0
Posted February 24, 2016 by admin in Resource
 
 

Catatan Produksi Film Krampus (2015)


About the Production

Haunting the Holidays: Krampus Begins

Writer/director/producer Michael Dougherty has long taken an interest in the delightfully dark and subversive. From his breakout feature, 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, which began as a small release and has grown to attract a rabid cult following, to his unexpected research into the origins of the winter solstice, the filmmaker has discovered that the dark side of pop culture and folklore is often much more fascinating than the humdrum stories we’ve been told.

Dougherty explains that it was about 15 years ago that he was introduced to the dark side of December’s beloved holiday: “The same way that Americans send out Christmas cards, Europeans have this rich tradition of sending out Krampus cards. I was shown these beautiful illustrations of this creature called Krampus, who stole children, and images of people cowering in fear. Still, they had such a fun, mischievous quality, similar to our Halloween. I found that appealing because it made Christmas more enjoyable to know that there was this dark, mischievous side to the holiday that we Americans didn’t have yet. It was lurking in the shadows waiting to be rediscovered.”

The more he explored, the more Dougherty realized how intricate the cloven-hooved demon’s history actually is. He states: “One theory is that Krampus goes back to the roots of the holiday itself, which go all the way back to pagan history. Before it was Christmas, it was the winter solstice. It was closer in tone and style to Halloween, in that it was more debaucherous and more of an outlet for our pent-up frustrations. When Christians rolled in and took over, they saw how much people liked the solstice celebration, and so they co-opted it and parked Christmas on top of it.” He pauses. “There are theories that Santa Claus was even created as an antidote to Krampus.”

For the filmmaker, Santa’s dark shadow seemed to stay top of mind. “He just kept coming into my consciousness,” says Dougherty. “In the past few years, they discussed Krampus on The League and American Dad. He showed up on The Colbert Report. It was like this indie band that people were passing around, and it just felt like the right time. So I worked with a couple friends, Todd Casey and Zach Shields, on the script for quite a while. We fine-tuned it until it felt just right, and the timing now feels very fortuitous.”

Legendary Pictures’ Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni would join Dougherty and fellow producer Alex Garcia in production duties. The studio, which has had a relationship with the writer/director since their work together on Trick ‘r Treat, has long championed Dougherty’s imagination. Says CEO Tull: “Michael has this ability to envision an angle of a story that few else would consider. Whether it’s the comically dark side of Halloween or a delightfully terrifying reflection upon Christmas, his imagination runs wild. It’s easy to partner with him, simply because he just never stops creating.”

Producer Jashni agrees, noting: “Legendary is all about world creation, and few filmmakers deliver the breadth of creativity that Michael offers. I am the first to admit, I didn’t know anything about Krampus until Michael brought up the story to us. The more I learned, the more fascinated I grew about this shadow of Santa Claus. I love his take on such a previously unexplored story for film, and under his leadership, the world has truly come to life. He has delivered this fascinating fairytale with an unparalleled flair.”

Garcia, who has worked with Dougherty since their days together on X-Men 2 and Trick ‘r Treat, was likewise in love with the universe that the writing partners imagined. He says: “Todd, Zach and Michael created this incredibly genuine and fun backdrop for Krampus’ coming-out party for modern audiences. They set the story in a seemingly everyday world with very real and relatable characters. Max’s family has come to represent everything that’s wrong with how we celebrate Christmas: the over-commercialization, the inordinate pressure for perfection, and the holiday’s stressed and frenetic nature. When they break the last straw and nearly stamp out Max’s belief, they bring forth the wrath of Krampus, and all comic hell breaks loose.”

With the support of his fellow producers, Dougherty aims for a balance of comedy with thrills in his movies. “If you look at the Krampus myth and the history of the character, there is something quite loveable and likeable about him,” he reflects. “Therefore, it wouldn’t feel right to make a film that was overly intense, gory or extreme. There’s the comedy aspect of our story, the horror, obviously- and it’s full of monsters and scares and suspense- but there is also a very heavy dose of dark fairytale and fantasy to it. My whole career, I’ve been trying to bring that mischievous quality to movies, the kind I missed from the ’80s. I hope we’ve achieved that with Krampus.”

