Some of us will be too young to remember the 1990 blockbuster Total Recall which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone. While this summer’s remake replaces Arnie with Irish bad boy Colin Farrell, it asks the same questions about identity, memory and reality.
Directed by Len Wiseman and out in UK cinemas this week, this is billed to be one of 2012’s most epic of productions, with an all-star cast including Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale.
But if you stay on till the end of the credits, you’ll find a name you may not have heard before – Tom Hales. He’s a 27-year-old technical director at Double Negative in London, which provided the visual effects for the film.
He’s also a Christian and attends a church in south-east London.
Being a technical director involves working across a range of shots in a given sequence for a specific film, and Double Negative’s portfolio includes work on some big hitters including Inception, Harry Potter films and most recently The Dark Knight Rises.
“I add all the things that would not be possible on set because of budget or physical limitations,” Tom tells us.
“I worked on two sequences on Total Recall. The first being the Elevators Chase and the second the Car Chase sequence. My main job was building the environment that sits alongside the actors, which involved making the buildings (in the computer of course!) and positioning them in the most aesthetically pleasing way. After getting this basic positioning approved by the director I would add lights into the scene so it looks as interesting and realistic as possible.”
Working on the production of films of such epic scale requires the patience that most of us don’t have. Months can be spent on just a few seconds of footage.
“It’s hard sometimes to say exactly how long is spent as there are so many different factors involved. But it’s definitely a lot longer than most expect,” he says.
“Each shot goes through many iterations from storyboard stages through to final delivery.”
Tom, who chose his animation degree in Bournemouth because it “looked fun, was close to a beach and a good local church”, added: “The disciplined work ethic started back on the first day of university where you quickly get an idea what you’re in store for and how long things take.
“I’ve been animating for almost 10 years and in some ways you never get used to it, but in others you’re prepared for the long haul. I get my job satisfaction from seeing my work in its final form on the big screen or on TV. It’s well worth it all for that.”
Before working in film, Tom was based at a children’s animation company called Blue-Zoo, working on kids’ (and parents’) favourites Tree Fu Tom, Zingzillas and Kerwhizz to name a few.
“I’ve continued to study and work in animation as it’s a great tool for storytelling and visualising complex concepts. The industry is also always evolving, trying to keep up with changes in technology. This keeps work interesting. But it can be frustrating when realising there’s a new technique that could have saved you hours in the past.
“As a Christian in the film industry it’s a challenge to build relationships with colleagues. It’s a combination of living in different areas and each new film involving a new set of people. Of course it can be very easy to remain plugged into your computer and avoid any human interaction at all! But I’ve made some great friends and like any job there are daily opportunities to become more like Jesus.”
Total Recall is out in cinemas now.