Hello fellow Ender’s Game fans. It’s been four years since I first began writing a screenplay based on the classic novel. I love the book. And I especially love the character of Ender Wiggin. I was drafted into an army myself at 17, and Ender’s journey of self discovery - his battles with authority figures he does not trust and his development as a leader - are themes I strongly relate to.
Without exception, every person who works on this wonderful film brings more than just skill to the table. They bring passion. Like me, they are huge fans of this story: of its unique environments, its amazing characters and its great, timeless themes.
We are now well into post production and the famous zero gravity battle room scenes are looking fantastic. We started a year ago by sending our talented young actors off to a “space camp” to train under the guidance of real NASA astronauts. They learned to move in zero gravity environments and experienced the wonderful feeling of weightlessness. Mix in some truly incredible visual effects work and today we are looking at battle room scenes that will blow your mind!
Tomorrow you will get your very first look at the battle room with the reveal of the teaser poster on Yahoo! Movies. For now, enjoy a small tease of Ender’s feet at the gate! I wish I could show you more, but with just over six months to go before our Nov 1 release date, the poster will at least give you a small glimpse of what we are working towards.
Until then, keep your “knees up” and thank you for all your support so far.
As we’ve now reached the end of principal photography on ENDER’S GAME, it seems fitting to take a step back and acknowledge the two people responsible for giving such vivid life to the imaginary world in which we’ve spent the past many months immersed.
And when we say immersed, we truly mean it.
Ben Procter and Sean Haworth — our amazing Production Designer duo — were tasked with bringing a difficult piece of Science Fiction to life… and they were more than up to the challenge.
Together, they created a unique blend of technology and humanity that made the ENDER’S GAME sets eventually seem like home.
As a duo, they played to their strengths, mixing a strong Illustration and Visual Effects Art Direction background (Ben), with the application of a physical set build and Art Directing (Sean). It turned into a symbiotic “divide and conquer”, and the results speak volumes.
We recently got them to reflect on the process of creating this world.
As Ben described it, the most fun was creating the two contrasting cultures of Human and Formic technology and architecture.
“We tried to imbue the spaces and vehicles with a gritty, engineered realism that would help sell the seriousness of the training our hero kids are going through. The visual style of the Formics, on the other hand, needed to be both exotic and beautiful to represent a society not deserving of extinction.”
Ask them to describe the Formic world and you’ll get excited tales, imagining a Formic method of manufacture that was distinctly inhuman — a kind of biological 3D printer, with the drones building living spaces and spacecraft layer by layer.
Even in a short conversation, their excitement for the project is tangible. And it certainly helps that they were already fans of the novel.
For Ben, he read the founding short-story at age twelve, and has been a fan ever since. “Fans of the book will hopefully recognize what they’ve been imagining for years, but also be impressed with the level of detail. And as a fan, you have an actual emotional reaction finally seeing the Zero-G action you’ve always visualized.”
As for Sean, having read the book in his twenties, vividly remembers not only the science and technology, but the terrifying human elements behind it all.
“ I was torn between wanting to be Ender but never having to be faced with that kind of a future,” he said.
But the most amazing thing about talking to them, without question, is their eagerness to share the credit and sing the praises of the whole crew that brought ENDER’S GAME to life. Whether it be admiration for the beauty of Gavin’s adaptation, the “coolest art department ever assembled”, the ingenuity of construction coordinator Anthony Syracuse and Supervising Art Director Todd Holland, or even the fact that Orson Scott Card himself came to give their design and vision his seal of approval, this was a great crew in every sense.
…Oh, and filming on stages inside a rocket assembly facility — seeing real rocket parts that were destined for space flight — that certainly didn’t hurt ingenuity.
You think your job is tough? Try having to dress an entire imaginary, future-world.
That responsibility fell to Christine Bieselin-Clark, our wonderful costume designer. She was tasked with making the future look — and even feel — real and tangible.
With science fiction, there’s a danger in creating a look that seems so foreign it becomes alienating. For ENDER’S GAME, we wanted to make a future that looked both functional and logical. We wanted it to be a future where you can picture yourself in their shoes.
But of course, it is the future. For the uniforms, all synthetic materials were used, meaning no loud silk florals. And for the flash suits… well, we actually had to create them out of thin air.
Christine built the flash suits from virtually non-existent fabrics designed by our incredible production team. The idea was to take cues from “extreme sports” to inspire our design, using real world practicality as opposed to the heightened reality of superhero spandex and a cape.
And the best part? They look pretty darn cool.
And then there’s having to make a uniform for Nonso Anozie, who plays Sergeant Dap.
Normally, a bolt comes with nine yards of material, and can make 2-3 suits. Or, in Nonso’s case, one suit became a living example of the expression “the whole nine yards”.
