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Scene Stealer: 'Sleep Dealer' multiplies the workers

April 23, 2009|Patrick Kevin Day

Science fiction on a shoestring isn't unheard of (who can forget "Plan 9 From Outer Space"?), but to make something that's not going to inspire "Mystery Science Theater"-style commentary takes ingenuity. Visual effects supervisor Mark Russell had just $200,000 to create "Sleep Dealer" director Alex Rivera's vision of a near-future in which Mexican migrant workers perform manual labor across the U.S. through virtual-reality rigs. When Rivera envisioned a factory where hundreds of workers -- lined up as far as the eye can see -- plug themselves into their machines, Russell had to deal with the fact they could afford to build only four worker stations. He suggested putting a mirror along the back of the set to reflect the actors and set up a green screen behind the camera crew. "We extended the green to be able to erase the camera digitally. The mirror made four look like eight, and [on the computer] I made the eight look like 50."

-- Patrick Kevin Day

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