• Independent film maker Linh Mai talks to CGSociety on video
    about his ‘The Last Cause’ project.


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    CGSociety :: Pre-Production Focus
    10 May 2011, by Paul Hellard

    Linh Mai is the writer and director of the upcoming independent film ‘The Last Cause’. He has developed a team that consists of some very talented artists from the commercial industry and from the video game industry. Timur Mutsaev is the lead concept artist at Crytek and the designer of the Nanosuit. Christian Rüsseler also worked on Crysis 2 and was responsible for the characters.

    The Last Cause
    The Last Cause is set in a dystopian future where man tries to control everything while actually losing control of the direction technology is moving. In this world, there is highly advanced technology that makes many things possible, but at the same time it narrows man’s freedom, privacy and identity. “Basically the film is not about technology but about a man who has the responsibility for his own destiny,” says Mai. “In the press, ‘The Last Cause is called a ‘Mech movie’ but it's not. This is a film about man and about the consequences of decisions they've made and passed from generation to generation.”

    “Of course we have a conspiracy story that thrills, we have a production design that matches the present-day zeitgeist. There are mechs and other advanced gadgets but all these are visible incidentally while we strongly focus on the characters and their story. This was really important to me when I started this project, to not let it end up as just an action blockbuster with trivial characters and a superficial message. So the main challenge is to work on the story.”

    “Basically, the plan is too raise the $50,000 on kickstarter.com to finish the pre-production and to produce our proof-of-concept short. Additionally we need the money for equipment, studio costs, costumes, props, soundtrack, cast, catering, housing etc. There's a lot to coordinate and manage. And then after the production of the ‘proof of concept’, something has to be left over for the heavy post production,” explains Mai.

    All the artists on this project are professionals and some of the most talented guys in the industry. “Either they are friends of mine, or artists who I contacted to ask if they would be interested to join the project,” continues Mai. “I explained to them my vision and the fact that we don't have any budget in this stage of pre-production and luckily most of them showed a lot of interest and engagement in any case.”

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    The strengths of each artist are in specific areas. One can specialize in characters, the other in environments, so although many of them are good on many fields.

    The next step was then to search for artists who not only can draw that style, but who lived it. Although most of the artists are working on awesome projects professionally, they want to work in their spare time on something that's fresh and matches their personal taste. “So if I could find the right artist,” explains Linh Mai, “there was a good chance that they would join my project if it is to their taste.”

    Another artist on the project is Tuan Nguyen, studying game design in the design school Schwerin with a focus on 3D Art. He volunteered to co-design the Mohawk vehicle and also model his design. “I think working with Linh is very inspiring and challenging. “He has always pushed me beyond the limit with his requirements. He’s always let me throw in some individual ideas into the design, so he was very fun to work with too.” Tuan and Linh have known each other since childhood and had also worked together before. “He came up to me with ‘The Last Cause’ at mid-April last year. These days there are only a few films where you can say working on them is cool. I said the same as I saw the first scribbles of the troop carrier and the shell suit and so was immediately thrilled to be involved this project,” says Nguyen.

    The Mutant

    Another Crytek artist, Christian Rüsseler, worked on the Mutant. “I saw the first rough pencil concepts from Linh describing the fundamental characteristics of the Mutant,” explains Rüsseler. “With each review, I approached the personality of the character until we nailed it. The uniqueness about this character was to let him first look scary and disgusting, but on the other hand the mutant is a real character with personality. The challenge was to give the face the ability to reflect all the pain and suffering.

    “Linh and I worked together in the Character Artist team at Crytek. Even then, he used his spare time on this production. Then later, when he then decided to do it full time, I really wanted to support him. Without exaggeration, if I'd trust someone who is able to get something like this going, then it is Linh. He is a true multi-talent and the things he has started always evolved into something that's really good. An additional reason was the chance to get involved with other top-notch artists from the industry. And last but not least because of the great story. I really dig this movie and I hope to watch it in the theaters one day.”


    Linh aimed at dirty, gritty visuals for ‘The Last Cause’ with production design that's grounded in reality. Weapons, mechs, military vehicles are functional and often even ugly. The beauty come from an uncompromising design approach which feels very industrial and progressive.

    “I often show the artist references that actually have nothing to do with the asset. These can be pictures of camera design, cars, architecture or animals,” says Mai. “This is just to give the artist a feeling of specific shapes and style. Our air troop carrier called Mohawk is very edgy and feels military/industrial, while the overall shape reminding us of an animal if you view it from certain angles.”

    Many studios have contacted Linh Mai, but everything is in such an early stage, “nothing is set.” “But if everything runs smoothly,” adds Linh, “we are scheduled to begin filming of the ‘proof of concept’ early next year in Los Angeles. It's still a long way to go. Before that happens we need to finish a lot of things like concept art, models, storyboard, the previz, the casting etc.”


    Anyone who makes a pledge can get rewards like the DVD and BluRays of the short and potential feature film, the original soundtrack composed by Emancipator and the art book for example. The project is live right now on KICKSTARTER for fundraising.

    Related links:
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    The Last Cause
    Linh Mai
    Christian Rüsseler
    Timur Mutsaev
    Tuan Nguyen

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