We are honored to present an interview with Bruce Hunt, who directed Parasite, the live action commercial for Metroid Fusion! With the game’s re-release on Nintendo Switch Online imminent, we wanted to know more about what went into the commercial’s production. Bruce had much to share, including a never before seen director’s cut of the commercial in high definition, HD stills, and the name of the actress that played Samus!
Hello, I’m Bruce Hunt, a director for film and TV/commercials with a love of sci-fi, comic books and games.
I was transfixed by a magazine on the making of Star Wars at age 13.
I saw people that did what I did – make spaceship models and blow then up, design far off worlds, and decided that’s what I wanted to do – I went to art and design school, [and I was] always inspired by the designs and artwork for sci-fi film[s] of Ralph McQuarrie, Ron Cobb, Joe Johnston, H.R. Giger and Syd Mead, and happened to land into an computer animation company in Australia, it was around the time Pixar was just beginning. So it was a great time to learn both analogue and digital – it became my film school – playing with motion control, miniatures, animation and 3D and eventually live action – and I learned that I wanted to direct, and to tell stories as my heroes Ridley Scott and James Cameron were doing. Television commercials gave me a chance to play with genres and techniques and to travel.
Too many favourites, but always it’s creating worlds we haven’t seen before – Dark City was like a beautiful art project to work on – I helped out Alex Proyas and producer Andrew Mason with shooting miniatures and building out more of the world they had planned on but not completed-and that led to working with a lot of very talented folks who joined us on The Matrix, which I directed second unit on. To watch that at its premiere in LA was an unforgettable career highlight – the audience saw our sequences and the reactions made your hair stand on end – no one knew it would have that effect.
I have been lucky enough to work with Guillermo del Toro and Baz Luhrmann too, so its very hard to pick. As a director I enjoy the challenge of storytelling, but my heart is drawn to stories that involve creating different worlds – not contemporary usually but in TVCs it’s been wushu [martial arts], Roman Empire, Medieval and science fiction, games such as Lara Croft, Mario Kart – that’s why Metroid Fusion appealed so much – also, a female protagonist is so much more interesting – she looks badass but moves gracefully and quick.
I had been working with the agency Leo Burnett Chicago on a few Nintendo commercials previously, including Nintendo 64 colour consoles, Excitebike 64, Super Mario Kart, and we’d always had a blast making them.
They asked me if I’d like to make Metroid Fusion and I jumped at it – knowing that Alex Proyas was doing the Prime Evil TVC. The script was tight – just 30 secs, so we were having to be clever with storytelling, making it feel like a film trailer – but I snuck in some extra shots that you see here for longer version.
I’m guessing that was the dates – I’m thinking we shot 3 days – 2 nights on location and some effects shots in studio. I know we used the finished suit from Prime Evil and ours was made by our same suit makers Studio Kite here in Sydney.
I worked with my production designer Phil Shearer (we’d worked together on Dark City) to create a space station environment that took advantage of the vast abandoned White Bay Power Station in Sydney. I had last shot in there for The Matrix and it had some great existing machinery and multiple gantries and levels. We placed the opening lab in a turbine room and another great hall space, dressed the lab equipment, large scale “dry for wet” lab tanks, spaceship hatchway, flooring and a lot of ducting. Phil and team did [an] amazing job using recycled pipes [and] plastic sheeting to add texture.
My cinematographer Ross Emery built lighting into floors, tanks and ensured lights in Samus’s weapons, suits and helmets were strong enough to read. We used smoke and sparks for atmosphere and kept the mood of the game, yet with enough colour to recognise them.
For the opening scenes with flying creatures coming for Samus as she opens fire, we built the corridor in 3D CG from [the] award winning company Animal Logic… it gave great scope and [a] dynamic intro. Pyrotechnics and falling sparks added to the “in camera” carnage. it was messy on set with goop flying and water.
Having done the explosions for Matrix of the helicopter and Dark City’s water tower, I knew we could get a great effect, as water transfers the shock wave almost completely (Air is about 830 times less dense than water), so we actually used a half scale glass tank approx. 2 metres tall and shot it high speed (at 350 frames per second) against black with splash housings, and composited that into our shots. Safety is paramount, but it’s also planning – I can’t stress how important focusing the crew on ONE event is, unlike most things in the film industry, it’s good to only do it once, don’t over-rehearse and avoid more takes.
I had storyboards and artwork from the game, suit designs, etc. from the agency and Nintendo, but as I recall it was fairly secret at that point and so we had some leeway. I was not that aware of the game and had to get up to speed quick. I think we were also under great time pressure so that meant there was little time for debate. We delivered the film on November 2 and the game was out on November 22, 2002 in the US.
On shoot time think it was touch longer than 3 weeks for us. But it is quite normal to have 3-4 weeks to build and shoot and edit. Post [production] can be same amount of time again. But we did start the Animal Logic work on [the] corridor and creatures, before we shot to compress the schedule.
The relationship was strong and there was great trust from our previous spots with them.
I don’t believe so – my creative directors were the agency and were really helpful in defining what they needed, plus there was a lot of trust – we were able to put forward suggestions and be creative as the world hadn’t been defined before on film, apart from Alex’s TVC. But tonally, we knew we could create our own whilst always ensuring Samus and the creatures, the nuclei [X], were faithful to the game.
Yes! Always keen to add more depth to the world – we did shoot more glimpses of [the] SA–X and details of explosions and creatures swarming in the lab, but I recall now that time was against us, rather than money. Post production couldn’t be too complex or time consuming as we needed to be on air, so I think we created as many key memorable scenes as possible to create the flavour of the game and let the voice over build the intrigue. I remember wanting to see more of Samus exploring and moving through the world more, with more acrobatic moves but it was tough to squeeze it all in with the build up to the reveal of [the] SA-X being the crucial scene. I enjoyed that stand off moment…
The Suit designers Studio Kite, pyrotechnics team and the post company Animal Logic. Stunt Co-Ordinator Glenn Boswell and his team [as well]. It’s a small film world here of top talent.
Melanie Peyton-Smith, an acrobat gymnast who became a stunt woman, she also came with us to Prague to shoot a Visa Lara Croft game commercial [as the] stunt double for Sofia Vergara.
Yes it was, and it was in good shape. I think they had referenced the Japanese TVC for the look of materials in the real world.
Not sure! Normally they would have [been] returned to [the] agency and Nintendo, they were good suits but latex is notorious for aging so it may not be in great shape by now…
Buildings like that are a rarity now, but a godsend for filmmakers as there are so many possibilities for action scenes, especially for pyrotechnics and stunts without damaging them. Batman, Terminator 2, Aliens, RoboCop, all rely on steel foundries or power station locations for their biggest scenes!
Very proud of it, but its always the same, you wish that it could turn into a film given the investment of time and craft.
Only the chance to refine some of the effects a little more, and to have given the audience longer scenes.
I never have! I have an addiction to car racing so I knew it would be a bad idea to start…
I am writing and developing a couple of series – one based on [a] true story between the wars and another on future car racing – plus a graphic novel – so close to my roots!
Thanks for having me along and for your interest in our film. It’s great to be a small part of the legacy of Metroid, again, […] the fan base and enthusiastic audience blows me away. I hope to see Samus on the big screen. Let’s get her story out there!
© 2023 Shinesparkers and Bruce Hunt
Special thanks to RoyboyX, Quadraxis and Darren
Interviewed on 5th March 2023