No matter what the budget or how big the sets that art director Ian Gracie built - and he did go big – the scale was never going to be large enough for the vision.
The physical build cost just for Gatsby’s mansion was over five million dollars. The biggest set build, which included the mansion hallway, ballroom, stairs and organ, then out to the breakfast patio and down to the dance-floor was more than 50 metres by 30 metres by 12 metres high. But that was just one specific set with 200 metres of bluescreen and blackscreen permanently hung.
Gatsby’s mansion was in fact a mix of many locations and sets. The front gates and driveway were at Sydney's Centennial Park, the building façade (first two floors) was a school at Manly, the entry to the dance-floor was in stage one (Fox Studios), the stairs, the pool were stage two, the wharf was on stages three and one at various times, the beach and water were at Cottage Point and Nick’s bungalow was built at Centennial Park, stage three and Mount Wilson (in the Blue Mountains).
There were many practicalities and requirements on how Baz and the department heads decided what was live action, a VFX augmented or a fully 3d shot. Those being:- an overview of geography, being able to build a defined world, controlling lighting, availability of actors, flexibility and safety.To assist, we had rules that were implemented, such as, every wide had to have at least three storytelling points. For the Valley of the Ashes it would be:- the relationship of New York to the Valley of the Ashes, juxtaposition of wealth to poverty, and the use of colour to isolate Myrtle to name just a few.
Then there was the downside to using VFX as well. It is harder for Baz and the actors to live in a blue world. But to their credit the results speak volumes.
This second reel is a wide montage from many parts of the film to illustrate the decision making of what became just the VFX parts of the entire film.
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