But hey, it’s the future… so maybe we’ve switched to metric.
How militaristic will the environment be? Will we be seeing the children treated like the soldiers they are meant to portray? For all intents and purposes they are in boot camp for most of their adolescence. Will we see the characters being broken down?
Funny you should ask. We had a great visit with some online press who visited the set, and they got to talk to our actors. Without giving too much away, they told great stories of not only going to Space Camp, but also having to undergo a form of boot camp with a no nonsense instructor who taught them how to march properly in unison and much more. And when they screwed up they were ordered to do push ups! They got in shape trust me. It’s painful for my self image to see so many young kids with six pack abs. Maybe I should go to boot camp next.
How is the film team approaching the great deal of wonderful internal monologue? Voice-overs rarely translate well to the visual medium of film, so just wondering what types of mechanisms will be considered to convey the “important stuff” inside Ender’s head?
We have a muppet of the Colonel who narrates the whole thing from the future. Oh, no wait, different movie. I joke because that is a great question and I think Gavin would tell you that it was the biggest challenge he faced in composing his script. It was also the most challenging aspect of the casting process. So here we have two things that really make it happen. First, we got such an unbelievable group of actors who can convey so much with their faces and body language… frankly, with their performances, which is something a book is denied using to convey inner emotion or thought.
And secondly, of course, Gavin elegantly translated some of the inner thought into action or character decisions in his script — drama — and that allowed him to find natural places for the characters to speak about what they are going through.
Joey Oliver asks:
How much of Bean’s story will we be hearing about?
Bean who? Oh, Bean! You should know how much Orson Scott Card advocated for as much Bean as we could muster, and really encouraged ways to make him pivotal. You’ll decide if we succeeded! I think we did. And we’re even more excited for you all to experience Aramis Knight’s fantastic portrayal of Bean.
How has the book been adapted to script to work with the ages of the actors?
Time has been compressed impressionistically. Though we don’t specify how much time has passed, leaving it somewhat up to your imagination, it is clear that the time span is not as long as the book’s.
Sarah Pezzat asks:
Is it still about using empathy as a weapon?
One of the great themes that is explored, in more ways than one, is how empathy can be seen as a weakness or a strength. How understanding an enemy makes you also understand their weaknesses. And even how withholding empathy can also be a weapon. The fact that the audience is going to want nothing more than for commanders to show these young people warmth and understanding, but that it has to be weighed against the fear of it being not in the young soldiers best interests in order for them to do what they have to do, makes for fascinating stuff.
As fans of the book, what is your favorite scene from the book? Do you have a different favorite scene from the movie?
I always loved the scenes within the Mind Game that Ender believes he plays for recreation in the orbiting battle school. Part video game, part psychological test, and if you know the book, part something extraordinary that shouldn’t be given away for those who have not read the book. As for my favorite scene from the movie, we are still filming it so I haven’t seen it yet!
Question to Mr. Orci — How has this production differed from past (and other current) projects? I’m especially interested to know how you feel about the cast’s interactions and your feelings about the script, now that you see it ‘in action’.
Let’s see. Well first, though I have had some experience with bringing beloved stories to the screen that had intelligent and rabid fan bases like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3, TRANSFORMERS, and STAR TREK, this is the first movie with a pre-existing fan base I have worked on that I didn’t write. This means I that got the chance to evaluate the material merely as a fan. Gavin’s script made me jealous, but it was also a relief that he had satisfied what I would want as a fan from a difficult adaptation. Also, I have never worked with so many talented young actors who became friends so fast under such amazing circumstances. Seeing Asa, who plays Ender, and Hailee, who plays Petra, floating high above the set and getting the giggles was amazing and frightening all at once. They laughed for like twenty minutes, which as a producer on a clock eager to finish your shooting day can give you a heart attack. But soon we all had the giggles, and the joy of it overcame the panic.
Chris Neumann asks:
What are the visual influences for the movie? Syd Mead or Star Trek? 2001 or Armageddon? Jon Berkey or Michael Bay?
Visual influences? One thing I can tell you is that Gavin Hood is a gigantic Stanley Kubrick fan, and it shows. And yet, in some of the Zero G battles, things are going on that Kubrick never had a chance to tackle. The technology and advancements in film making available to us allowed us to realize a vision that is totally unique and modern while also being, as Harrison Ford calls it, one of the most emotional science fiction movies he has ever seen.
William Harley asks:
How much time is going to be spent on developing Graff’s relationship with Ender? To me, those insights into the command level of the school really brought out the meaning of leadership and how to tackle the challenges that come up.
