:48
Yes, exactly. So now, Dan, when you went down, because I have no, I basically was at the beginning of your VFX career. And, you know, you always told me that there was kind of like four movies, three, specifically, but then a fourth one came up as that that genre popped up was, you wanted to make a Star Wars movie, you wanted to make a James Bond movie, wanted to make an x men movie. And then eventually, like, I wouldn't mind making a Marvel movie. And you've done all of that. And even when you did Rogue One, you were like, but it's not an original trilogy. It's just Oh, and I'm like, shut up, dad. But I really want to do one of these. I want to do one with Luke Skywalker, and then boom, you get last Jedi. So I have to ask you, Brother, what? What's next, as you just Are you done? Are you just gonna check out? Oh, well, you're one of the few artists that I must know. You're one of the few people in the business that I know that has achieved their goals. In many ways. I've actually I've checked the boxes on the checklist. Yeah, there's bucket lists that you checked off,
Dan Cregan 51:57
It was strange, you know, I kind of had the ability to do it. Because of my own situation. So not every VFX artists can hop studios the way I do and live in South Florida and can afford themselves the ability to wait for the right contract to come up to work on the right film, that the freedom in this business is having the ability to pick and choose which project you work on. And really, step one is build your resume to a certain point where you're desirable. And then once you've done that, then have enough money and no overhead to be able to sit and wait for your desired project to need somebody of your skill. And then once that happens, you jump on it. And even then you don't always aren't guaranteed of getting it but you can at least put yourself in a position to be where you want to be, you know. So, you know, used to tell me, you know, if I want to get hit by a car, I had to go play in traffic. So I was able to do was I was able to pick and choose my spots of when I jumped into traffic. So no guarantee the car was going to hit me. But I just jumped into traffic at the right time. And so it was just being at a company that said, Oh, we got the new Bond film. And I'm and I said, you know, I've always wanted to work on those. Could I get on that project, please? And they all right, Dan? Sure. We'll put you on that project. And it's just a way in. So that's ended up how it happened to where that I got to do those things. And, you know, as far as what's next, man? I didn't think I would make it this far. So I don't know. I've been kind of struggling with it a little and it's a good problem to have. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining
Alex Ferrari 53:40
Handcuffs, golden handcuffs. Yes.
Dan Cregan 53:42
But it is a little bit like well, what stimulates me now? What because now I'm on the next level tier of difficulty. Now it's like, well, I'd like to work on a Nolan film. I'd like to work on a Fincher film, I'd like to work on a Cameron film. Well, then it's like, even more difficult because it's not always common knowledge, who's working on what where, I mean, you pretty much know where Star Wars is gonna be worked on, you pretty much know where bond is gonna be working. You know, it's hard, but you're looking for
Alex Ferrari 54:07
Filmmaker Eve, right? But if you're going to be if you want to go on avatar, brother, there's like four of them. Call me Yeah, there's a real good chance you're gonna get on an avatar, if there's a if, you know, you've got at least another 10 years.
Dan Cregan 54:21
It is true. That's me wrong. But it's, it's, it's still a little bit more difficult. But you know, overall, there's a piece with having done the things that I really wanted to check off. And now it's more now I'm my my cares kind of shift to a different mode. You know, how much money am I earning? How long am I going to be on the road? You know, now I'm, I used to be like, oh, I'll do anything three months and under. Now I'm changing my tune. Now. I'm like, boy, you know, eight weeks feels a lot better than than three months, you know, on the road. So and those chances don't come up. But I can honestly tell you what My new priorities are Chenault Sure. My Doherty is Stranger Things, obviously to do Stranger Things and when they perform, or Westworld, or because like, I've been talking a lot about how TV has become such a fertile, amazing ground where the best work is being done for Netflix and for television for HBO. I mean, I did Game of Thrones. So I was very happy about that, that was definitely would have been on my list if I hadn't already done it.
Alex Ferrari 55:28
So that it will always just change.
