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From Westeros to Wolfeboro


May 30, 2019
WOLFEBORO — If you were told that a random dream sequence in the first season of the sitcom "Boy Meets World" eventually led to some of the biggest secrets of one of the most popular shows in recent years passing through Wolfeboro, you might not believe it.

However, that was indeed the case when it comes to the recently-concluded HBO drama "Game of Thrones," as Wolfeboro resident Christian Boudman was one of a large group of visual effects artists plying his craft on the show. Disclosure, this story contains spoilers about Game of Thrones.

"Six years ago, I had just finished up a movie project in Los Angeles," Boudman said of his initial introduction to "Game of Thrones."

Friends he had worked with for many years in the business were working on a massive season three episode of the show that involved a huge ice wall. The show had hired a special effects company out of Toronto and they weren't getting the desired results.

Boudman had worked with visual effects producer Steve Kullback and visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer many years earlier, so they knew his work. The three had worked together on Boudman's very first visual effects job in Burbank, Calif. at Modern Video Film in the mid-1990s.

"We've remained friends all these years," Boudman said. "They called and said they'd really like my help."

They asked if he could hop on a flight to Toronto the next day, and he did, working on that one episode and eventually another in that season. The next season he was asked to come on full time.

Boudman was hired as an 'in-house artist' for the show. Game of Thrones hires anywhere from 10-15 visual effects vendors who work remotely to work on the 1,500 to 2,000 shots per season.

"So, we do anything the bigger vendors don't want to do, can't do or fail at," Boudman said. "We (he and the other in-house artist, who works remotely from Massachusetts) each do 200 to 250 shots per season.

"It can range from complex green screen and blue screen composites to rig removal and set extensions," he said. "I've essentially been on call for the last three or four weeks."

Boudman works out of a studio in his home in Wolfeboro. He receives raw footage, right off the camera, does his work on it and sends it on to digital intermediate for full color correction.

Visual effects artists are responsible for creating computer-generated animations and special effects on screens. These are typically things that are either impractical or impossible to film.

Background

A native of northern Maine, both of Boudman's parents were artists and thus, as a youngster, he had absolutely no desire to be an artist, but he did a lot of art as a kid.

"I used to draw all the time, but I never wanted to be an artist because my folks were artists," he said.

So, he chose his own path, working as a magician, fire eater and juggler at amusement parks, in retail and as a set builder. He and his wife decided to move to Los Angeles since he wanted to get into acting or the movie business in general.

He started as a runner, moved on to be a production coordinator, then an associate producer, where he worked on many of the major award shows in Hollywood, including the Academy Awards and the Emmys.

"The path I was on was to be a line producer," he said, noting the line producer is in charge of the people who "make the show happen."

"The line producer is considered a non-creative producing job," he said.

He began serving as a producer's assistant and post-production coordinator at Michael Jacobs Productions, where he worked on the pilot and first season of "Boy Meets World."

"I learned from the best, and at my next gig, I got a job as an associate producer … And I hated it. It just wasn't in me," he said. "It was the kind of job where you're the one answering the phone at two in the morning."

So, that was the end of his producing career, and he wanted to do something totally different so he applied to the US Postal Service and was eventually approved as a casual carrier. However, he never got a call to take a route, thankfully, since that just wasn't what he was looking for either.

Boudman remembered his work on "Boy Meets World," where he supervised a visual effects series where the main character, Corey, had a dream where he saw his school principal all over his kitchen.

"That was the most fun I'd had working in the business," he said.

So, he went to a post-production facility in Burbank and asked if they had any jobs.

He was eventually hired on as a night time operations manager and then moved on to the day shift where he was the audio department and visual effects department manager with the hope that he'd get a chance to be a visual effects artist in the future.

"They told me that if I trained people to do my job on the clock, then on my time I could learn to be a visual effects artist," Boudman said.

Through a co-worker, he eventually landed a job as an artist on the Power Rangers at Modern Video Film, where he worked with a lot of technical artists and learned a lot from the talented staff. He continued on to work on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "Weird Science" and more.

A chance came to do a little freelance work on the "Jenny McCarthy Show," and when the paycheck came in, he realized that he could make much more freelancing then in his current job. So, that became the future for Boudman, who would eventually start his own production company, Clearcut FX. Over the years, Boudman has worked on numerous movies, including the original "Blade Runner" (look for him in the DVD special features), television shows, commercials and music videos.

"Game of Thrones"

When the Boudmans moved from Los Angeles to New Hampshire in 2008, he wondered what he would do for a career.

"I was thinking I might get out of the business and start a new chapter," Boudman said, noting he took a year and a half off. "But I started missing the process of doing visual effects. It was my trade and I began missing it."

A colleague gave him the famous quote from "Field of Dreams" — "if you build it, they will come."

So, he built a room in his barn, bought the equipment and put his name out there. Within the first month, he had a contract with the HBO drama "Boardwalk Empire." And along the way, due to his previous connections, the "Game of Thrones" opportunity popped up.

"Game of Thrones" starts its planning and shooting around Europe in the late summer and they work until the holidays and when they finish shooting, they fly to Los Angeles and start post-production for the next few months before the show premieres.

One of the big jobs visual effects artists do on "Game of Thrones" is enhancing the gore, which would include putting blood onto the swords after someone had been stabbed. Boudman remembers doing a few of these scenes, including a famous Arya Stark stabbing (the actors use fake swords that collapse into the handle when stabbing, so when they are pulled out, the blood needs to be added to the blade).

However, one of his main concentrations on the show has been with canines, including the direwolves. As it turns out, the show uses real wolves, but the tricky thing is that the wolves can't be filming with the actors or with each other. So, each wolf is shot separately and the actors are shot separately as well. Boudman's job was to put all the wolves in the scene together with the actors. He noted the scene of Arya Stark briefly reuniting with her dire wolf and its pack was one of his biggest pieces of work he did on the show.

Game of Thrones is known for its secrecy and aversion to spoilers, but there were a number of spoilers that Boudman found out long before it aired on television because he was sent those scenes to work on. Of course, he had signed a non-disclosure agreement, so he could not reveal things that he knew. For instance, he knew Jon Snow would come back to life in an earlier season, and he knew that Ramsey Bolton got eaten alive by his dogs, among other things.

However, he is quick to note that he did not know the ending to the show, which has proven to be controversial since its airing a few weeks ago. Nor were the now infamous scenes where cups and water bottles were left in the final edit part of the scenes he was working on.

Because the Boudmans live outside of town where good Internet is not really an option, transferring the completed scenes becomes a bit of a challenge. So, he rented an office in town and he or his wife, Bobbi, would make numerous trips into town every day to get the files transferred.

"I had to fix a lot of big shots, but it's quite an honor," he said. "It's very stressful but it's an honor to be that person."

Sports Editor Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or josh@salmonpress.news.

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