Cinematographer John Seale Reveals Secrets Behind Filming “Mad Max: Fury Road”

By Priscilla Liguori 2/27/2016

Oscar-nominated cinematographer John Seale jokes that he came out of retirement for the tenth time to shoot Mad Max: Fury Road.

“I kind of had a feeling that this film would be not an ordinary film…and I was right,” said Seale.

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV
Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

The movie’s camera crew needed to leave their lives to live and film in Africa. So, Seale found people from all over the world, including America, Australia, New Zealand, England, and South Africa.

“They all met in Namibia as strangers at the beginning of the film and during the making of the film over seven months, they became lovely firm friends,” said Seale.

The Mad Max team used a semi-trailer with air pressure bags to shoot scenes of vehicles speeding through the dessert. Seale said 80% of the film was shot while trucks weren’t even moving.

“The truck would drive over and then they’d pump them up and they’d eject the whole truck off the ground and they could rock it. It was powerful. They could throw you off the truck very easily,” Seale explained.

Seale’s camera crew didn’t shoot quickly because of each shot’s complexity. He said Director George Miller was very focused on the safety of the cast and crew.

“It would take hours to get the stunt men and women, the truck’s in position,” explained Seale. “Three or four shots a day, but they’re all pretty magic shots.”

One of Seale’s favorite aspects of cinematography is observing actors in performance.

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV
Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

“I just love watching them strut their stuff in front of the camera and mostly, it’s the emotional side of things,” said Seale.

A scene that Seale enjoys is when Charlize Theron’s character Furiousa reaches what she thinks will be the green place that she’s headed, only to find it isn’t there. He explains it is quiet but powerful.

“For her character, her whole drive through the film, her desires: crushed. I think that watching her use her emotions and performance abilities, which are extraordinary…I just love that scene,” said Seale.

Mad Max: Fury Road received ten Oscar nominations, including Best Cinematographer, Best Picture, and Best Director.

Seale says the Mad Max team was surprised about the movie’s success because it is an action road movie released ten months ago.

“It’s a film that we didn’t even think would get to here. It has, so we’re winners already,” said Seale.

Seale jokes that he is very positive about going into retirement until the phone rings.

“Who knows? I’d be severely tempted if Mr. Miller rang me and said we’re going back to Namibia,” said Seale.

Mad Max: Fury Road is Seale’s fifth nomination. He has already won Best Cinematography for The English Patient.