February 22, 2016

A Complete Visual Guide to the Making of ‘The Revenant’

The Revenant is one of those films where the story behind the making of the film is almost better  than the final product. Sure, The Alejandro G. Inarritu’s follow-up to Birman is a remarkably-crafted film, but you’d be crazy not to say that the plot of The Revenant is thin at best. Regardless, the story behind the making of this film is one that will surely go down as one of the greatest of all time. Sure, many of the challenges that arose during the production of the film were due to the filmmakers’ own restrictions put on themselves, but that does’t mean that the filmmaking team didn’t accomplish something completely astonishing — from a technical and logistical standpoint that is.

To be quite frank, my personal feeling is that the making of The Revenant is most certainly more interesting than the actual movie itself. It’s no surprise that The Revenant garnered 12 Oscar nominations for this year’s ceremony, as it’s an overall technically and aesthetically pleasing film. In other words, it’s Oscar bait. What really surprises me, however, is how much love the film is getting for it’s razor-thin story. In case you are unaware, here is the trailer and synopsis for The Revenant:

Inspired by true events, ‘The Revenant’ is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.

The Revenant is directed and co-written by renowned filmmaker, Academy Award winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel). Also starring Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter, the film is based on the novel by Michael Punke. Mark Smith and Iñárritu wrote the script for the movie, produced by Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, David Kanter, Keith Redmon, and Iñárritu.

In anticipation for the film’s oscar run, 20th century for have released 9 short featurettes to give those that are unaware a quick primer on the making of the film:

“A Storied History” —

“Screenwriting” —

“Director” —

“Director of Photography” —

“Actors” —

“Costumes” —

“Production Design” —

“Makeup” —

“Becoming The Revenant” —

The most interesting thing about the making of The Revenant has to be the fact that the production difficulties were almost by design on the part of the filmmakers. Two decisions–to shoot using only natural night, and to shoot chronologically–seem to me like the ultimate culprit of almost every  single production difficulty.

THE REVENANT Copyright � 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. THE REVENANT Motion Picture Copyright � 2015 Regency Entertainment (USA), Inc. and Monarchy Enterprises S.a.r.l. All rights reserved.Not for sale or duplication.

The Cinematography of Chivo is certainly the highlight here, as it usually is with any production that he is a part of. While this featurette does a good job of explaining the “look” of the film, what they don’t really cover is all of the digital work that was done in post production during the coloring of the film.

The biggest complaint about these featurettes is that they don’t really cover the breadth of such an epic production. Well, if you find yourself disappointed  by the lack of detail,  you’re in luck. Here’s a significantly longer, albeit still generalized, making of:

While I think that this featurette does a really nice job of expanding on what we’ve seen above, I don’t really get a feeling of what it actually took for them to accomplish some of the things in the film. I get a feeling of hollow fulfillment form this documentary, as it provides mostly talking head interviews.

If you feel the same feeling of being unfulfilled. Well–you are certainly in luck, as 20th Century Fox has also released a superb documentary on the making of the film. Here is the full-length , 40+ minute documentary on the making of the film titled ‘A World Unseen’:

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Something actually substantial. What I love about a full-length documentary like this is that is provides a comprehensive look at what it takes to make a film like this. Although the above featurettes offer a good amount of insight into the making of the film, “A World Unseen” is the type of behind-the-scenes look that really gives some good perspective.

The production spanned over 9 months. The crew went out for days of shooting out in the wilderness, only to have the lighting and terrain conditions be “not suitable” for the production. Leonardo DiCaprio and the rest of the cast endured freezing-cold temperatures to shoot some of the scenes in the film. Those are many of the tales that are sure to be come hollywood legend. I mean, how can a making-of story be any more epic than this one?


After watching all of the behind the scenes, what  do you have to say about the film? Was the end product worth all of the time and energy put into the production? More importantly, do you think that the revenant is worthy of a Best Picture win? Do you think that Chivo’s cinematography will win it’s third-straight oscar statuette? Sound off in the comments below!


About the Author

Taylor Salan
Taylor Salan
Taylor Salan is a independent filmmaker who currently resides in the San Fernando Valley. Since childhood, Taylor Salan had a fascination with movies. Although he was an avid fan of film as a child, it wasn’t until his years as a young adult that his passion for the art of filmmaking truly came to fruition. A current student of the film production program at California State University Northridge, Taylor studies Cinematography but ultimately has plans to direct full time if afforded the opportunity. In his spare time, Taylor produces audio podcasts and blogs about film for ageofthenerd.com. He is also a longtime musician, playing drums for over 8 years.



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