Dan Cregan 55:30
Yeah, they probably saw whatever I'm passionate about at the moment. And I think, you know, and I can tell this story now. You know, I was home from last Jedi, I was really worn out last night, I took a lot out of me, and I was tired. And I was ready to spend a long time at home. And atomic fiction was looking for people. For a 911 project, we need compositors, five weeks wouldn't have been. And I'm like, Boy, that's right up my alley. That's what I like to like to do five weeks on something. And I just couldn't even bring myself to apply because I was tired. And I was ready to stay home. And I ended up talking to atomic fiction about a month ago in an interview for another job. And they said, Oh, you should contact us for that. And I'm like, Yeah, what was that job? Oh, that was Stranger Things, too. Oh. I was just I was just like, I was like, I should have just got on the road. I should have just should have just sent the email in I should have, you know. So my career is littered with the could have bins.
Alex Ferrari 56:31
I think everybody's got too many sir. Not too many outs.
Dan Cregan 56:35
I mean, just like, when I was a digital domain, my team had an opportunity to be a part of Dragon Tattoo. And that was Fincher movie. And that would have checked a box for me. And it just in the end, my team didn't get to work on the film. So I was so close to it right next to it, but I didn't get to do it. And, you know, like I said, I had friends that got to do Force Awakens, and I didn't and, you know, just decisions where if I turn left or turn, right, I could have gotten to do something I didn't get a chance to do. So I have these little regrets. I can't do anything about them. And I think that's kind of normal. And I can't complain, because I've gotten to do so much every time I talk about what I didn't get to do. People are like, Oh, shut up.
Alex Ferrari 57:15
Yeah, pretty much just what I'm saying, Dan shut, you know, shut up.
Dan Cregan 57:20
So, you know, it's a personal thing. And it's just like, it's like, when I when I do these jobs, I just want to be excited. You know, and, and before Rogue One, I was starting to not be excited anymore. I mean, I was doing Pirates of Caribbean before Rogue One. And it's not that it was bad. It was fun. It was good. And before that it was x men. I was I was happy, but it was a job. And I was start I've done so many films, and it was just starting to feel like a job. But man when I walked into ILM, San Francisco in the Mecca, as you call it, and they sat me down into computer and said make laser blasts with stormtroopers. And I'm like, I was a little kid again and my my stomach was churning with butterflies. And
Alex Ferrari 58:03
I remember I remember you telling me you're like, I don't know dude. I'm like, I'm a pro.
Dan Cregan 58:11
I've been doing this for years I've worked on billion dollar films, you know, like I have been nervous but a man that ILM brought it out of me it was like being a beginner all over again. And it was an exhilarating it was making me so excited to come into work and to sit down and and you know, like like, I'm like, this is incredible. I'm I'm sitting down today and I'm working on spaceships and I'm working on you know, this movie that has Darth Vader in it. I mean, what what am I what world
Alex Ferrari 58:43
Am I in right now?
Dan Cregan 58:45
Am I in a felt like a dream and that's a cliche too and I you know, I say that a lot but it was that hazy unreality kind of feeling you know
Alex Ferrari 58:55
Looked at I get it completely and and for everyone listening I was with Dan pretty much since the beginning. I was this first I'm assuming I was the first big show you did. Yeah. With my short broken and and then we've just continued to do work for years and Dan and I did a lot of work together doing independent films for years before you got a shot at did six or seven years yeah, six or seven years paying you're working doing projects it's a long time before you got the call up at digital domain and that honestly happened purely because they had a Florida outpost Yes. Because you weren't have been called to LA digital domain it just probably wouldn't have ever happened. So you right place right time and you would prepare yourself to a certain point. And then once you were invited once you started once you dated one pretty girl. All the pretty girls said okay, he must be all right if he dated one pretty girl. And it's so true you like he nobody wants to be the first of the party. And once they once you had digital domain on your end You weren't doing like crazy, amazing stuff at digital domain you were you were running this roto right? Yeah, well, no, it was three stereo, stereo version roto all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, it was, yeah, you weren't doing sexy stuff.