 

Gruss vom Krampus: Welcome to the Cast

When selecting the actors who would perform in the horror-comedy, it was important to Dougherty to ensure that the cast felt exactly like a family attempting to get through the season. Says the director: “Our premise was, ‘What if we made that struggle more difficult by adding a heavy dose of supernatural fun to it?’ That meant casting people that you would believe in a family dramedy and finding actors who had strengths in drama and comedy…but who weren’t primarily known for horror films.” In Dougherty’s signature style, he muses, “I think it’s fun to take actors who you love and find endearing and then just do terrible things to them.”

Like many of the cast and crew who worked on the project, Adam Scott grew up on a steady diet of ’80s horror films, and was thrilled to discover his director’s predilection for using practical effects whenever possible. The actor discusses that his first meeting with Dougherty sealed his interest in joining the project: “Michael explained that he wanted to make a film that harkened back to the Amblin movies of the ’80s, ones with a mix of horror and dramedy-grounded stories with a real sense of danger and high personal stakes for all the characters.”

Scott describes his character, Tom Engel, as harboring a lot of guilt for working a great deal and being away from his family so often: “He feels a bit on the outside of the structure at home, and things with his wife are strained. But over the course of the movie, he gets to step up and protect his family.” Adding to his interest, the actor admits that he was “beyond thrilled” at being cast beside on-screen wife Toni Collette. “Toni is one of the great actresses we have; she upped everyone’s game.”

For her part, the Oscar-nominated actress relished portraying Sarah on screen. Although Collette has appeared in several thrillers during her career, most significantly in The Sixth Sense, she has long been lauded for both her work in drama and comedy. Reflecting on playing the stressed-out mother of two, she notes: “Many people can relate to the stress in the Engel family during the holidays. We’ve gotten to the point that Christmas has become so commercialized, such a period of self-induced mania. I responded to the fact that this family has lost its way, and they’re forced into a situation that only by working together will they overcome what’s befallen them.”

As did Scott, Collette relished the idea of playing a role on such a physical set. She laughs: “When we weren’t being chased outside by evil elves or hauled up a chimney by psychotic gingerbread men, Michael had us running through the house causing all sorts of mayhem. And although we were all exhausted by the end of the shoot, I think I can speak for the rest of the cast when I say that we adored playing in his world.”

Max, the glue that holds the fraying Engel family together, is portrayed by young movie veteran Emjay Anthony, whose 12-year-old enthusiasm infused the entire period of principal photography. “It was awesome,” exclaims the co-star of Chef and Insurgent about working on Krampus. As he seamlessly slipped in and out of character with each take, Anthony exuded the ease of a child actor with a lot of on-set experience. At the same time, the self-professed trickster took great delight in pranking cast and crew throughout the shoot. He particularly enjoyed when Dougherty colluded with him. The young performer describes Max as “a kid who is just trying to keep his family together.” Sharing a set with demented puppets was a first for Anthony, as well as something he is keen to do again. He cringes when he recalls the creatures: “They are disgusting, especially that angel with the crazy tongue.”

When native New Zealander Stefania LaVie Owen first auditioned for the role of Beth in New York, she didn’t realize that the film was going to be shot in her home country. Both she and Dougherty were surprised to discover at her call back in Wellington that the film was being lensed just 30 minutes from her family home. The news got even better when her actual sister, Lolo Owen, was cast in Krampus as Beth’s cousin Stevie. Reflecting upon comparisons between her character and herself, Owen notes: “Apart from both being teenagers and girls, we are two quite different people. Beth is your typical teenaged girl; she has a boyfriend and wants to get out of the house and away from her family. Max is the collateral of her teenaged angst; he is still young and misses spending time with his big sister and is eager to earn her respect. Where they do connect is when the evil cousins come to stay. They share hatred toward their cousins, and this bond draws them together.”

The matron of the Engel family, Omi, is played by Austrian native Krista Stadler, whose career spans decades. She originally had no intentions of working last spring, but the opportunity to play this role in a film shot in New Zealand was not to be missed. In her typically humble fashion, the actress offers: “By heart I am similar to Omi, but I am a drama queen and she is not.” To that point, she drew inspiration from two ladies whom she knows quite well. “In the end, there were three of us playing Omi.”

