Tech saves chubby-mouthed stars in dizzying thriller ‘Fall’

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Los Angeles (AFP) – When you’re hanging from a tower 2,000 feet above the desert floor at your fingertips, it can be hard not to drop a few F-bombs — even if you’re a Hollywood actor shooting a PG-rated movie. -13.

Luckily, new editing technology has come to the rescue of the “potty-mouthed” stars of “Fall,” in US theaters on Friday, which follows two young women who decide to scale an impossibly tall metal tower in the California desert.

This being a movie, the adventure doesn’t go as planned, leaving Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and Hunter (Virginia Gardner) stranded on a tiny platform where vertigo is just one of the terrifying challenges they must overcome.

“I’m talking about the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced,” Currey told AFP, of the grueling shoot.

“Gini (Gardner) and I are just hanging on to this pole, sitting there, rocking, looking at each other, and it’s making noise.

“We had a moment, ‘what have we gotten ourselves into? And also, are these our last hours? Are we going to get through this?'”

“There were definitely swear words in the environment and in the air.”

Although the film was not shot in the real B67 television tower, which is twice the height of the Eiffel Tower, the actors still had to act on a terrifying setting: an 18-meter tower perched on top of a steep cliff in the Mojave Desert.

Using clever angles to avoid showing off the mountain, British director Scott Mann was able to retain a realistic feel for the low-budget, $3 million indy thriller.

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But when major Hollywood studio Lionsgate agreed to distribute the film, there was a problem.

The actors swore throughout, using language that could trigger a restricted “R” rating that could dampen box office receipts.

“Potty mouth Virginia and Grace, that’s what I would say!” joked Mann, in an interview with AFP via Zoom.

“I don’t blame Gini and Grace – because let’s be honest, from the top of this ridiculous structure, thousands of feet up, asking to improvise scenes, it’s totally justified for them to say that.”

“Certainly my fault!” he admitted.

“Language of the Mouth”

While a giant summer superhero movie could usually redo some scenes, “Fall”‘s budget didn’t allow it, and the filmmakers were reluctant to edit out the dialogue.

Instead, they came up with a creative solution: nascent technology, primarily invented for foreign-language dubbing, allowing them to seamlessly transition to a more family-friendly sound.

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It maps actors’ faces, learning their specific mouth movements, before manipulating those movements with 3D computer effects to sync them with new dialogue.

“What technology has enabled is rather than having to rebuild the tower and walk back up the mountain, just to go to a sound studio,” said Mann, who co-founded a startup working on the technology.

“We rewrote those little moments, just to bypass some of that mouth language, and then basically inject it into the movie.”

Although the tool has been labeled a “deepfake”, Mann said that this label suggests more harmful uses such as pornography, when in reality it is more “hands off”.

“It’s an interesting use, and I think it was a good fit,” he said.

‘Savage’

Although it was released in mid-August — typically a low ratings time, when many weaker films are unceremoniously dropped by studios — “Fall” received overwhelmingly positive reviews.

The Guardian said the micro-budget film is set to embarrass other giant studios that throw “a hundred times more on blockbusters with a hundred times less thrill factor”, while Vanity Fair dubbed it “an enthralling surprise from heat wave”.

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For Currey, who did many of his own stunts, including hanging onto a falling ladder, making the film was “pretty wild, not like anything I’ve ever done before”.

“And we didn’t know if we were going to be R or PG-13,” she added.

“As far as Gini and I knew, we could say whatever we wanted!”

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