Dan Cregan 1:00:14
Not at all. But I felt but I had those butterflies when I was a digital domain to because it was my first big job should I'm looking at posters of, of, you know, all the digital domain movies. Just Yeah. And just the idea Oh, this is the company that Cameron helped co found and and, you know, bits elements and fight club and the first x men and all these movies, they have been a part of Sure. So, you know, I felt all that history even though we were new studio in Florida. Man, it felt crazy to be a part of that after no offense after working with you for seven years, six, seven years. Screw you, sir.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:50
Screw you, sir. You nothing, nothing without waiting. I'm joking.
Dan Cregan 1:00:55
Different you know, it's you just can't replace. When you get when you're in the pros, you know it when you look around you, you know you're in the pros, there's no, there's no ifs, ands or buts about it all of a sudden, you know, this is for real. And you're working, you know, at the top, and it was like, and then the fear creeps in. And then you're like, I just want to stay here. I just want to make sure they know I'm worthy to be here. And
Alex Ferrari 1:01:19
Yeah, like at any moment, they're gonna walk in and go, who are you? What are you doing here? Security?
Dan Cregan 1:01:23
Yeah. And I felt like that every day at ILM, even on last Jedi my second trip to ILM. I felt like man, they're gonna they're just gonna say, What are you doing here? You know, we're
Alex Ferrari 1:01:33
Gonna figure it out that you really they're
Dan Cregan 1:01:35
Gonna figure it out, you know, I'm a pretender. I didn't, you know, you know, and that's just partly the way I'm wired. You know, I'm always, you know, hardest on myself, but I just, that's how surreal the whole process was. And, you know, and I, and I'm always hyper critical of my performance. So it was, it was good, though, to get back to a place where I was fighting, to just maintain, you know, a certain level, because you can be very complacent. When you're working on things that are below your skill level, you can become very, you can take for granted, the things you know, and the things you can do. And this industry with the technology, and the changing techniques changes so rapidly and quickly that all of a sudden, you can be yesterday's news, you know, like, like the optical compositors, who didn't want to learn how to use the computer, you know, and that they were retired from the film industry, because it all went to the computer. So, you know, it's a hard business to be in as far as staying on the cutting edge, you have to do it. I mean, thank you preach that in your podcasts about learning the new techniques and learning what's available to you, and all the things you can do. indie filmmakers today have so much power than they had before,
Alex Ferrari 1:02:45
You know, and the thing is, also you got to challenge yourself and be around people who challenge you. And that's how I felt the way you felt when you went to digital domain is how I felt when I went to LA. Yeah, was like, all of a sudden, you're like, oh, oh, this is Oh, this is the game, okay. And you got to challenge yourself. And you always want to be around people who are better than you. And that you can learn from and you can grow with because if you're the guy at the top of your group, or the top of your, you know, area, you're the big fish in that small pond, you're never gonna grow, you've got
Dan Cregan 1:03:21
No, you reach your maximum size, when you're the big fish you you don't ever get to you Don't you know, and that's okay. If you want to be the big fish in a small pond. That's nothing inherently wrong with that.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
Yeah, but there's always this, there's always a shark that's learning more somewhere else, and shows up, it'll eat you alive.
Dan Cregan 1:03:39
That's gonna happen to you sooner or later in life anyway, I think that's just like, you know, you're gonna get, you're gonna get knocked off the top of the mountain at some point. You know, I think the important thing is to be there and to work to get there and always try to be improving, and to stay there as long as you possibly can. If they if that's what you want to do. If you wake up in the morning, you got the passion, then you keep going. If you if you wake up in the morning, and you're like, I don't want to do this life is too short. Don't do it anymore. Do something else. You know. Now,
Alex Ferrari 1:04:07
What advice would you give a VFX artist just starting out and trying to break into the business today?