Fortunately for the production, the actress has firsthand experience with the legend. When Stadler was a girl in Austria, Krampus would visit school on December 5 and ask the children about how good or bad they had been. She recalls: “He was running around with his broom; it was real theater. Even then, I knew he was not a real Krampus. I never believed anyone knew what I had done wrong. I knew, and that was terrible enough.” Fortunately, this terrifying visit was ameliorated by one from St. Nicholas, who spread joy and candy the following day.

tadler enjoyed the opportunity to form a friendship with her on-screen grandson, and she admired Anthony’s intuition on set. Like Stadler and Anthony, Omi and Max are close. Stadler describes them both as having clear and open hearts, and as being ignored by the family. Omi seldom speaks, and when she does, she speaks in Stadler’s native German…although in a stronger accent than Stadler’s own.

The family member who has the least open of hearts is Sarah and Linda’s Aunt Dorothy, who is unceremoniously dumped on the Engels when the Burkhauser clan rolls into town. Fresh off more than a decade starring on Two and a Half Men, Conchata Ferrell welcomed the chance to play a new character in, as she puts it, “a film that goes bump in the night.” Describing her role, she laughs: “According to Michael, Dorothy is not as robust a woman as me, so I enjoyed pulling back from where I stand naturally.”

A sharp-tongued and commanding figure, Aunt Dorothy “says what she thinks and forgets the children are present,” explains Ferrell. When asked if she drew from anyone she knew to portray the part, Ferrell admits that her Aunt Ethel did come to mind. “A retired madam, she spoke what she thought,” she explains. Deep down however, Ferrell describes Dorothy as a “lonely and very sad woman who knows that her family doesn’t want her there at Christmas.” To help her character along, Ferrell “shared my memories of Christmas with Dorothy, just so she knows what she is missing.”

Howard, the patriarch of the Burkhauser family, is played by David Koechner, a character actor with a lengthy resume on both television and film. Discussing the movie, he sums: “It’s a horror with three H’s: horror, heart and humor. There are so many possibilities with the three H’s, you’ve got to ride that with great temperament.” Koechner has no doubt that Dougherty has achieved this, commending, “Krampus is nothing like I have ever seen. Michael’s level of enthusiasm and excitement for this project was infectious. At the same time, he is very thoughtful and detail-oriented.”

In fact, Koechner gave his character a backstory: “I’ve decided that Howard is a welder. He is handy, he can hunt and he’s an outdoorsman. He would be right of center, a good Christian, and he loves his wife and kids. Life is pretty black and white for him.” The actor jokes: “The person I drew on the most for Howard was myself. I have a wife and five children, so all I had to do was remove one to play him.” Discussing the tension in the holiday home, Koechner explains: “In his heart of hearts, Howard feels quite inferior economically and intellectually. His struggle with feeling less worthy causes him to be challenging and combative with his relatives.”

Hailing from similar backgrounds, Koechner and Scott were friendly before coming to New Zealand, but the actors had not previously worked together. Early on, the actors embellished lines from the script with memorable ad-libbing. “The characters were very well drawn, so it was very easy for Adam and me to hold our character’s point of view and spar a bit,” explains Koechner. “It’s like having a good dance partner.”

Brought aboard to play Howard’s wife and Sarah’s sister, Linda, was actress Allison Tolman, who describes her character as “a soccer mom who becomes badass. She’s a sleeper for most of the film, but gets to have her moment in the sun.” Although Tolman has had a great deal of experience in comedy, she admits that horror is a favorite genre. So much so that she confesses: “I told my agents when I first signed with them that they should keep their eyes peeled for horror roles for me.” Not intimidated at all by the style, Tolman sees great humor as Krampus gets more grotesque and horrifying. She will even go so far as to say “there is a lot of joy to horror when it is done properly.”

The cast is rounded out by the four young actors who portray the Burkhausers’ children, newcomers Maverick Flack as Howie Jr., Queenie Samuel as Jordan, the aforementioned Lolo Owen as Jordan’s twin sister, Stevie, and SAGE HUNEFELD as baby Chrissy. Koechner sums up the trying-to-be- merry crew: “The family members pick on each other, the cousins are battle-hardened, the sisters-in-law bristle with each other’s presence and every utterance, and in the middle is a young boy who believes in Christmas.”

 

Up on the House Top: Design and Locations

During preproduction, Australian cinematographer Jules O’Loughlin and Dougherty met over Skype and instantly hit it off. “We share a love of the same kind of films-Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Alien; we both love sci-fi,” he says. “Michael is a great storyteller. He knows what he wants and is a fantastic collaborator who made a post-modernist horror, one that is having a bit of a giggle at itself.”

