Hard-hitting documentaries and cutting-edge VFX rarely go together, but for David France’s Welcome to Chechnya, it was necessary to marry the two. The film captures the flight of LGBTQ citizens from the Russian republic of Chechnya, where being gay can lead to beatings and murders. To preserve his subjects’ anonymity while allowing the audience to connect with them emotionally, David turned to VFX expert Ryan Laney to digitally swap faces with willing “donors” from around the world.
Ryan explains how he developed new techniques to replace faces without the limitations of traditional methods such as blurring and pixelation. He also discusses his 20-plus-years in movie VFX, including The Matrix, The Aviator, The Day After Tomorrow, and many more. It’s proof that VFX’s role in filmmaking now extends far beyond Hollywood blockbusters— and it’s had a surprising effect on Ryan’s outlook, too.