The Creator’s director of photography (DP) revealed that the film almost included even more heartbreaking scenes focusing on the story’s leading couple.
The sci-fi epic begins with John David Washington’s Joshua and Gemma Chan’s Maya as a happy couple in New Asia with a baby on the way. Sadly, everything quickly takes a turn for the worse.
After an attack by the United States, Joshua’s cover is blown as Maya is believed to be killed in action alongside their unborn baby.
This grief is something Joshua carries with him throughout the entire movie. However, audiences are only shown fleeting glimpses of what his romantic relationship with Maya was like before it all fell apart.
The Creator Cut Down Some Heartbreaking Scenes
The Direct’s Russ Milheim exclusively interviewed The Creator’s Director of Photography (DP) Oren Soffer about his work on the recent film, where he revealed that the movie had to cut down on some heartbreaking scenes for the final edit.
When asked if there were any notable scenes that the team cut from the movie, the DP noted that they “shot quite a bit of flashback material” for Joshua and Maya’s relationship, but the heartbreaking scenes had to be cut because it was “slowing down the propulsive nature of the storytelling:”
“There is. So we shot quite a bit of flashback material that builds Maya and Joshua's relationship that sort of led up to the inciting incidents of the movie and filled out their backstory. And then if there's one thing anybody knows about filmmaking, and especially writing a script with flashbacks, flashbacks are the first thing that gets cut because it often ends up just slowing down the propulsive nature of the storytelling.”
Soffer noted that those scenes are still in the final movie, but they’ve “just been cut down to sort of the bare amount of information:”
“And when you actually watch the film kind of laid out, you suddenly realize like, oh, you know what, we really want to stay grounded in the characters' progress in real-time and not go on tangents that interrupt the flow of that. So all of the flashback sequences are in the film, but they've all just been cut down to sort of the bare amount of information that we need in order to understand the relationships and the backstory, but without going on extended tangents.”
He then pointed out a particular scene that “[he] really loved” that took place “in a real nightclub on location in Phuket, Thailand:”
“But one in particular that I really loved was a flashback scene that takes place in a nightclub. And we shot it in a real nightclub on location in Phuket, Thailand. And we brought in a lighting designer from Bangkok and sort of built the lighting of this space from the ground up. And it was this really, really cool interactive lighting sequence. And it looked amazing. And there are snippets of it in the film, so thankfully--I'm very happy that enough of it still made it into the movie that I can point to and say, 'Oh, that's the nightclub. And I really, really loved our lighting in there.'”
Soffer revealed that he did have an “initial heartbreak” when he saw the nightclub scene didn’t make the final cut:
“But there was a whole extended sequence that took place in that club that we shot over the course of a day that I really, really loved. And that was my initial heartbreak of seeing that scene, mostly cut from the film, but was quickly overtaken by the understanding of the need to kind of keep the story moving. And in the end, I don't think anything that got cut. I don't think anybody regrets anything that got cut, it was all in service of creating a propulsive story. And it all works better for the film.”
The Creator is all about the philosophy of artificial intelligence (AI) and questioning how and if humankind should embrace the new technology. But is Soffer for or against artificial intelligence?
He first noted that the current AI trouble plaguing society today isn’t the same as the “sentient robots” seen in The Creator:
“…In regards to the current moment, I mean, it's a complicated issue. But I think that one important way that I think we all should think about it is remembering that the AI in the movie are sentient robots. And that's not what we're dealing with in our in with our current technology. Chat GPT, and Runway, and Midjourney are all generative, predictive model software. They're not really artificial intelligence.”
In fact, the DP doesn’t “even like that we use [the] term [artificial intelligence]” since “there is no sentience or consciousness involved:”
“And I actually don't even like that we use that term because it doesn't feel accurate to describe what these tools actually are and how they function. There is no sentience or consciousness involved in the current toolset. So once you kind of remove that from the equation, it's less a question of morality and more just a question of practicality. Like, it's a new tool that's being introduced to the world.”
As it stands, Soffer doesn’t believe that the technology the world has now “would be capable of replacing human-created art:”
“… I don't think anybody out there who is a creator, and is an artist, and hopefully also is a consumer of art, can look at the limitations of the current generative model software and think that it would be capable of replacing human-created art. But using it as a support tool as part of our multitude of tool sets that we use everyday, that remains to be seen. And I think each individual artist is going to find their way into whether or not this is useful technology or not for them.”
From there, the conversation pivoted to the U.S. Nomad, the United States’ super weapon in The Creator, and how the team brought the location to life on screen.
Most of the movie was filmed in practical locations, but was the space station in the third act achieved the same way?
According to Soffer, “more of it was done on practical locations than people might initially think:”
“Yeah, I think more of it was done on practical locations than people might initially think. I don't want to give away too many of the secrets of that sequence. But suffice to say that within those final 15 minutes, there's a whole mix of practical locations that are augmented by ILM, as well as some traditional stage work, and also some work on The Volume…”
For those who might not know, The Volume is a large LED screen that productions can use as a replacement for a green or blue screen background that displays the backgrounds in real time on set. This can result in a much more believable setting and better immerses the actors in their performances.
Offer explained how they “adopted a similar approach” used by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for “a lot of the Nomad sequence:”
“... [We adopted] a technique that they had originally used on 'Rogue One' for the Imperial base on Scariff, which they shot partially at Canary Wharf Train Station in London, which was then augmented by ILM to turn it into the Imperial base. We adopted a similar approach for a lot of the Nomad sequence using a combination of—there's an airport Rail Link station in Bangkok, as well as the Convention Center in Bangkok.
Something else that aided the production in making Nomad a believable space was how they had access to “massive and beautiful production value spaces” since they “shot during relatively peak of COVID:”
“And, of course, we shot during relatively peak of COVID. So a lot of these locations were pretty much shut down, which gave us the benefit of having kind of free rein and free access to these, like massive and beautiful production value spaces that gave us the sense of scope and scale that we wanted for Nomad. And of course, as with 'Rogue One,' augmented by ILM, with 2.5D paint overs to convert those locations into the interiors of nomad and to have the look that they needed.”
Could an Extended Version of The Creator Exist?
In all, there is a surprisingly small amount of scenes given to Joshua and Maya. Seeing as how their relationship is one of the emotional throughlines of The Creator, there arguably should have been more.
While their story is already heartbreaking, those emotions would have landed much better if audiences got to see more of them together.
For some, the moment when the two do finally get their reunion at the end of the movie doesn’t fully land due to their relationship having minimal foundation. There was also so much to say and an endless string of emotions to be sorted through that the few seconds they were given ended up a little hollow.
Extending those flashback sequences between the two, even just a little bit per scene, could have done wonders for getting audiences to really fall for their romance. Perhaps an extended director's cut could be on the way once the movie finishes its theatrical run.
The Creator is now playing in theaters.