The director of photography admits that the most challenging (and rewarding) part of shooting the horror-comedy was the very design that would make the movie terrifying: “Every day we walked into a black box, and every frame of the film had to be created from scratch. There was no natural light, no sun coming in the window to supplement the lighting. On top of that, it was also a rich dark-fantasy horror palette.”

O’Loughlin admires and feels indebted to the work of production designer Jules Cook who, he commends, “built amazing sets and created a fantastic world to light.” A personal favorite of the cinematographer was the attic location, where all sorts of demonic creatures- from fanged teddy bears to harpy-like cherubs and psychotic robots-attack the family. Although the set was small, cramped and hot to work in, it becomes the stage for the first time the creatures fully emerge in the film. “It was a dark, moody atmospheric scene with a lot of moving light.”

For Cook, Krampus represents a nod to a classic ’80s-style horror film, one that Dougherty wanted to nestle in Middle America. The charm for the production designer was that, “You don’t get a project very often these days without physical effects to fall back on. You are doing so much more in camera, pulling out a lot more tricks; it’s incredibly challenging but a lot of fun.”

As the in-laws are trapped together there, the Engel house has a big role in the film; naturally, Cook grew to know every nook and cranny intimately. Set in a snowy Midwestern town, much like Dougherty’s hometown in Ohio, the movie’s Georgian Colonial renovated house has been decorated within an inch of its life by Sarah Engel. Early references included the domiciles made famous in Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Cook explains that he focused the sentiment very much in the tradition of an ’80s horror film. In fact, the story was devised in Dougherty’s living room, so a great deal of the positioning of knickknacks was informed by where the writer/director grew up. The house is “vomiting Martha Stewart,” laughs the designer. “It’s prim and proper and overly dressed with Christmas decorations, which fleshes out Sarah’s character.”

At the top of the house is the attic, a dim and dusty space that Beth has converted into a bedroom for herself. “Right from the get-go, I was excited about doing an attic,” enthuses Cook. Echoing the DP, he admits, “It was a tough set to shoot, but great fun to build.” In the event that puppeteers required access, the set was elevated on a rostrum. This way, each roof panel could be removed to accommodate each puppeteer’s rod and wires when necessary.

As Stone Street Studios’ K Stage measures 230 feet x 105 feet, Cook admits: “Trying to achieve vast snowy vistas in such a reduced space was a challenge. We had to scale down buildings, hide them in the mist, use progressively smaller trees, and even use miniatures in the foreground.” At the end of the day, it was all about playing with forced perspective, as well as combining atmosphere with low light and snow. A total of eight different setups were required, and they progressed from a neatly groomed snowscape to waistdeep snow and a fantastical finale setting.

To accomplish this, Cook employed covered rostrums made of cloth that mimicked snowdrifts and played around with undulations. A trench filled with snow amid the rostrums provided a mosh pit for the actors to wade through. “There was definitely a lot of interaction with the special-effects team on this show,” says the production designer. “We built something, and they covered it with snow. It was like my old filmschool days; everything was being done in camera.”

A critical scene in the fractured yuletide tale called for young Max to use an Advent calendar in his room. Cook walks us through the backstory: “This is something that his grandmother brought from Germany. It has a Bavarian history, and perhaps Omi owned it herself as a child.” Cook researched European antique calendars to inform the wooden relic. Inside of the calendar, they used a book of postcards that particularly appealed to Dougherty. “The design incorporated an illustrative sensibility from the ’30s and ’40s.”

 

Rudolph Sweaters and Frostbite: Costumes and Makeup

“I thought the script was an absolute riot, a real giggle-and-gasp film,” lauds costume designer Bob Buck, who has made quite a name for himself designing the intricate outfits for the three blockbusters in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series. While he views Krampus as belonging in both “the surreal world and the real world,” his department very much lives in the latter.

For the horror-comedy, Buck partnered with Dougherty to incorporate mood boards to develop the look of each character. Together, often over e-mail, they made firm decisions on color palettes, styling and the “period” for each role. Buck was determined to ensure that Krampus wasn’t contemporary, but timeless.

