Saturday, January 5, 2013

Worlds Away (My Review / Behind the Scenes)

Cirque du Soleil's Worlds Away movie has a plot about as deep as the average music video.  That means it has slightly more story than the average live Cirque du Soleil show.  But that's all good because it is basically a concert film anyway... with the band replaced by a circus.

I really recommend seeing this film, not just because I helped make it (more on that in a minute) but because it presents a very unique perspective.  The movie takes place in the "worlds" that make up the 7 permanent Cirque shows that were playing in Las Vegas in 2010.  Of course, you should see Worlds Away if you are a die-hard Cirque fan or will never have a chance to "collect them all" in Vegas.  But the best reason to buy a ticket is so you can see and feel what it is like to be in the shows.  The way the film was rigged and shot puts you very close to the action, above and below it.  You'll see the up close and personal show that I saw as an employee and you'll witness things only the acrobats themselves get to see.  In these gravity-defying environments, the 3D immerses you in the scale and heights of these acts instead of seeming like just another in-your-face gag.  From "O", the true depth of the pool and the complex maneuvers on the swinging Bateau are so much clearer than they ever were for me in the audience.  The sheer size of Viva Elvis' trampoline rig (and awesome acrobatics) actually works far better on film than it ever did dwarfing its performers in the live show.  The bottomless pit that is KA really feels like you're teetering on the edge of a floating island in space.  And the layered flying chaos of The Beatles LOVE's Get Back and Octopus' Garden reveals more of its many details here than you can take in during the live show.  My only complaint is that not including Mystere's fast track and Korean plank act is a decision bordering on criminal.  Still the best purely acrobatic act in Vegas Cirque's arsenal, it would have been mind-blowing in 3D.

I saw Worlds Away 2 weeks ago with Danny and a group of good friends.  It was a small but full and enthusiastic theater.  I felt like seeing it was the grand finale to a cool chapter in my life.  It's a big deal because I actually worked on this movie, and not just in a tiny indirect way.  My work is clearly visible in a good chunk of the film.  And the timing is perfect because my current Cirque home, IRIS in Hollywood, is closing in 2 weeks, bringing to an end my nearly 6 years with the company.  Seeing my name in the credits in a real live movie theater (credits which also include Andrew Adamson and James Freakin' Cameron) could not be a cooler way to do it.

Way back in late 2010 and early 2011, this movie was filmed in the Cirque theaters in Vegas.  It heavily features "O", KA, and LOVE (where I was working) in particular.  If you don't know what I did for Cirque and LOVE, this thing I wrote in 2009 sums it up pretty well.  In the movie, I am controlling the flights of almost every one (and thing) in the air during the Beatles segments including Jellyfish, bungee acrobats, giant scary puppets, the weird Uncle Sam high striker girl, and Lucy in her Sky of Diamonds.

When this project popped up in Nov 2010, it was pretty sudden and sort of secretive, even for those of us involved.  LOVE was filmed first so we had no idea what was coming.  We had just made a fairly involved 3D commercial for our show as well as episodes of American Idol and The Amazing Race (which I actually appeared in... barely) so it really felt like "just another film shoot" at first.  In fact, I was told that it was just a small project being done for a limited release for a private investor or something like that.  Whatever, no big deal.  We'll do it and never hear about it again.  But then we started to learn more.  "The guy that directed Shrek and Narnia is doing this" and "James Cameron's company is supplying the 3D gear".  Very cool and a bigger deal. And then we had a secret guest in the building.  Apparently personally asked by Cirque Founder, Guy LaLiberte, James Cameron showed up in our theater to help work out the complexities of filming something like this in 3D.  Not knowing what his official capacity (if any) was going to be, we were all sworn to secrecy about him being in the building.  That proved to be tricky though because Mr. Cameron is a man of the people (Tech people anyway) and he kept eating in the employee cafeteria in front of hundreds of Mirage employees.  Soon, he became Executive Producer but he continued to help with the shoot, often directing or running cameras himself.  It was AWESOME.  

And then I got to meet him.  An impromptu meet and greet started with the LOVE crew one afternoon.  Fascinated by technology, he actually started asking us how our show equipment works.  It's an amazing feeling having someone like that take an interest in you and your job. 

A second shoot took place in Feb 2011 and then the movie just vanished into the ether.  I thought it got shelved and kind of forgot about it for awhile.  Almost 2 years later, I had left LOVE and moved to L.A. to open IRIS.  And finally, it re-emerged and made it to the screen in Dec 2012.  I had missed the employee preview so I was even more excited when it premiered.  

I went with Danny and 4 good friends.  And I have to admit, I was actually feeling goosebumps and adrenaline through the entire thing.  It was less about the movie itself and more about the memories of making it and the anticipation of seeing how the parts were put together and feeling a little like a rockstar when my friends audibly reacted to it.  It was total self-centered joy.  

And at the end when my name rolled by, my friends applauded, giving me that rush that I haven't felt since I stopped performing on stage long ago.  I'm sure they felt obligated, but I loved them for it all the same.  After my Cirque time is over in a couple of weeks, I will always look back on this as a really great ending to a really great experience.

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