Doomsday

Director Neil Marshall, Producers Benedict Carver & Steven Paul, Rogue Films/Universal - 2008

Doomsday opens in present day Scotland. A killer virus spreads like wildfire forcing the English Government to quickly seal off their border by building a huge steel wall and leaving the Scottish nation to die. The story then jumps 35 years into the future when the virus reappears in overpopulated London. A team of medical specialists accompanied by a small military unit are sent back into Scotland to find any signs of life that could lead to an antidode.

Concept visual of wall 35 years on.

Concept visual of wall 35 years on.

One of the first things the Producers wanted to know was how I intended building the 80mile, 40foot high steel wall. I wanted the wall to look as though it was built using a system of large bolt-together panels stored by the military for such an event, transported on large trucks. In South Africa I found a company who built large concrete structures. They used a moulding system of panels that fix together to contain the concrete until set. I designed the wall using this modular system but only building 200 foot.

Concept model.

Concept model.

Set built on location.

Set built on location.

A scale model was built of the wall to discuss the shots with Director and DoP. I built in a curve at the far end of the wall set so we couldn’t see where it finished, leading the audience to believe it really was 80 miles long. Two sets of massive hydraulically operated doors were built to close in action when Scotland was being sealed off. The panels were clad in corrugated steel to tie them all together visually.

The script called for two Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s). A supplier of such vehicles was located but none could match the speed and manoeuvrability that was required. As we had a brilliant South African engineering crew at our disposal we decided to design and build our own vehicles. The finished APC’s had 8-wheel drive, armoured glass windows, two escape hatches and hydraulic rear doors.

One of the finished APC's in it's hanger set.

One of the finished APC's in it's hanger set.

Hydraulic rear door open.

Hydraulic rear door open.

The vehicles were built strong enough to perform the tasks scripted such as being set on fire (below), driving through the side of a real building, driving at speed over a 6 foot high ramp and rolling over twice before coming to a rest on it’s side. As a testimony to their strength, both vehicles drove away when we completed filming in Cape Town.

I used the geometric camouflage of WW2 battle cruisers as inspiration in designing the urban camouflage for the vehicles, giving them a modern twist with urban greys.

Stunt sequence shot in South Africa.

Stunt sequence shot in South Africa.

The interior of the APC’s were built as a set with removable wall and ceiling panels for camera access. The one set doubled as the interior of both vehicles, the difference made clear in colour of lighting, the type of graphics on the monitors and the use of swapable dressing panels. The set was also built on a trailer so that it could be towed for scenes when particular views from the windows was required. (below; a model of the set built to discuss the filming with Director & DoP.

Scale model of the interior APC set used for both vehicles with some revamp.

Scale model of the interior APC set used for both vehicles with some revamp.

The finished set.

The finished set.

Once in Glasgow the military team get captured by a large gang of cannibal punk marauders and are taken to their hideout where they are tortured, roasted alive and eaten! 

Concept visual showing stage design.

Concept visual showing stage design.

These scenes were shot in an arena outside Cape Town. We removed all the seating and dressed in platforms, burning braziers, junk sculptures, tatty ripped stage curtains, oil lamps made from human skulls and finally filled the space with hundreds of costumed extras.

Marauder lead Sol'd car with human skin stretched across it's bodywork.

Marauder lead Sol'd car with human skin stretched across it's bodywork.

Marauder taxi converted into Battle-cab!

Marauder taxi converted into Battle-cab!

Marauder bus.

Marauder bus.

An array of vehicles were built for the Punk Marauders to drive in a car chase sequence at the end of the film. In the story they have the rich pickings of all the vehicles left behind in Scotland,  so we decided that they’d have some fun with them. Amongst the 10 vehicles we adapted a bus with riot shields and long spikes to skewer their prey, a London taxi with souped up engine and compressed air guns that fire metal balls but the crowning car belonging to Sol their leader; driving a classic Jaguar with skulls in the headlights and human face skin stretched over the bodywork.

The third act of the film takes place in a Scottish castle, although set in  the future. Its residents have made
the choice to return to a medieval feudal way of life. Director Neil Marshall wanted their castle to be on the edge of a large lake. As a building of such scale did not exist we  decided that our castle should be a digital matte painting on top of shots we filmed on location in Scotland.

Concept visual of the castle dropped into a Scottish loch location.

Concept visual of the castle dropped into a Scottish loch location.

All interior scenes were shot at Blackness Castle, Scotland. The owners agreed for us to cover their lawn with bark chippings, polystyrene rocks and bloodied wooden spikes to create the fight arena.

Blackness castle near Edinburgh.

Blackness castle near Edinburgh.

All interior scenes were shot at Blackness Castle, Scotland. The owners agreed for us to cover their lawn with bark chippings, polystyrene rocks and bloodied wooden spikes to create the fight arena.

Rooms within the castle were heavily dressed for scenes in a Blacksmiths, armourary, bed chambers, dining halls and kitchens.

The Throne Room (below) had a specially commissioned stained glass window built incorporating the modern bio-hazard symbol as a reminder that we’re in the future.

Interior blacksmith's set.

Interior blacksmith's set.

Interior kitchen set.

Interior kitchen set.

Interior throne room set.

Interior throne room set.

The largest set built for the film was the Government Command Centre. I designed this subterranean set as if it had been carved out of the solid rock deep below the city of London with the marble-like striations of sediment running through the ceilings and walls.

Above: Scale white-card model of the set with miniature figure to show scale to discuss the scripted with Director and DoP .

Above: Scale white-card model of the set with miniature figure to show scale to discuss the scripted with Director and DoP .

Above: The meeting room, designed with a rear projected central table which displayed maps and data concerning the spread of the virus throughout the country.

Above: The meeting room, designed with a rear projected central table which displayed maps and data concerning the spread of the virus throughout the country.

There were scenes scripted in four separate spaces within the composite set; the Prime Ministers office, a meeting room, the elevator lobby and central communications area.

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Above & below: the Prime Ministers office set. A specially commissioned painting hung behind the desk inspired by a photograph of a 1930’s railway carriage factory. The carpet was designed to fit the tapering layout of the room and the furniture built to reflect the Art Deco styling.

Above: The central communications area with Art Deco styled furniture. A huge 80ft wide front projection screen displayed live footage of Londons demise during the film.

Visual to show the final shot complete with digital matte painting set extension. 

Visual to show the final shot complete with digital matte painting set extension. 

The military unit arrive at St Andrews Hospital in central Glasgow which has been abandoned for over 30 years, with chunks of masonry fallen away and being overrun with trees & creepers. We shot this sequence at Cape Towns City Hall, dressing with rusty decaying cars, a mixture of fake & real plants & Glaswegian street signage.

APCs outside ready for filming.

APCs outside ready for filming.

The interior was also dressed and filmed in Cape Towns City Hall. A damp and peeling wallpaper effect was laid over the marble walls, Angkor Wat style tree roots twisted amongst the stairways, windows dressed with broken glass, layers of dust, cobwebs, rotting vegetation and bird droppings cover the floors.

A virus research lab was built as a freestanding modular unit with one of the halls rooms, skeletal remains of the last victims remaining.