‘How To Film The Impossible…’ The Moment EVERYTHING Changed For Me

When I was a kid, I loved movies. But it never really occurred to me that film making was a viable career… that was until I saw this documentary. For me it changed everything.

Of course this is the days before the internet, before DVD extras, before even the most basic ‘making of’ documentaries. Back then, movies were made by wizards and magicians who lived out in Hollywood. On a deep-gut-level, I knew that I wanted to make films, but I had no camera and no way to even begin. There weren’t even any books back then.

It was at this time I saw this documentary. And within the single hour of this show, everything clicked into place. I got it.

Zombies You see, as a kid I had been fascinated by magic and magicians, about the idea that I could create the illusion of the impossible though trickery. And that is what movies did too, they were the grandest of magic tricks. This Horizon documentary deconstructed those amazing illusions, examining the shots and sequences from my favourite movies.

Within weeks I had begun making my first movies, shooting on a blagged Super 8mm  camera, using floodlights from the hardware shop and convincing friends to dress up in elaborate makeup as zombies.

Looking back now, I am amazed at how ambitious I was. I even created a matte painting with rear projected live action elements (along with some shockingly effective prosthetic effects). And to seal thee whole illusion, I discovered the huge importance of sound, music and atmospheres.

Watching this Horizon documentary is like going back to my old film school. Back then, I must have watched it fifty times, over and over, wearing out my long lost VHS tape.

So thank you YouTube, for reconnecting me with a very important step in my career.

Blimey! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, especially the fact that the film makers had clearly never seen Star Wars and assumed the audience hadn’t either! Darth Varder huh?

NOTE – At the end of part 1 and start of part 2 you will see that even back then SLR cameras were being used in film making! Thirty years ago ILM was using Nikon SLRs! Now it’s 5Ds!

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author



10 Responses to ‘How To Film The Impossible…’ The Moment EVERYTHING Changed For Me

  1. Alex May February 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    “wearing out my long lost VHS tape.”
    LOL, and my Philips cassette recorder before we had VHS.

  2. James D February 7, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Thanks for putting this up, Chris. I hadn’t seen it. The focus on details is mind boggling. In some ways, the attitude of IL&M reminds me of how Pixar crafts stories, ie fostering an environment where everyone of the team is allowed to be creative and contribute.

  3. Chris Jones February 7, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Its amazing isnt it? And you are right, it does remind one of the craftsmanship of Pixar. I watched it three times over the weekend, but that was largely nostalgia too.

  4. Martin Taylor February 8, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    I haven’t seen this since I was a kid – I wonder who “Darth Var-der” is? Thanks for putting this up – still inspiring today.

  5. Phillip Gibb February 8, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    that is very cool, only saw the first 10 minutes so far. I wonder if this is part of a Star Wars bundle or as a stand alone DVD – would love to find it as a DVD. Yes I still prefer DVD 🙂

  6. Peter Bunzl February 8, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Analogue vfx seems so strange now. All those travelling mattes and matte paintings and optical printer passes. How did they ever work out all these techniques?

    Still loads of them hold up really well. Blade Runner especially blows my mind, it looks way better than a lot of modern stuff.

  7. Miles Watts February 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Thanks so much for posting this Chris, I still have this on video and used to watch it nearly every week as a kid. This and The Making of Temple of Doom.

    Hadn’t seen it for years though, and like you it’s one of the main reasons I became obsessed with filmmaking.

  8. Sarah Bates August 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    This is wonderful! I’d not seen this before, but I’m saving it to watch again later. Right now though I need to go and grab my camera and film something ’cause this has got my brain itchy for filming!

    • Chris August 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

      I know it has that effect doesnt it! Thaks for commenting.

  9. Pete February 29, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    great find, reminded me of this classic movie quote

    “I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians.”
    Francis Ford Coppola

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