INTERVIEW: East Side Effects And The Visual Music of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a new film on Netflix from the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers, and East Side Effects made the film look its absolute best with a dazzling array of effects that are both shocking and subtle. 

East Side Effects boasts an impressive filmography that includes work on Creed, American Ultra, Into the Woods, and Mother!. PopAxiom talked with Alexander Lemke and Michael Huber, the driving force behind East Side Effects about their work on The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and a whole lot more.

In the Beginning …

The two men took wildly different roads to get to where they are. For Alex “… I always wanted to be involved with visual effects. I grew up with Star Wars, and that had a big influence.” However, Michael says “I didn’t know anything about visual effects. I was studying literature and philosophy. I went to film school and started seeing how all this stuff is done, and I was hooked.”

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The reality of how any industry operates from the point of view of those within it is often full of surprises. Alex quickly learned “There’s so much that goes into a movie that most people aren’t aware of. The effects are hidden in there all over, helping to tell the story.” And for Michael, the surprises were “Everything!” However, he continues ”All the invisible stuff that puts viewers in the time and place.”

Did You Shoot An Arrow At James Franco?

In the trailer, James Franco is on the wrong end of a hangman’s noose when an arrow whizzes by, narrowly missing Franco who turned his head just in time. However, the arrow keeps going, hitting a rider on a horse way in the background. Buster Scruggs features many shots that require uncanny timing. Of that Alex says “We were very concerned about getting the timing right. If you don’t get that right, it all can fall apart.”

Michael adds “It’s a lot about helping the moment and what’s happening. Doing the little things that put you in the moment and makes it all more believable.”

Buster Scruggs isn’t just about invisible effects. Just watch the trailer, and you’ll understand “There’s a lot of subtle effects but also in-your-face ones because of the nature of these stories.”

Alex adds “There’s something a lot of fun about working on six themes. This was like making six different films.”

Buster Scruggs runs 133 minutes, and according to the team it features “704 effects shots.”

Practical and Digital

We’re in an increasingly CG world, but there’s a lot of practical going on too and discussions about which to use and when are “… a common conversation behind-the-scenes.”

What did the Coen Brothers want? “The Coens are the kind of directors that if they can shoot it for real, they will. If they can solve it with a practical effect, they’ll use practical.”

However, the beauty of CG allowed the team to do the pragmatically and ethically impossible “They wanted these violent, forward fall of horses and it had to be done digitally.”

Michael asserts that a marriage of the two often works best “A movie like Mad Max: Fury Road looks so amazing because they shot much of it practically then went in and enhanced it with CG.”

Wrapping Up

What’s coming next from East Side? “We’re working on Ang Lee’s next film Gemini Man with Will Smith.” Alex adds “Also, we’re working on a Netflix show Triple Frontier.”

Thanks to Alexander Lemke and Michael Huber and Impact24 PR
for making this interview possible.

Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.