The relationship between Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Ender (Asa Butterfield) is key to the movie’s success. Graff would love nothing more than to be Ender’s friend, yet Graff can’t always show it because he has to make it clear to Ender that in the event of another alien invasion, there will be no one available to help him. Their relationship is simultenously heartbreaking and fun.
Is it a movie for adults, about kids, or a kids movie? I hope for the former.
Like the book, the movie Ender’s Game is about young protagonists dealing with one of the most adult situations known to man: WAR. We don’t soft peddle it, yet we don’t shy away from the fun of being in space and learning amazing new skills that we would all want to learn at any age.
You think your school was clique-ish? In Battle School, you are part of an army, each represented by its own iconic symbol. Lately, Dragon Army has come to be known as a repository of misfits and failures. As a member of this unit, you’re supposed to live, breathe (fire?) and fight as one cohesive and selfless unit. Success as one. Defeat as one. Unfortunately for Dragon Army, their reputation is the latter.
Ender will be tasked with restoring this tarnished symbol. Will they follow him?
Let’s just hang the kids from bungee chords, roll camera for ten hours and see what we get!” That was plan A. Which is why we are not directing the movie and instead Gavin Hood is. We never thought we would find a bigger fan of the novel than all of us until Gavin walked in the room. Going back to his roots, Gavin decided to take on the challenge of adapting the novel himself, which gives him a huge advantage when it comes to directing it because he knows his script better than any of us. And given the time limitations inherent in working with young actors, this movie would be impossible to complete without Gavin’s preparation and passion. Here you see him crossing off a completed shot of his detailed story boards in the zero g battle room where our young actors, in their zero g training suits, are showing off the high flying skills they’ve learned from our veteran stunt coordinator Garrett Warren.
Though Ender’s world is one worth saving, it sometimes comes with a price. The novel was amazingly prescient about a great many things: remote controlled drone wars, the internet, the influence of blogging, hand held computing tablets like the I-Pad, and of course, electronic surveillance implants. Implanted tracking and monitoring chips are no longer a science fiction concept. They exist now. And one day, they may be as advanced as the monitor implanted into Ender, which allows Colonel Graff to “see through his eyes” and know: HE’S THE ONE.
The more futuristic the world, the more invisible its technology. So why shouldn’t Ender’s room look just like any normal kid’s room? And not every future is a dark dystopia. The world that Ender lives in is a world worth saving. That’s why he is willing to leave his family to go into an orbiting Battle School and risk not seeing his sister, Valentine, again until they are both adults. That doesn’t mean this world doesn’t have rules. Ender’s parents had to get permission from the state to have a third child, and if Ender ever had any doubt if he was unwanted, his mother and father’s shock at having their son recruited to be a future leader and transferred to space makes it clear to him that they’ve always loved him. They know that when Ender leaves the safety of his home, they will not be able to protect him any longer. We will keep your room for you just as you left it, Ender…
"Houston, we have a problem. We don’t know how to land the Shuttle." Good thing it’s just a simulator safely on the ground at SPACE CAMP in Huntsville, Alabama. Aramis, Moises, Asa & Suraj (pictured above from a monitor in the MISSION CONTROL ROOM ) and the rest of our cast agreed that to do Ender’s Game right, they had to train as though they were really headed into ZERO G. And this wasn’t just an afternoon spent taking a vanity tour. From the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), which simulates extra-vehicular shuttle missions in Earth’s orbit, to the microgravity training chair that prepared astronauts for moonwalks during the Apollo program, the week at Space Camp was genuine prep for the feeling of reality that this movie deserves. And after all, the army that trains together stays together.
If you think regular school is tough, try it in a rotating space station. And by the way, do you have a hall pass for hall number 0058? Because if you don’t, you could end up scrubbing the showers. When you first arrive at Battle School, all you perceive is its utility, its functionality… that is until you enter the BATTLE ROOM, where there is no up, no down, and ZERO G’s. Movie making can become overly reliant on digital worlds, and nothing can replace a well-built set that you can see and touch and stand in the middle of, fooling you into thinking you are really there. Enjoy this small taste of Ender’s big world. We’ll see a lot more in the weeks to come.
It took us all a second to realize Asa was right when he said Ender’s Game was an amazing book from “the late 1900s.” We use that phrase all the time now, like, “Clinton was President in the late nineteen hundreds!” Most of us read Ender’s Game when we were young and wondered when it would become a movie. We never dreamed then that we would all be part of the team to bring it to the screen, nor did we realize the novel’s description of our world would be so prescient that its vision would still be unfolding before our very eyes today. And now, watching Asa bring a character to life who has been on our minds since our youth, we realize things happen for a reason. We were waiting for him. Make yourself comfortable, Ender!