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Special effects expert talks about working on record-breaking explosive film scene

A special effects scene which broke a Guinness World Record for most high explosives used in a single take is due to be released internationally this year. Reporter Will Taylor spoke to the ‘Maidenhead born and bred’ man behind the sequences

A Maidenhead-born special effects supervisor has spoken about his pride for working on a film containing a record-setting special effects scene he masterminded.

Duncan Capp, 38, who attended White Waltham Primary School and Reading Blue Coat, carried out the stunt during production of The Unknown Soldier.

The Finnish war film, which is based on the famous book of the same name by author Vaino Linna, is expected to be released in the UK next year.

The story takes place during the Soviet invasion of Finland during World War Two and follows a group of Finnish soldiers’ experiences of the conflict.

The film set the Guinness World Record last year for the most high explosives detonated in a single take. It features in a scene in which the Finns bombard an enemy bunker.

A total of 65kg of explosives was used for 11 blasts which were rigged to take down 15 trees for the set piece.

Duncan, who runs IFX International Special Effects, said: “It's a question of understanding the scene primarily, what the director wants to achieve out of it and how it is going to be shot – the camera angles and best viewpoints, for example.

“We then plan the explosions on set so that they are in prime positions.

“This particular shot was very, very wide and was being seen by about eight cameras including drones, so we had a large area to cover with action which I think is what lead to us using so much explosives.

“Every day is different, and every film is different.”

Duncan, who describes himself as Maidenhead born and bred, has been in the special effects business for 22 years, and has been involved with projects such as Troy, Batman Begins and Band of Brothers.

He got into the industry after spending two weeks’ work experience on the production of the Sylvester Stallone movie Judge Dredd in 1994 when he was aged 16. The blockbuster was being made at Shepperton Studios in Surrey.

“There are a lot of filmmakers in Maidenhead and Berkshire,” Duncan explained.

“I have spent years at Pinewood Studios working on different projects, and even did a few things at Bray Studios.”

After completing his GCSEs, Duncan decided to continue into special effects.

“We create everything from simple and large-scale atmospherics though to massive world war scenes,” he said.

“This also includes light and heavy engineering and animatronics.”

He moved to Stockholm four years ago after marrying a Swedish woman.

“I live in Sweden purely for the family.

“But I am always back in the UK and I am very lucky in that it doesn't matter where I live because we are regularly called to work all over the world.”

The chance to work on The Unknown Soldier came about after he moved, when he met producers who recommended him to the Finnish film’s makers.

Duncan is ‘really pleased’ with how the movie has turned out.

“It is my first real foreign language film and, although it was a tighter budget, I think what we did on the production is something anyone would be proud of,” he said.

“It's also a piece of World War Two history that I knew little about, so it was good to learn how Finland dealt with the Russians.”

The Unknown Soldier enjoyed the biggest ever domestic opening weekend - in terms of viewers - for a Finnish film in its native country when it was released in October.

At the time, it was also the third biggest of any film released in Finland, after Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the James Bond movie Spectre.

Duncan now has his eye on what comes next and he is in talks about future productions.

 “I would like another big war film but they don't come round all the time,” he said.

Visit www.tuntematonsotilas2017.fi/en for more about the film.

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