The ensemble of characters has inhabited a range of decades, some of whom reflect the time of their development in which they became stuck. “I wanted to push their character, amplify them a bit,” Buck reveals. Indeed, his costumes came from a range of sources. Many of the more dated pieces were discovered in secondhand shops and re-created. When it came to sourcing costumes locally, the fact that the film was being prepped in a New Zealand summer, but set in an American winter, became a challenge. This was especially true for the iconic winter sweaters Dougherty wanted for Linda. Codified by Buck as “trying to bring light and joy to Christmas,” Linda demonstrates her spirit by wearing these outfits throughout the entire film. After sourcing numerous options worldwide, the costumer presented Dougherty with a final dozen ugly sweaters. When all was said and done, the director selected one with a penguin and one featuring the iconic Rudolph.

It was initially proposed that Linda was the kind of shopper to wear “mom jeans,” sneakers, denimon- denim outfits, and was painfully clueless that her fashion-which harkened back to the ’90s-was no longer cool. Shares Tolman: “We steered her from being tragic to a place where she is willfully dorky.” The actress laughs: “Rudolph became a kind of character all his own in the last third of the movie.”

Aunt Dorothy was a particular favorite for Buck to clothe. “She is stuck in a time warp, like she had her heyday but stayed there,” he muses. The designer describes her look as “suburban leisurewear, with a hint of faded glamour.” Referring to the ’70s for inspiration, Buck considered many references- including some from Maude, a sitcom in which Ferrell actually had acted.

For Collette’s character, Sarah, Buck took inspiration from American style guru Martha Stewart. The designer explains that Sarah is “uptight, a little pared back and stylish.” In fact, her wardrobe complements the pastel and neutral color palette that weaves throughout her home.

For young Max, Buck went “straight to geeky world.” Partial to robots and Meccano and fond of drawing, Buck found a pair of robot pajamas that reflect Max’s innocence. As Max is a thoughtful boy, he doesn’t think twice about wearing vests knitted by Omi…or a Christmas bow tie insisted on by his mother. “His look is a little bit off,” muses Buck, who pauses, “which is much better than being completely on.”

With sister Beth, the designer allowed himself to play around with silhouettes. As Beth has a few dramatic scenes in the inclement weather, he explains: “We had to be aware that people become a shape or outline in the snow.” He describes her looks as sporty, youthful with a mismatching cartoonlike silhouette. Working closely with the costumer was makeup department head DAVINA LAMONT, who describes her colleague as having “a great eye for developing characters within his costumes.” Lamont, who has collaborated with Buck before, found that they were on the same page, in particular with the evolution of Aunt Dorothy. Ferrell arrived with a particular view of how she imagined her character and Lamont, with a quite different take, took to convincing the actress right away. After several makeup tests, the team agreed that Dorothy should have the kind of look that she would have worn every day since the ’50s and ’60s. Stuck in a time warp-replete with her beehive hairdo, false eyelashes and lipstick-there is a suggestive days-of-former- glamour composition, which is now slightly sad and dated. Lamont proudly states that Ferrell “ended up really loving the look.”

Although experienced in prosthetics, the artist was particularly chuffed with the amount of wound work that was required. Our characters are stalked by vicious creatures, and Lamont was tasked with creating the manifestations of the aftermath. She explains: “Howard, in particular, was attacked by everything. Still, David was a great sport and didn’t care what we threw at him.” Suffering from major bite wounds, punctured by nails, scratches, and frostnip, Howard was tended to by Lamont’s department with prosthetics, ink, paint, blood, snow and dirt. For the major wounds, the artist collaborated with Weta Workshop, which created prosthetic pieces for application.

Young actors Samuel and Owen, who play Linda and Howard’s tomboy daughters, were originally scripted with shaved heads. Once meeting the girls, Lamont proposed short haircuts for both with a clean, no-makeup look. The girls arrived with long beautiful hair, but rather than be devastated by the news that they would be losing their locks, they celebrated by donating their hair to a cancer charity.

One of the more complex characters to resolve was a delivery driver who ends up frozen in his tracks. To create a more realistic look, the collaborators were determined to avoid using prosthetics. After extensive research, a series of experimental tests followed. Eventually, the team reached a result using makeup that was horrifying but satisfying. A creepy pair of contacts and frozen hair completed a look of which Lamont was proud.

