Interview: Eric Leven, VFX supervisor of ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ talks favorite sequence and working remotely
While most fans are gobsmacked by the visual splendor found in most Marvel projects, it often gets lost in the shuffle how much time and detail goes into pulling these moments off. Eric Leven has made a career out of making these moments a reality. If anyone has seen Cloverfield, Starship Troopers, or Hollow Man then you’ve already seen his stellar work. However, his work on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is perhaps the best of his career. We were lucky enough to speak with Leven over the phone about his work on this series for Disney+ and even got into what his favorite moment was from the series.
Dewey Singleton: How much prep was your team given in preparation for shooting Falcon and the Winter Soldier?
Eric Leven: You know not enough. We prepped for this starting in June for a shoot that wasn’t supposed to begin until November. There was a lot to do .. a lot of you know sequences to create and figure out methodologies … that sort of stuff so that was our task and then you know obviously, and we kept going while we were shooting one scene and we’re still figuring out and seeing what was needed for the next.
DS: Was there ever a moment during shooting where they came to you with an idea for a particular shot, and you weren’t sure where to even start?
EL: No, actually no, I don’t think so. I think that t when we started revising the scenes, we were really figuring stuff out. We were setting our own bars as they were. Then when the request started coming in, you know, for example, producers might say, you know the scene isn’t working we need to make this more exciting. For example, there’s a scene, where Captain America saves a police helicopter crew and takes about a bridge and shield. Those were all added late in the game. We wanted Sam to have his big Captain America moment.
DS: How does one pull that off?
EL: Luckily, this was before we went back to start our reshoots. We just basically set up the very barest of sets on a blue screen stage and build the bridge around Anthony Mackie and helicopter pilots.
DS: What’s your favorite sequence from the series?
EL: I’ve been telling people is that it is the hot potato sequence in the beginning. As a dear place in my heart because it’s the sequence that we started first. It was really gonna show off Falcon’s abilities, and it really went almost the entirety of the production of almost sixteen months for that sequence to happen, you never realize that it has so many moving parts until you do it. The sky diving unit, digital environments, we see portions at the airforce base with so many different cars, that sequence it was really cool.
DS: Can you speak to the challenges of doing VFX work in a pandemic?
EL: The fact that these VFX facilities were able to work remotely is amazing because it’s something that’s literally never happened in the history of visual effects. Everyone knows in this field how important it is for everyone to work closely together. There’s a whole scene chase scene involving huge water splashes and a container ship which we had to work on from home, which on the surface seems like an impossible task to accomplish, but we pulled it off, and it came out amazing.