Steve Courtley – Interview

MATRIX: What do you do for the production of ‘The Matrix’?

I am the special effects supervisor of mechanical and pyrotechnic effects. Entailing on this job there are a number of complex mechanical and pyrotechnic sequences. From miniature to full size sequences we have flying helicopters, exploding buildings, shoot ups…the whole gamut.

Was there anything that was particularly challenging?

STEVE: I would have to say the mini helicopter crash was a bit of a challenge, as was the government lobby shoot up and the executive office shoot up. Each one of those sequences had an extraordinary number of events going on. This is the biggest film I have done in this role. I have been involved since October 1997, and started full time in November, so it has been quite a long stint.

MATRIX: How did you first become involved?

STEVE: I met the directors in a hotel room and was shown the story boards. I looked at those guys looking at the story boards, and decided that this was going to be a good film. At that point the concept captured my imagination, just from the story boards… and the brothers themselves are a big ingredient in providing any sort of enthusiasm.
MATRIX: Have they followed through?

STEVE: Yes, I believe they have. I think they have stuck to their guns and to their creative concepts. They had very good ideas at the beginning that have remained true all the way through.

MATRIX: What are some of the other films you have worked on?

STEVE: Starting back in 1979, a lot of Australian films, Jackie Chan movies in Hong Kong and Europe, ‘Mad Max I’ and ‘Mad Max II’. More recently, ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ was my last movie.

MATRIX: That is a good list of films, but this must still be the largest.

STEVE: Yeah, this is the largest effects film I’ve worked on.

MATRIX: How many explosions have gone off?

STEVE: Well, there have been a good number of explosions, and then there has been this bullet time idea, both of which are comic realities. Everything has that sort of manga quality about it – everything is larger than life – stylized. There have not been large explosive effects, but a large quantity of explosive effects, to project to the viewer that it is larger than life.

MATRIX: Do you have a favorite sequence?

STEVE: The government lobby shoot out was pretty good. As was the executive office shoot out with the flying helicopter rig up on the roof, which was quite a bit of engineering. There was also some fabulous stuff within the office itself. I would say the helicopter sequence was challenging. Finishing it, and seeing that we could do it, was the best part.

MATRIX: How long did that sequence take?

STEVE: It was extraordinarily complex, there were so many aspects to it. The visual effects guys had to pin point all the work to the time when we could shoot it – the window of opportunity, when the sun was right in the green screen canyon – we actually had half an hour. We shot on location in two minutes of that half hour window. It went incredibly well. By and large, it has been a good film to work on.

MATRIX: Is this the longest shoot you’ve worked on?

STEVE: No, there have been longer films. Sometimes the Chinese ones seem to go on forever.

MATRIX: So you connected with the brothers, saw the story boards, and thought it would be a fun project – once you read the script what was your take on the concept of ‘The Matrix’?

STEVE: It took a little while to cotton on to the ideas. I had to read the script a number of times to understand the full concept and the scale of it. But once you latch on to that, which will be far easier to understand and comprehend when watching, rather than filming for, it is thought provoking. A number of other leaders to simpler stories have been presented to people over the years, but the quality of this film and it’s style, is far more digestible. It is not taken too seriously at all, though it is potentially quite serious.

MATRIX: Thanks Steve.

Interview by Spencer Lamm