I spoke with Roger about how he got his start, some of the directors he worked with and the state of effects now.
Have you always had an interest in optical effects?
As a kid I was always at the movies. I loved anything with stop-motion animation. My heroes were Ray Harryhausen and later Phil Tippett. I even used to make latex rubber models that I could animate. Mum wasn’t too pleased as these models needed to be baked in her oven!
Soon after starting at Colorfilm [in 1974] I met Bill Gooley who was the Feature Liaison Officer. My ability to visualise what effects a client required impressed Bill so much that he wanted me to exclusively handle the effects on all feature films that came through Colorfilm, which I did for the next 24 years.
You must have worked with many famous directors in your career?
I have some wonderful memories. Baz Luhrmann, along with Catherine Martin, came to the lab to go through some ideas for his first feature film, Strictly Ballroom. What they didn’t have was a main title design. After they left I gave it some thought and made up an animated title that I presented to them on their next visit. They loved it and it went into the final cut without any changes.
Optical effects are often required to fix up errors in filming. The Mad Max series had a few errors where crew strayed into camera view. The worst being in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), where the town is blown up. When the rushes were screened the next day the horrified producers saw two pyro technicians in white coats hiding behind a wall. There was no going back on this as the town was no more. Fortunately a locked-off camera was used so we were able to paint out those offending techies.
In The Man From Snowy River there is a night scene with Kirk Douglas at a campfire. Editor Adrian Carr felt the scene was empty and wanted a mountain range and some stars. So I drew up a mountain range, added some stars and he was amazed with the final result. To this day I have never revealed how I did that ... it’s a trade secret.
In the clip below, Roger talks about visiting the set of Babe (1995):