Perhaps surprisingly for a film that tells the story of a robot with a human appearance, one that required a lot of continuous VFX presence whenever Ava was featured on screen, Ex Machina was shot without ever using a green screen.
"The practical reason was that, because Ex Machina was shot in such a short period of time (six weeks), we were shooting between 15 and 25 set-ups every day," Whitehurst says.
Lighting a green screen would take time, which they didn't have the luxury of.
"Secondly, because the film is made up of intimate scenes of dialogue between the characters, it was of the utmost importance that everyone on set could get into a groove, and it is my experience that as soon as you put a green screen up, everyone starts behaving a bit oddly. They just have this effect on cast and crew, so [to] keep the mood on set, we did away with green screen."
Looking at the VFX work in films made by his fellow nominees in the same category, Whitehurst says Mad Max blew his mind.
"It was such a glorious pop-art kinetic extravaganza. I felt like I'd been punched in the face solidly for two hours, and I loved it."
"VFX that make me feel something are what excite me most, and I left the cinema after Mad Max on a total high," he continues. "It was terrific."
Having worked on Ex Machina, with so much of his focus on Ava, who (spoiler alert) turns against her creator and cruelly abandons Smith, we had to ask Whitehurst his thoughts on whether we should worry about a future filled with AI.
"Perhaps, in as much as we should have a concern about any entity with intelligence and agency," he replies. "I am far more worried about human intelligence though, or rather the lack of it. I think people are far more dangerous than machines."
However, in terms of technologies being developed for storytelling, he's excited for the possibilities of VR.
"VR is a medium that we, as a culture, don't really understand yet. We don't know how, or even if, it should be a storytelling medium," he says.
"The first time you try VR that works and you get the sense of presence, of being somewhere other than your physical location, is tremendously powerful. To me, this is the most exciting area of technology-driven visual art."
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