Mark Verheiden Discusses Working With CoSA VFX On Swamp Thing

Mark Verheiden is a longtime veteran of the worlds of genre fiction, writing comic books and movies and most recently, serving as an Executive Producer of the sadly short-lived Swamp Thing adaptation for DC Universe. Best known for his work on Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Smallville, and his own creation Timecop, Verheiden's collaboration with fellow Executive Producers Gary Dauberman and James Wan was met with critical and fan acclaim.

CoSA VFX had the privilege of working with Verheiden on the series which brought DC Comics' iconic swamp monster to life. In an exclusive interview for our website, Verheiden spoke with CoSA's Craig Byrne about what it was like to collaborate with CoSA and turn Swamp Thing into visually sophisticated suspense.

CoSA VFX's CRAIG BYRNE: For Swamp Thing or for other shows that you've worked on before, how is the VFX vendor chosen for a series?

VERHEIDEN: It's fairly straightforward. With Swamp Thing, obviously James Wan has worked with a number of effects vendors. We interviewed a couple, and in the end, we thought CoSA would be the best fit for us.

They had also done a lot of other Warner Bros. shows, and so they were familiar with the Warner Bros. world, so that had something to do with it. Also, their work was just stellar.

 



Swamp Thing had a great combination of practical as well as visual effects. Can you talk about that combination?

We made a decision early on that we did want Swamp Thing to be a practical suit as much as we could, and I think James and me and Gary Dauberman and Atomic Monster liked the idea to try to make things as practical on set, as much as we could. That started with making a great suit… not just the Swamp Thing suit, but also, like the Bug Man that we saw in Episode 3, and Floronic Man, and Blue Devil - all suits that Fractured [FX] put together, and then on top of that, CoSA would come in and do some augmentation. Not too much on the Swamp Thing suit, as I recall, except for some eye augmentation to make the eyes more red. And on the Blue Devil, we'd have a lot of discussion about, you know, "when does he glow? What does that glow look like? Where does the glow come from?" Stuff like that.

One example: We had an effect we wanted to do in Episode 10, where a guy who's played by Jake Busey gets a branch through his face, and that was all CoSA. We had another idea in mind for that. Fractured had created a torn apart jaw for Jake Busey and we were going to have that kind of come apart. But for various reasons, more creative reasons that weren't Fractured's fault; it wasn't quite coming together [practically]. CoSA was able to come in and actually build the branch, and build the movement of the branch to the guy's face, and add the effects and stuff like that. So they were able to take a scene that wasn't quite working, and make it make it something pretty cool.

Warning: The scene below is very graphic as Swamp Thing is a series rooted in horror. Do not watch if you're squeamish!

 



At what point in the pre-production process does the VFX come team come in, when you'd meet with people like Tom Mahoney and David Beedon?

VERHEIDEN: We met with them as we were getting started, and we started to discuss just conceptually where we were going with the show. David was on set, so he would help us, NS talk to us on set, discussing what we were trying to accomplish and the best way to do that, in terms of an effect shot. These things are also tied to budget, so we're always thinking "do we need to do this, or what's the most efficient way to do this?" and David was helping us with that.

How did it come about to develop something like, say, the Blue Devil transformation together?

VERHEIDEN: There was a lot of conversation. Conceptually, I had an idea of what I wanted in terms of having a glow, and that would signify when his powers were kind of amping up. Then the question was, how much of a glow? What is the specific color of it? How bright does it get? Is it on all the time? Is it on part of the time, which is what we ended up doing? Stuff like that.

There was a shot in Episode 9 where the Blue Devil is attacking bunch of mercenary type guys that were after Abby and Liz, and there's a great shot of the Blue Devil grabbing a guy and energy is sort of pouring out of the Blue Devil's mouth and eyes into this guy. There was a discussion about the energy, specifically, what does that look like? Where does the energy coming from? And then since the Blue Devil's actually moving his head, how do we make it look like he's really trying to burn into this guy's brain, basically?

So, there's a lot of discussion along those lines, once we had sort of the raw footage. And obviously, David was there to help us as we were shooting, to look at the scene and go like, "okay, we need this to make sure we get that done in effects," and that sort of thing, tweaking it as we go.

Are there any characters that you wish you had gotten to do more with, and are there any characters from the DC Universe that you would someday like to write and produce for?

VERHEIDEN: There was a plan for doing more with the Floronic Man, but in the DC Universe right now, I think I've actually played with a lot of the characters. I do like the "Dark Universe" and I hope that more is done with them.

Obviously we had the Blue Devil, and we would have done more with him. We had the Phantom Stranger. It would been fun to continue to explore their stories. And of course, in a perfect world if we could have had Constantine, then that would have been awesome. But it just wasn't to be.

Is there anything you'd like to say to the fans of the series who may be reading this, now that the series has all aired?

VERHEIDEN: I hope they enjoyed the show. A lot of work went into those 10 episodes. CoSA and Fractured did amazing work. The writers, the directors, the production team, and Wilmington was incredible. I can't say enough about everybody that worked on the show. It's one of the one of the better experiences of my career, in terms of the people we had working out there. So, you know, I just hope you enjoy it for what it is.

I've been asked a lot about what we would have done, and I'm sort of at a place now where I'd prefer for people enjoy it for what it is rather than what it could have been. It is what it is. I'm proud of those 10 shows we made.

Are you allowed to say anything about any projects you might have coming up next?

VERHEIDEN: Nothing's been announced yet, but I'm definitely working on some things that I think I can say there in the "scary universe" of the world. There is one TV project that's coming right along, actually, and I hope we'll have something to announce [soon]. I just keep moving forward.


ABOUT CoSA VFX

Founded in 2009, CoSA VFX has grown from a small boutique into a thriving visual effects studio with offices in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Vancouver. The CoSA VFX team has received Emmy nominations and wins for their work on TV series including Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Almost Human, Revolution, and Gotham, and currently provides visual effects for multiple studios, networks and streaming television services.

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