Shakespeare and computer-generated imagery might seem less than obvious bedfellows, especially when it comes to a play like Macbeth. There are no great monsters, no supernatural storms; locations resembling the castles and moors where the play is set can still be found, and beyond the occasional ghost or cauldron, the script doesn’t call for much in the way of special effects. However, our ambition was to create a virtual world not to resemble an actual location, or convince the audience that they’d seen something supernatural, but to build a theatrical environment from where the real genius of Shakespeare’s work – the words – could be projected. Macbeth is theatre, and translating this onto the screen doesn’t always fit easily within conventions of film making – how do you perform an aside when you are atop a castle and there is no audience? To whom is your soliloquy addressed when we can see there’s nobody nearby?
In placing real, filmed actors into a world combining real, hand-drawn and computer animated scenery, we felt there lay an opportunity to create a new type of experience on film, where we place the audience firmly in their theatrical position as active participants in the production. The locations could become sets, cuts could become scene-changes, and the stage could always have a suggestion of the ‘fourth wall’, that imaginary space that separates performers from the spectators. Of course, you could just film a theatrical production and be done with it, but what intrigued us was the possibility of expanding the theatrical language with the scale, depth and intimacy that cinema can achieve. Our approach would allow us to do this in two ways: firstly, it would enable us to create an infinitely adaptable set without hiring an enormous sound stage and a team of a thousand carpenters; secondly it would enable us to craft a world that could not only act as a setting for our action, but as an allegorical device where the inner worlds of our characters can be reflected in the structure of their environment.
But how to achieve this given the constraints of budget, time and resources that an independent production like this must work within?