Writer/director Ben Wheatley and his wife, writer/editor Amy Jump, mapped out their story beats and set design in the popular sandbox video game.
Setting a movie inside one location is always a challenge, particularly in terms of pacing and blocking to keep the story interesting and moving forward. Now, what if you decide to make the focus of your film a shootout lasting over an hour in one location with 10 different characters? How are you going to manage your characters, set pieces, and camera angles?
Writer/director Ben Wheatley decided to tackle that very story along with his wife, writer/editor Amy Jump, when they set out to make their latest film Free Fire. While the challenge of telling the story in one giant warehouse and making the shootout the focus of the film instead of a mere set piece may seem daunting, Wheatley and Jump turned to an easy-to-use, readily available tool to map out their story and set all at once: Minecraft.
Free Fire was inspired by the real-life transcripts of a 1980s FBI shootout in Miami that went terribly wrong. Wheatley had never seen a film that focused specifically on one massive gunfight the way the FBI report described, which piqued his interest.
Once Wheatley and Jump had their script and were moving into production, they created 1,700 storyboards, built a physical model of the warehouse, and then created the warehouse in Minecraft using a Blade Runner mod to get the right textures. Minecraft not only allowed Wheatley and Jump to pre-viz each shot with their collaborators, but they could use the Minecraft model to translate each one-meter cube in the game into a real-life set in an old factory in Brighton in the UK.
After the location was chosen, Wheatley collaborated with production designer Paki Smith to create blueprints for each 10-minute segment of the film. The blueprints allowed the filmmakers to determine the precise movements of each of the characters within those 10 minutes and also where to set pyro charges during those sequences.
To see more Free Fire set images from Minecraft and one of the film's blueprints, be sure to check out the full article on Wired here. Below, you can learn what it was like for the main cast members and Wheatley to execute the film based on the extensive pre-production planning.
Free Fire hits U.S. theatres today, April 21.