Dan Cregan 1:04:14
Wait today is it's such it's such a different game. Nowadays. You know, I think we talked a little bit about this last time, I'm still a big proponent of school just because it starts with your network. It starts you with those people you need to know. But I'd say be careful what you're getting into like like I think even before you think about oh schooling and then I'm going to go try to get into say the MPC Academy and try to become a rotoscoping painter and get into the business. I think you have to look long and hard about what you want to do because the industry today is is it's being done on foreign soil. I mean that there's that's there's no ifs ands or buts about that either. it's it's it's being done in Canada. It's being done in New Zealand. It's being done in Australia. It's being done here. And these, this is where the majority China, and you know, right and India, these are the places the work is being done the most of it. And the you know, the dream of living in Southern California your whole career and working in the movie industry is is not there for VFX artists anymore, not the way that's the, the the game is presently set up, you know, I would caution, anybody who doesn't want to move, or anybody who doesn't who's afraid to travel to jump into the game today. And I would caution anybody who you know, is not down for, you know, the way it works, the living in hotels, the being the the instability of it all the fact that today, it's Vancouver, tomorrow, it could be Montreal is the head place. And then after that, it could be anywhere that decides they're gonna throw a lot of money at the movie industry to make movies where they're making them. You know, where they want him to make him. So you know, you have to be down. You got a goalie, I say this all the time. You just got to love it. You just got to movies have got to be it for you. It's got to be what what, you know, what makes you get out of bed in the morning to do this? You know, I think a lot of people today, I still think there's young film fans and young movie passionate people. But I think video games are another thing that that kids today are feeling really passionate about. And there's a lot of the same challenges in the video game business. Although, you know, there's a lot of studios in the United States for that still. But the instability is the same. And the hours are the same. And the deadlines are the same. Even more brutal if from what I hear. Yeah, I mean, I mean, Alex, once you reach a certain amount of hours when you're at 120 hour weeks, I mean, is there really a difference in the brutality there is Shay sir, to shave, there is a point in the brutality and I and I realized this when I was on Hobbit, where you just become a zombie ghosts numb to the whole thing. So I think there's a threshold point where you just become dead on your feet doing the job. And, you know, and then it's just your body deteriorating, from then on until you drop dead pretty much.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:07
Wow, that's if that's not an advertisement to jump into the business. I don't know what
Dan Cregan 1:07:11
No, but maybe that's but that's why the show has got to end I think, longer production cycles are even more dangerous, at least on a movie, you know, you got that end finish line, and you're only grinding like that for the last few months usually. But, you know, video games cycles, I've heard of going on for a year for two years, you know, and those bad hours going on for that long. I mean, there has been some famous cases in the in the past, like the a widow, if you look up that story on the internet, about a wife whose whose husband worked at EA, and you know, never saw, you know, and the family suffered and everything suffers. So, you know, anybody who wants, you know, wife and kids in the house in the white picket fence VFX might not be what you're looking for. It's a young person's game, though. You know, 20 year olds might love the idea of world travel, working on gigantic franchise films and, and oh, and long hours and excitement, you know, and I think they're, you can do that when you're 2025 I think you get older. Some of that loses its appeal. I mean, even if you do it, you can only do it for like, five, five years, maybe you know, and then and then you're kind of done. And then it's like what is the VFX artist transition out of? What do you do after you know DirectX? Obviously, Ah, man, I had a dime for every VFX artists that wanted to be a filmmaker. I mean, they call us we're all filmmakers in the sense that we're all contributing to makes sure you know, or so we're all filmmakers. But I think that some of some of us grew up wanting to know how to make the monster know how to make the laser know how to make the spaceship but I would say a greater portion of us just grew up loving films and wanting to be a part of it and and a natural progression for that is saying you know, I want to be a director I want to make films I want to produce whatever that's all of Hollywood I mean, you know you don't know anything about in that in LA right every waitress every barista every every
Alex Ferrari 1:09:08
There's nothing like that here. There's not there's not a laptop in every Starbucks that has a final draft open working on
Dan Cregan 1:09:14
Yeah, there's no grips flying around everywhere you go. You know you buy a car in LA I'm sure the salesman is trying to sell you a script to go with the
Alex Ferrari 1:09:20
Yeah, favorite. My favorite thing to do now is to go into when I get into an Uber and go so how's the screenplay coming? And I've had a couple of them turn around. How do you know? If I look at him, I go, how's the audition? How'd you know? Yeah, that's God. That is so yeah, that's so LA. But it's so true.
