Creative Studio Grand Jete explored money iconography at the micro level in a painterly and hauntingly beautiful closing title sequence for director Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," the sequel to the 1987 classic "Wall Street."
Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas), the fictitious inside trader in the original "Wall Street" film, famously declared, "greed is good." Fast-forward to 2010 and Gekko's finished serving his 23-year sentence. As he fights to re-gain admission into a world that has left him behind, he must make amends with his estranged daughter Winnie (played by Carey Mulligan), who is engaged to marry an ambitious young stockbroker Jacob (Shia LaBeouf).
"Having been a huge fan of the original Wall Street movie, getting the initial call from the film's producer was both flattering and intimidating," recalled Howard Nourmand, executive creative director, Grand Jete. "Going into my first meeting with Oliver, I instantly recalled a well-known quote from the first 'Wall Street': 'Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.' It perfectly encapsulated how I felt. Oliver's creative process is so different than other directors I've worked with. He thinks out loud. He throws out ideas to get you thinking bigger and he's much more concerned about the meaning behind things, than he is about how they look on the surface. He comes up with hard question and wants to know 'the why' behind every design decision. I've never been challenged even remotely close to the way I was on this film. There were many lessons to be learned on this job and I was happy to be collaborating with someone as radical as Oliver."
Set to the Talking Heads song "Home," the film's closing sequence features iconography -- rendered in an antique, slightly dirty old-world color palette -- that references wealth, power, greed, and art as currency. An image of the New York City skyline transitions seamlessly into the detailed engravings on a dollar bill, a money counter flips 100-dollar bills and weathered coins are seen as if under the investigative lens of a microscope. Other references to greed and corruption are subtler. The swinging spheres of a Newton's cradle allude to its presence on the desks of executives everywhere, but also how the financial mishaps of one investment firm can cause global shockwaves. Treated footage from the film has also been incorporated, including a close-up shot of a prison guard's hand giving back Gecko's engraved money clip upon leaving prison -- an image that calls to mind "The Creation of Adam" fresco from the Sistine Chapel.
Grand Jete turned to many different mediums and filmmaking techniques to design the closing title sequence, including filmed footage shot at the company's Hollywood studio, photography, CG, illustration, video, water color and a mixed bag of other tricks. Production started with the building of animatics to match the music track and to determine pacing. Design elements such as the Newton's cradle were filmed and coins were digitally scanned at very high resolutions to capture the magnified nicks and surface scratches. Nourmand and his team also created 3D models of most of the filmed elements, including the money counter, Newton's cradle, coins and printed money, and interchanged digital and practical depending on the desired look and effect.
The team's toolkit included Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects, Maxon Cinema 4D, Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe InDesign for layout and presentations, and a Canon 5D Mark II camera to photograph the design elements. Nourmand oversaw a team of 17 at Grand Jete, which toiled over many all-nighters to deliver the project in mid-August. In addition to the closing title sequence, Grand Jete oversaw the opening title sequence and a dream sequence in the film.