ComingSoon had the opportunity to interview Brandon McLaughlin, the special effects coordinator for Killers of the Flower Moon. During the conversation, he shared insights into his experience working with Martin Scorsese and revealed some behind-the-scenes details about the production.
Jeff Ames: Working on a Martin Scorsese film is a unique opportunity. What inspired you to join the production of Killers of the Flower Moon, and what were your initial impressions of the project?
McLaughlin: When I first read the script, I couldn’t put the script down. In fact, I had to dig deeper into this event because I had no idea this had ever happened.
The story is set in 1920s Oklahoma and involves historical events. How did you and your team ensure that the special effects remained authentic to the time and the real-life events described in David Grann’s book?
This was all done through research and actual photos taken at the time it all happened.
Can you share some insights into the scale and complexity of the special effects work you were responsible for on this film?
All of the special effects for this film stood true to reality, which does not happen very often in my business. Marty wanted the effects to stay as true to the actual events as possible.
In a story that involves crime and historical events, what were some of the most challenging special effects sequences you had to create, and how did you tackle them?
We had to create two events we did not know much about—the bank vault and the oil in the opening sequence. The bank vault had to feel like Acie had no idea what he was doing with pyrotechnics. So we had to go big. The one reality event I had to go on was the fact he used an excessive amount of explosives to kill Molly’s sister Rita and Rita’s husband.
The other event was the oil dance that took place at the beginning of the film. This shot was Marty’s idea and was an artistic view of how all the oil money changed the way of life for the Osage people.
Could you describe any key scenes or moments in the film where special effects played a pivotal role in enhancing the storytelling or creating a specific atmosphere?
The fire at Hale’s ranch was the one scene that really comes to mind. I had pitched the idea to Marty by using a large poster mounted on a thin steel sheet. I had printed up fire magnets so the two of us could place the fire and talk about the shots Marty wanted. It wasn’t about the fire as much as it was about Molly and Ernest’s hallucination. On the day we shot this scene, we came across this reaction through the camera lens that was perfect and unplanned. It made the movie a couple of times. It played a big part in Molly’s hallucination.
How did Scorsese’s vision and direction influence your work as the special effects coordinator?
The hardest part about working for a director like Marty is getting his vision to screen. The great part of working with Marty is that he is truly living the film as we are all working on it. He has every image he wants on his mind at all times. He is a very visual Director. So it was the use of video tests and conversations of the tests that I was able to really give him what he saw in his mind. The direction of the film was all laid out in the script, and Marty said to me, “I want to stay as close to reality as possible … Just like what happened in real life.”
I would like to work with Marty again. It was a fun experience.