The makeup artist refers to Dougherty’s “bubbly energy” as one of the principal things that drew her to the project. This continued during the shoot. She lauds: “If you watch Michael behind the monitor, he was jumping around like a kid, in a good way.” For Lamont, it was the freedom that Dougherty offered her that was special. “He allowed me to play and develop, and he had faith in what I could deliver.”

 

Physicals and Maths: Stunts of the Film

Any production with this number of practical effects and puppetry necessitates an extraordinary amount of stunt work. Krampus would be no exception. Dougherty recalls the organized chaos on set: “It was a lot. We had actors wrestling around with puppets. We had little people running around in dark elf/goblin costumes. We had contortionists inside of a clown. It was a three-ring circus.”

Stunt coordinator RODNEY COOK, who has worked on films as daunting as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Avatar, commends his director’s ambition: “Michael has great vision, and he has some crazy ideas.” Describing the complex work with which he was challenged-rigs, redirectional pulls and anchor points-Cook simply sums: “It’s all physicals and maths.”

A particularly intricate stunt on the shoot involved hurtling a performer tied in chains out of a broken window, followed by another equally astonished actor attached to a rather cumbersome creature on a dark, windy and snowy set. In among the creature action are cast and crew wearing prosthetics, masks, bulky costumes, gloves and those holding weaponry. “It was chaos, but good chaos,” reflects Cook. “It was a lot of fun, but we always made sure everyone was safe and understood exactly what they were doing. The safety of the actors and crew was paramount.”

As a good portion of Krampus is set in the snowy streets of the Engel family’s hometown, Cook was tasked with working through the complexities of wading through deep, fake snow. Throughout the film, family members are dragged along and in it through mysterious beasties. “Early on we realized that the snow was like quicksand,” he explains. “It had a strong suction and was like moving through porridge or couscous.” The first time that Cook jumped into the trench for tests, the soles of his shoes were ripped off. It was after losing two pairs that he came to realize the suction was too strong.

Through collaboration with the special effects team, his crew trialed various depths. They reached a happy medium where the snow maintained an authentic look and they felt confident the actors could actually walk. The next test was to experiment with what it was like to be submerged in the fake snow. “We discovered that if you dove into the snow that you couldn’t get out by yourself,” the stunt coordinator recalls. “It was like being in an avalanche.” To avert that kind of real terror, his crew experimented with putting the support team in scuba diving gear, which allowed them to breathe and to facilitate pulling stunt men out of the snow. His crew also built what they named an “Iris rig.” The rig was essentially an empty cavity encased in foam below the surface of the snow, one that enabled a person to dive in or drop into a safe haven of oxygen.

A self-described “big kid,” Cook relished working with the children in the cast. He praises Anthony in particular: “Max is a natural stuntman; he has so much energy.” Cook’s mantra is that you never talk down to anyone when working on stunts. “What is important is to assess what someone is capable of, and what they are comfortable with, and then develop a strategy from there.” Empathy is a critical aspect, but a heavy dose of diplomacy also goes a long way. From the outset, the stunt department was engaged in an intricate dance with other departments that were maneuvering for space on and off sets, as well as rehearsal time with actors.

Cook has high praise for all of the film’s talent, but he admits he really put Koechner through his paces in the snow. In one key scene in particular, his character, Howard, is trying to be the hero. “David was in a pretty extreme rig,” recalls the stunt coordinator. “We had a top and bottom rig and side pulls so we could pull him in four different directions. He was all over it, he was prepared to give it a go and he was terrific.”

“Actual true terror” is what was running through Owen’s head as the actress was chased through a fabricated snowstorm on a soundstage in Wellington. “I was screaming and crying and running to my full potential,” she recounts. “The sets looked so real. It was snowing, dark, I was crying, and the wind was blowing hard. My adrenaline was pumping, and I was really scared.”

 

Building the Ancient Legend: Weta’s SFX and VFX

When the team began its discussions about exactly who and what would be terrorizing the family, it was extremely important they follow one dictum. Explains Dougherty: “When it comes to creatures, especially practical creatures, I’ve always believed that less is more. The strength of a good monster movie is mystery and keeping your creatures in the shadows as much as possible. The upside is that when you work with practical effects, you almost have to do it that way. When you have puppets, you have rods and puppeteers. Even if you see a creature from the waist up, there are all of these rods and wires just out of camera that force you to shoot in pieces.”

