Sam Rockwell: The only space-clone you'll ever need

We were asking a lot of Sam throughout the making of Moon. He had to deliver two lead performances in a very demanding VFX environment and a lot of this concerned his physical movements during a take. Watching the film being shot from behind the camera was a strange experience as VFX heavy shoots often are. Sam would pace around and talk to fresh air, Duncan would call "cut" and we'd be moving on to the next setup or a makeup change without knowing for certain if we had what we needed to make the shot work. We knew we had a few Visual Effects techniques that would help us out such as stretching the timings here and there in either of the two performances to get them to fit together properly but to be honest the main reason the clone VFX works so well in Moon is Sam Rockwell. He had a lot of technical considerations to consider during his performance including his eye lines, timings and physical location in space. 

When we were filming a shot that required two Sam Rockwells, we would choose one of the clones to "drive" the performance and shoot that first. We'd then leave the camera in position and get Sam up to make-up as quickly as possible so he could get back on-set as the alternate Sam and we could shoot the other half of the shot. We'd then move onto a new setup that was driven by the version of Sam that was ready to go and keep leap-frogging like that to try and get through as much as the day as possible with minimal time spent with Sam off-set in make-up. Our amazing on-set sound-man Patrick (Paddy) Owen came up with the idea of recording the sound from our chosen first take and getting it up to Sam whilst he was in make-up. He'd drop the audio onto Sams' iPod so he could listen to it whilst he was in the make-up chair. When we started production we were assured that there would never be a make-up turnaround of more than 30 minutes but towards the end of the shoot it was taking around an hour and a half. Just another ingredient to add a bit more stress to the day and another factor in the fight against making the call-sheet.

Look at that face-hair. Just look at it. Its magnificent. When Sam returned back on-set to do the other half of his performance he'd have an earpiece in with the audio of his previous performance so he could react to the conversation and make it feel natural. Sam acts using the Miesner technique, which was perfect for this role as Sam Bell. It's a bit hard to explain but if you're interested, you can read up about it a bit more here

Whilst I'm on about the sound department I'd just like to mention Toby who was our Boom Operator. Toby is actually in the film, you can see him when Sam is watching a message from Tess early on in the film and she holds up little Eve as a toddler. This little lady was actually Rosie Shaw, Gary Shaw (DoP's) little girl. If you watch the right-hand side of the video message frame you can see the edge of a person. Just for the record they are not meant to be there. This is Toby. Well done Sir, you got in the film. To be honest, as I was doing all the motion graphics I should have spotted this but I was doing so much and was so knackered I somehow missed it so it's my fault really. We didn't miss that much over the breadth of the entire film but we did have a few moments. We had to paint our DoP Gary Shaw out of the reflections in Sam 2's sunglasses when he has Sam 1 lying on the infirmary bed and we also had to "disappear" him from the bathroom mirror in a couple of shots. Probably they worst shot for being outright wrong was when Sam 1 does his search of the base looking for the hatch. There is a shot where we see him cross the befroom and if you pause the dvd you'll see al sorts of stuff in frame. I was sat with Duncan in the grading suite with the film being a couple of weeks from finished when we both clocked it at the same time. The scene was shot very quickly and as we moved around the Sarang set we'd tuck bits and pieces of filming equipment round the corner from wherever the cameras were pointing. In this particular shot you can see his bedroom is piled high with big brown wardrobe boxes and there's a metal step-ladder with "Walker" painted on the side of it. This belonged to Julian Walker who was our sign-writer on the set and who helped me put all the graphics on the base walls. Congratulations mate, your ladder got in the film. We did what we could by dropping a dark vignette over it to drop it back and we pretty much got away with it but if you look sharply you can see it's stil there. Incidentally, if you look at Sams' videophone when he makes the rover call to Eve, there are two pairs of numbers above the screen in black type. This is mine and Julians birthdays. I put that in there for my Mum and I think I forgot to tell her about it. I'm a terrible son.

So the next time you see Sam Rockwell in anything just consider the fact that he's not only an amazing actor, he's also an amazing VFX robot. He's exactly the kind of actor you need on a VFX shoot. He can dance too. This is the audition film from Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (which is amazing). I love the music in this clip, I wish it would start playing whenever I walk into a room. He does a particularly amazing move at 2:06. I asked him about this and he said it takes months of stretching to be able to pull this off without inverting your anus. Check this shit out.