Those who have followed Neill Blomkamp's career since the South African-born Canadian was a visual effects wunderkind working out of The Embassy VFX in Vancouver knew that the director would be worth watching as he moved into bigger projects. Blomkamp had earned a name as a visual pioneer, for blending fantastical and sophisticated CG creations into everyday reality – be that reality the greige-hued world of office drones, as in his 2006 short TempBot, or the gritty streets of Johannesburg as in the stunning Tetra Vaal from 2003 and 2005's Alive in Joberg (http://creativity-online.com/work/neill-blomkamp-alive-in-joburg/16792 ). Blomkamp's way with visuals was also showcased in spots, like Nike's Crab and Evolution.
Director Peter Jackson famously tapped the director to direct the feature version of Halo3 in 2007. And then that film famously fell apart due to disagreement between Fox and Universal (though Blomkamp did leave us with some fantastic promos for the game).
Sad, but with that studio blockbuster dead, and with Jackson's backing, Blomkamp was able to make a more personal film in District 9, which is based in part on his earlier Alive in Joberg. There was little doubt that the director's first feature would deliver on superlative visuals. But it felt like District 9, made for $30 million, was an order of magnitude above what even fans were expecting.
The New Yorker's Anthony Lane wrote: "You don't feel bamboozled, fooled, or patronized by District 9, as you did by most of the summer blockbusters. You feel winded, shaken, and shamed."
And that is perhaps what the people behind the huge blockbusters whose box office grosses are surpassed only by their breathtaking inanity felt upon viewing the superb District 9 – shame.
Blomkamp on lessons from making District 9 (from Creativity): "The learning curve was so steep and so much more intense than I was expecting. People always say the only way to learn how to make films is to go out and make them, and nothing could be more true. If I had to pick one (lesson), it would be how my ability to get what I was looking for in actors got better as the filming went along."
See the rest of the 2010 Creativity 50 here.