‘Rebooted’ Is A Love Letter To VFX In Cinema

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Rebooted is an Australian short film written and directed by Michael Shanks.

Phil, a once prominent stop-motion animated skeleton, struggles to navigate the entertainment industry among more modern VFX technology. When he discovers that ‘10,000 Sandals’, the film he was once famous for, is being rebooted with motion-capture work, Phil decides to take revenge and resort to more drastic measures to prevent the film’s production.

Shanks has not been a stranger to visual effects. On his personal youtube channel, he has uploaded plenty of videos that have all been heavily reliant on using visual effects to tell stories. Whether it was his online web series The Wizard Of Aus, or a comical edit of George Lucas’ special edition of The Force Awakens, Shanks has been following his own love for visual storytelling through the creation of Youtube projects.

Perhaps the best demonstration of this is through his new short film, Rebooted, an engaging visual narrative told through the merging of different VFX techniques.

It is no wonder why Rebooted has been so successful in award shows.

Visually, the short film is nothing short of a masterful blend between visual effects and cinematography. It merges real stop-motion techniques for the protagonist, and compiles them into the real world beautifully. Shanks has mentioned the extensive work that went into the production, with crew working behind the scenes to perfectly measure out lighting and camera angles so that they can be replicated in a miniature version for Phil’s stop-motion work.

I’ve always had a fascination with the kind of dedication and artistry that goes into something as difficult as stop-motion, and it was absolutely wonderful to see that ambition achieved once again.

Rebooted Phil Audition
Stop-motion animation perfectly integrated with live-action footage. Source: LateNite Films

Alongside him, Shanks worked with a talented crew that helped put together not just the stop-motion work for Phil, but also the various other monster visual effects, such as the CGI motion-capture creature, an animatronic dinosaur or the creature suit that I thought was highly reminiscent of the Creature From The Black Lagoon

When you put together an ensemble of different creatures, it does more than a fun gag comparing differences, it reminds the audience of the various ways in which cinema has pioneered storytelling. From hand-drawn animation to the likes of motion-capture work, Rebooted is a tribute to the many technological advances that came before.

That’s not to say that the story isn’t equally as compelling, because it certainly is brilliantly written.

In some of the behind the scenes content, Shanks discusses how he struggled to write a good script in the beginning, focusing too much on dialogue and jokes. When a friend of his suggested to make it purely silent, he discovered the key to perfecting his script. The most bizarre part is given the lack of dialogue, as well as the limitations of Phil’s facial expressions, Shanks was somehow able to fully utilise this to his advantage.

Rebooted
A script full of visual storytelling. Source: LateNite Films

The final product? A beautifully crafted, bittersweet story of an outdated actor struggling to find his place in a changing world. There’s moments of comedy too, no doubt, but it is the raw emotions of a stop-motion character that highlights Shanks ability to tell a visual story.

Rebooted is a brilliant demonstration of the amazing work Australian filmmakers can produce.

Funded by Screen Australia and produced right in Melbourne, Rebooted speaks to the kind of creative work that Australians are capable of.

It’s a shame to think that given the number of Hollywood productions that are filmed in Australia, with the likes of Ragnarok or even The Invisible Man, the Australian film industry has always struggled to find an international audience. 

Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man was shot in Sydney. Source: The Sun

Even more so when you look at the number of Australian talent that is working in Hollywood today, it’s astounding to think that Australia may not have the resources or talent to support it. 

Because we certainly do. 

One can only hope that projects like these help to pave the way for more international recognition, and therefore more opportunities to have uniquely Australian films shown to a wider audience.

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