Yesterday when the countdown on FindMakarov hit zero fans ended up getting exactly what we suspected: A short fan film inspired by Modern Warfare. Once I uncovered what was really going on last week, the film’s director, 25-year-old Jeff Chan, agreed to answer some of my questions about the movie, which cost him about $8,000 to make. Already it’s up to nearly 750,000 views on YouTube and Chan reports that Hollywood agents have already been in touch. His responses are below.
Q: What inspired you to make this FindMakarov short film?
A: We were playing around with a helmet cam earlier last year and we picked up a paintball gun and ran around Call of Duty style. We thought it would be fun to tell shoot a film in first person based on the Modern Warfare universe. Our company does viral work for brands and agencies so of course we wanted to extend the campaign narrative to different mediums.
Q: How long did it take to put together the short and how much did it cost to create?
A: The film was shot during the summer over approximately 7 shoot days. Post-production and VFX happened over the winter in time for this release, and the campaign was built throughout February. A lot of incredible people donated time and resources to get this project made. Of course, you always have to make sure people are safe, well fed and able to arrive to set. In total, I would say we spent around $8,000 on the video.
Q: You made the movie from a first-person perspective. Why?
A: Digital technology was just getting small enough to be helmet mounted and we thought we could give people a representative visual experience first person shooters that they hadn’t seen before.
Q: The movie directly mimics some key moments from the first two Modern Warfare games. Why did you decide to go in this direction?
A: We aimed to create a story that weaved through some of the more memorable moments of the Modern Warfare games while carefully adding our own scenes that fit tonally within the universe.
Q: How would you explain the plot of the short and how it fits into the Call of Duty fiction? It looks like you’re suggesting what you’d like to see in Modern Warfare 3?
A: There are a lot of coverage problems shooting a first person movie as you are limited in editing one angle. We solved some of these problems with subtle effects like blinks which allowed us to make small cuts but we also structured the story into short scenes that jumped through time. We open at the end of MW2 and when Soap blacks out from getting stabbed by Shepherd, we rabbit hole back in time to when he first signs up for the SAS. We then follow Soap’s journey from a ‘muppet’ to the commander of Task Force 141. At the end of the film, we leapfrog into the future to the eve of the United State’s counter-invasion of Moscow.
Q: Tell us a bit about the production process. What were the most difficult shots to pull off?
A: The entire film was shot first person by Michael Heathcote who served as both our camera operator and lead actor. Justin Lovell, our cinematographer, developed a very interesting visual language and there was a lot of planning and coordination with our stunt guys to perform all of the actions. We fought blazing heat, thunderstorms and snow to make this thing. We couldn’t have done it without our amazing crew who worked really hard to make this one come together.
Q: What software did you use to bring the movie to life?
A: A: Junction VFX did all the composite and visual FX on the project. They’re led by William Chang (creative director) and Jacky Wan (technical director).
Footage was first 3D tracked in Syntheyes. Our company used 3D Studio Max 2010 as our main 3D package to create animatics, models, and particle effects. 3D rendering was then created with the Vray render engine and the final composite was finished in Adobe After Effects.
Junction was definitely an integral partner to the project. They were incredible to work with and delivered amazing results despite many technical hurdles they had to face.
Q: You created quite a stir with the “countdown” site last week, leading many gamers to think it was a teaser site for Modern Warfare 3. Was that your intention?
A: Our intentions were to get fans excited about our mysterious Call of Duty-inspired project. As a viral content company, we aimed to create a campaign that would tap into the story of the franchise and would be a fun experience for the fans of the story. The fact that it was reported the way it was is really a testament to how incredibly fast information, rumors, and conspiracy theories travel online these days. That said, we’d like to commend you personally on your reporting. We were very impressed by how quickly and accurately you uncovered the truth.
Q: Have you been in touch with Activision? What do they think of FindMakarov?
A: We’ve spoken to Activision but we can’t comment on the nature of those discussions.
Q: What are you plans for the future? Do you want to create more shorts? Turn FindMakarov into a longer piece?
A: We are always working on new projects. We actually have been working on a very special project, one that is much more ambitious than Findmakarov but you’ll have to stay tuned to learn more.