Says an excited RICHARD TAYLOR, Weta Workshop’s creative supervisor, about Krampus: “This is a classic ’80s monster movie; that is what we live for, that is why we get up in the morning.” Dougherty’s filmmaking philosophy of “practical first and digital second” was music to the Oscar-winning special effects artist’s ears. He commends: “Michael has the charisma to rally everyone around his vision, and he has done it through a great love of his craft. He has a childlike joy in which he engages in the process and is fresh and enthusiastic about bringing physical effects to the screen. He is all about trying to find great humor and wonderful comedy in everything you create.”

Weta Workshop’s role was to create the creatures of Dougherty’s imagination. As Taylor has spent the majority of his career working with elves, trolls, goblins and the like, it’s no surprise that Taylor was familiar with the Krampus mythology. He shares: “The thought of creating a demonic Santa Claus offered an amazing opportunity for us. Michael was dreaming up how he could put a creepy demonic twist on otherwise sweet and safe items, all in good humor, of course.”

Still, unlike other projects for the effects house, the conceptual art already existed when the project arrived on Weta’s doorstep. “Michael shared with us these incredibly beautiful designs and, although we were saddened we didn’t get to play a part in the design, we were thrilled to work with such beautiful pieces of art,” explains Taylor. “I question whether we could have done anything better.”

A combination of traditional techniques combined with modern-day technology was used to imagine and produce the creatures. Puppets were driven by hand, animatronics, strings and rods, and constructed largely from clay plaster, rubber and foam latex. “We had people walking around on dogleg stilts with arm extensions,” says Taylor. “This stuff goes back to some of the earliest films ever made, and 100 years later we were still able to draw on some of those same wonderful techniques.”

For the man who has spent his career playing in such worlds, he was wholly impressed by cast and crew alike. Lauds Taylor: “Krampus doesn’t take itself too seriously. At the end of the day, it is a light-hearted, fun and comedic movie with a certain evil twist. Terrific actors have been willing to throw themselves wholeheartedly into this wonderful and quirky film.”

Dougherty considered it a high honor to work with such masters, and he’d been dreaming of the day since he first toured Weta Workshop in 2004. He shares: “I became aware of Weta during the cult classic Meet the Feebles. Directed by Peter Jackson, it is a dark, twisted version of the Muppet films. I watched Weta grow over the years, until they reached this amazing pinnacle with The Lord of the Rings films. When you see Weta Workshop artists-who normally make dragons and orcs and lavish, rich fantasy characters-having fun by making twisted toys, teddy bears with claws and teeth, and demonic Jack-in-the-box characters, you see that they’re into this as much as you are.”

Fresh to New Zealand from Canada, EMERSEN ZIFFLE was delighted to be working for Weta Workshop and took on the role of on-set supervisor for Krampus. Coming from a practical-effects background in film, this project was a perfect fit for Ziffle. He states: “We have been given an opportunity to breathe a practical effects life into this otherworldly character and bring Krampus to a modern audience. In this world of digital effects, getting to see puppets and practical costumes- and wind and snow effects-actually there on camera is such a treat for audiences today.”

Because he was heavily involved in the preproduction process, Ziffle thought Krampus was the most difficult character to get right. Weta Workshop specialty props and costume supervisor ROB GILLIES recalls that Dougherty showed up with a massive stack of pictures and references, as well as a 3D model for Krampus. As the holiday demon is several feet taller than the average human being, the costume had to be comfortable, durable, breathable and be able to move properly…as well as handle and perform certain stunts. Weta Workshop built a rig inside the Krampus costume that would accommodate a person of average height. Dogleg stilts were used to elevate the creature and finger extensions were created for the talon-tipped hands. A camera was included inside the cloven-footed outfit, which allowed performer LUKE HAWKER, Krampus himself, to see from inside.

To bring the other creatures-which included such delightfully named demons as Perchta the Cherub, Teddy Klaue, Tik Tok, Ruprecht the Elf and the Yule Goats-to fruition, Gillies explains that the process started with the concept art and the storyboards. “We had puppets that had to perform very specific gags,” he says. “We would shoot little sequences to make sure they could perform the gags, then we would send them to Michael.” Rods were used to operate arms, and legs and poles were utilized to take the weight of the body. Stunt rigs, hand rigs and stunt heads were also built. Around 30-35 people worked on the project at Weta Workshop-representing departments including costuming, sculpting, molding, silicon casting, puppet fabrication, foam running and animatronics.