Dan Cregan 1:09:44
So I understand it. I do understand everybody's got these dreams. I mean, I'm not here to sit down that at all. I mean, you know more power. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:09:52
Absolutely. You got you got a dream. You got to work at it, but don't. But do it smart. Don't do it foolishly you know and be and understand what you're getting into. Before you get into it and waste 10 years of your life.
Dan Cregan 1:10:03
Yeah, and you're gonna need some luck. I mean, let's be honest. It's it's not all about skill and talent. You literally need to just get hit by a car. You need that luck you need you got
Alex Ferrari 1:10:13
A digital domain a Port St. Lucie was that luck for you?
Dan Cregan 1:10:16
Exactly. You know, that was my random car that hit me out of nowhere. You know, you
Alex Ferrari 1:10:21
You were ready. When that hit you.
Dan Cregan 1:10:22
I was prepared. I was bracing myself, I was ready for it to happen.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:26
Now, last question, sir. I need you to rank your top three Star Wars films of all time, not including last Jedi, because that's against the rules. But every other movie top
Dan Cregan 1:10:38
Ranking Star Wars movies top three out of the ones that exist
Alex Ferrari 1:10:41
Out of all the ones that exist in the canon.
Dan Cregan 1:10:45
Well, Empire is an easy. Number one, okay. You know, Star Wars is probably number two, the original A New Hope. And that's where it gets dicey. I love parsa Jedi. It's hard. You know, we're of a certain age where we love the originals. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:11:02
There's now Rogue One and force awakens in that in that mix as well. We're just going to exclude the prequels that they don't make the top three
Dan Cregan 1:11:10
I still I you know, they don't but I have a lot to like about the Pico Pico. And we could probably do a whole show about what's redeeming about the prequels
Alex Ferrari 1:11:18
There are many things redeeming about the prequels there's Yoda fighting in Attack of the Clones first time we saw that that was genius. They actually sequence At the end of regiment Revenge of the Sith awesome. That the pod race Great. Good stuff awesome.
Dan Cregan 1:11:37
I would argue that the overall story if you look at it separate from dialogue separate from you know the actual scenes
Alex Ferrari 1:11:44
From acting lighting composition is brilliant.
Dan Cregan 1:11:49
I would I would I would go to my grave defending George Lucas on the ark. Yes, one through six. Yes. You know, yes, I think it the whole thing is a masterwork as a concept. I just think that you know, things happened in the actual producing of it that didn't turn out quite as great as we would have liked. But that's easy for us to say it wasn't our thing. I mean, we made it our thing we adopted it
Alex Ferrari 1:12:15
It's just that you know,
Dan Cregan 1:12:16
I you know, and finish your question. I got to go with Jedi for three just because I'm I'm old and I and I liked the original trilogy and they'll never replace that part of my heart. They will never be moved I do not think
Alex Ferrari 1:12:27
See I would agree with you. I would agree with you on the one of the two but I wouldn't go rogue one. You really moved into the three spot I would move that I would definitely move that in the threes. Because as a as an ascent on a cinematic standpoint, now we're Geeking guys sorry. But on a cinematic standpoint, I think Rogue One is a much stronger narrative as much stronger film. It also doesn't have the weight of having to be the third part of a movie, or a trilogy so there's that going for but as a standalone I think it was great. I think I know I might get heat for this. I think Force Awakens is better than Jedi. And in many ways there are moments of Jenna but I loved Force Awakens I love what JJ Abrams did with force awakens so that's why I'm so excited about last Jedi but Rogue One is definitely should have some respect up there in the it's close
Dan Cregan 1:13:16
I think it's very very with me it's super super close to Jedi it's it's neck and neck right there at the bottom I almost included in the original trilogy at this point because of the way it was it's so connected it's so hand in hand and that Vader scene belongs as a part of the core of Star Wars alone You know what I mean? I you know my defensive Jetta is this I mean for me it's three you know three quarters of a perfect movie the you know I love the opening sequence at javis Palace that whole thing to me is perfection and it's something we may never see again. Because it's kind of risky you know it's I mean slave Leia doesn't fly in today's PC World
Alex Ferrari 1:14:02
You know imagine slave Leia today.