Ziffle’s on-set team was comprised of a few circus performers, puppeteers, animatronics operators and costumers. For the on-set supervisor, the work was “all about being a good problem solver and thinking outside of the box, because it’s never going to be what you think it’s going to be on the day.” He is the first to admit that the challenges were aplenty. “You can be stuck between a very sharp edge, a box and a person, be covered in slime, wearing ridiculous Lycras, using all your energy, just to get that little expression at the end of a long day. Still, we want to give as much as we can on film without showing how we are doing it. You are showing the audience enough to get a sense of that character without giving up the magic.”

Another child of the ’80s is visual effects supervisor KEVIN ANDREW SMITH from Weta Digital. “I was told Krampus was a cross between Gremlins and Christmas Vacation, which was right up my alley,” he says. Early on, Smith and his colleagues sat down with Dougherty and went through the filmmaker’s concept art and storyboards to get an understanding of what was needed digitally.

“Michael had a clear plan, and that is 90 percent of the battle.” Like the rest of the cast and crew, he was taken with Dougherty’s enthusiasm. “He’s definitely infectious; he absolutely has a passion for this movie, and it rubs off on others.”

Weta Digital worked on set primarily to get the best possible plates to use for later-when they were back in-house creating the shots. “We use a lot of tracking markers, and a lot of witness cameras, and that’s just technical talk for references,” shares Smith. “They take 2D and 3D information from each set to use for lighting and modeling. We were in with the crew all the time, working with the grips on getting green screens up, with the DP adjusting the lighting; so, when we put it into post, it fit in.”

Smith celebrates the practical effects on this film and is especially impressed with the practical demon. “We have done a few Krampus shots and scanned him and made him into a digital double,” he explains.

That said, one of Dougherty’s creatures was realized in full digital glory. Although there are times where an edible gingerbread man features on screen, the actual moving creature would need to be created digitally. Back at Weta Digital the animators were scrambling for an opportunity to work on the demonic Christmas treats.

Special effects supervisor BRENDON DUREY describes Krampus as “a very mechanical-effects heavy film.” It covers the gamut of special effects, including heavy atmospherics, a large armor and squib component, flames and air pneumatic work-as well as a massive snow-dressing component. For Durey, the challenge was the “tight time frames and turnarounds.” Still, he admits: “It’s always good to do something new, interesting and challenging.” Durey’s favorite set was the attic set, where his team was tasked with creating a detailed, frosty snow dressing and then shooting up attacking toys.

RYAN HARTNETT bears the title “Snow Chief,” and for seven weeks he piled precipitation into the studios at Stone Street. The script required different stages of snow dressing-from something quite normal to an eerie, preternatural blizzard-or as Hartnett expresses: “We went from light snow dressing to biblical snow.”

To decorate the sets with one of the many varieties of snow, a paper product made from recycled, bleached English newspapers was spewed out of a hose at great velocity. This was then covered by a wax product, again propelled out of a hose coming from an 80 degrees C melting vat. To facilitate the movement of the wax, the hose used to transport it was heated to 92 degrees C at its core. The team estimates that they used approximately six to seven tons of wax during production.

To fill the trenches with snow for the actors to walk through, the department used an absorbent polymer that arrived as a dry product and was mixed with nine parts water. A cement mixer was utilized to mix the polymer snow, and the team had one person working full time throughout the shoot just mixing snow. Other snow products included powder frost, an ice spray that forms crystals and snow sparkle.

Finally, another type of snow was used for falling, freezing rain. In K stage there were 16 100-liter machines housed in the ceiling, and they sprayed snow foam down onto the set. Once it reached the set, this product took about 10 minutes to dissolve. In fact, on a busy day, between 80-100 liters of foam was used. Never fret, however. If this type of snow wasn’t reading well on the camera, they had a back-up made from potato starch.

Production wrapped, Dougherty takes a moment to reflect on what he hopes audiences will experience: “What I find so fun is the infectious spirit of Krampus. Once you introduce people to him, everyone gets him really quickly, and they have this wicked smile on their face. You can see this sort of dark glint. It’s almost like they’re saying, “I get it…this is something that I can scare my kids with so that they behave. Cool!”

Krampus-Poster