Dan Cregan 1:14:04
She she did end up killing Java. That's the good point. I mean, that she's those great strong female character
Alex Ferrari 1:14:10
Can you imagine slave rey
Dan Cregan 1:14:12
Like yeah, we they would get killed in the politically correct world today, which maybe is progress. And I'm not here to say this is wrong or not sure. I'm just saying that you probably couldn't do the beginning of Jedi today. And I and I have so much respect for the weirdness of the beginning of Jedi it is brilliantly weird, and an unusual and different in the third part of a trilogy and then they brought some they went back to the same planet but at the same time they brought something completely new and then I would say toward the end the space battles impressive but we've been there before so it's a bit of a rehash the walks less said the better they have their audience it's not me. The whole father son. Oh,
Alex Ferrari 1:14:53
It's a thought.
Dan Cregan 1:14:54
With John Williams On sing music. Yes. Are you scared me to Death when I was a kid Yes, that whole thing is perfection To me it is it is really is and that's what elevates so the so the beginning part and then the the part at the end with with with Luke and Vader that's what make it rise so high for me there's still so much top quality work that in an originality level that's just not being done a lot today anymore. I mean that's that's a whole separate podcast in and of itself right now much. we're lacking this epic, original storytelling and Yes, I understand that hero's journey and Kurosawa and he'd stole from the best and all that, but everyone does. Yeah, it's it's still felt so original. I mean, what's what's around today? That's an original work that has that level of fandom. Maybe Harry Potter, you know, that's, that's got that's got
Alex Ferrari 1:15:52
From when it started. Absolutely.
Dan Cregan 1:15:53
Yeah, you know, so it's just not being done a lot. It's a rare thing. And that's why it ended up being such a career goal for me is to be a part of that universe. I mean, it just, even in the very miniscule tiny way, my name in the credits at the very end, where nobody's ever gonna see him, but me and my family. I mean, it's still there. And it still means something to me. And it's, you know, you know, something
Alex Ferrari 1:16:18
I Dan, I think that and I said this the last time we did this in our first interview, I still feel that you and I need to do a podcast of just film geek stuff. So everyone in the audience if you guys want to hear podcast with me and Dan, a series, a limited series on me and Dan just talking movies, email [email protected] Let us know, Dan, brother, it is always a pleasure talking to you. Every time we talk, we talk for hours, but I'm going to cut it off today because people have things to do. But thank you again for the inside. Look at your life, your career, your journey, and shining a little light on the VFX world and specifically Star Wars. So thank you, brother
Dan Cregan 1:17:03
Always great to be on the podcast Alex. Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:06
I hope you enjoyed that inside look to Industrial Light and Magic in the behind the scenes of Star Wars The Last Jedi as well as Rogue One and what it's like to work in a facility like ILM, which is you know, at the at the end of the day probably at the top of the the echelon of visual effects companies they were the first guys to do it and and I'm so glad and I'm proud and happy for Dan for being able to achieve a goal that he's been chasing for over 20 years. So it you know, you guys got to work hard and you will get there but it does take a lot of time. A lot of preparation and a whole lot of luck as well. I already got my ticket bought for last Jedi for Friday, I cannot wait to go see the next installment of the saga. If you want to listen to the first podcast I did with Dan which was like basically a VFX masterclass, which is episode six just go over to indiefilmhustle.com/006. Or go to our show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/207 and a half that and anything else we talked about in the show notes. Oh, and by the way, if you guys have not checked out the YouTube channel, don't forget to head over to indiefilmhustle.com/YouTube on Tuesday, we will be releasing the first episode of PT Anderson's part of the director series that we're going to go throughout his entire career breaking everything down, up until the Fadiman thread which has obviously not been released yet, but as soon as that gets done, we'll we'll update the series but every other movie goes into insane detail. And you definitely check that out. So head on over to the YouTube channel. And as always, keep that also going keep the dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.