- One of the most expensive series ever made, Netflix’s $144 million live-action adaptation of bestselling manga pirate adventure “One Piece” needs to appeal to die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
- Editor Tessa Verfuss discusses the editorial decisions behind the film’s action scenes, which employ dramatic close-ups and other camera angles. These provide a level of self-awareness rather than trying to be realistic and self-serious.
- She also explains how she used framing, rhythm and pacing to help create exaggerated, larger-than-life sequences and hero or villain moments.
- The series was shot on the ARRI Alexa LF outfitted with custom-made Hawk MHX Hybrid Anamorphic lenses to lend it a comic book-style and help add weight to certain moments.
- The production was located at Cape Town Studios and employed 1,000 local crew members, many of whom had worked on Starz pirate adventure series “Black Sails.”
Netflix reportedly spent $144 million on the eight-episode series One Piece, making it one of the most expensive shows ever made. It’s also the biggest show the streamer has made in Africa. Production was located at Cape Town Studios, where it employed 1,000 local crew members, many of whom had worked on Starz adventure series Black Sails.
Editor Tessa Verfuss was one of these Black Sails alums. “There was a lot of buzz around Cape Town that there was this massive show coming in,” she told Nerds and Beyond. “The president came to visit the set, that’s how big a deal it is for us. When you hear something that big is coming, obviously you’re gonna be interested whether or not you’re familiar with the IP. And then when I heard it’s pirates, I was like, “Oh, well I’ve done pirates on Black Sails!” Sword fights, that’s totally right up my alley, but this is a bit different from Black Sails — a different vibe.”
One Piece is a live action adaptation of the bestselling manga story of all time. Debuting in 1997 in this serialized pirate adventure is about the search for the elusive One Piece treasure, led by Monkey D. Luffy. The story sprawls across 105 volumes of stories, all written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda who is executive producer on the Netflix show.
“There’s this strong fantasy element, it’s not dark and twisty,” describes Verfuss. “It’s optimistic, joyful, funny, sincere — it’s so heartfelt, and everyone really loves that about One Piece. You couldn’t get much more different when it comes to pirate properties.”
Although filled with VFX, much of the budget went on large-scale sets on soundstages and water tanks. The production design department was given a head start on the massive ships required for the series by repurposing ones initially built for Black Sails.
Verfuss was one of several editors on the series, with credits for cutting four episodes. “With an anime adaptation it’s not trying to be serious or realistic,” she says. “You can use the framing, the rhythm, the pacing to kind of make things a little bit larger than life, a little bit exaggerated. If you’re introducing someone, you get to give them those hero or villain moments. You can go to the extreme closeup and it doesn’t have to have this completely naturalistic feel that you would have in a different kind of show.”
One Piece is shot on the ARRI Alexa LF with custom-made Hawk MHX Hybrid Anamorphic lenses. The show’s cinematographers, led by Nicole Hirsch Whitaker, ASC, who shot the first two episodes with director Marc Jobst, covered each scene with two cameras to provide editorial with a choice of angles and performance.
READ MORE: BEHIND THE SCENES: ONE PIECE (IBC365)
“In terms of getting those characters to really work you are looking through those takes, finding those moments, and choosing your angles,” says Verfuss.
“We’ve got these wide-angle lenses that are used throughout the show, and they make these really strong frames, which I’m hoping people feel is a bit more like a comic book style. They really help add weight to certain moments.”
Elaborating on the process in an interview with Screen Rant, Verfuss said her goal was to bring an anime style to the fight scenes.
“You have these dramatic close ups and cool angles so I think it’s bringing a level of cool and self-awareness to it [rather than] trying to be realistic and self serious. The mechanics of a fight scene are one side of it, but it’s really about the emotions of the scene and understanding the character’s motivation.
“What you want from a live action [compared to animation] is you want your characters to feel human, characters that you can root for and get behind and not a cartoon.”
Netflix needed to appease die-hard fans — of which there are millions around the world – and reach an audience who had never heard of the property.
“You have to be aware of when the show is making the conscious decision to put an Easter egg in or is paying homage to something,” she said. “Sometimes it’s very subtle.”
It is content that could end up being glossed over in given the fast-pace of the show, which is where co-showrunner Matt Owens played a role.
Owens has “a really deep knowledge of the property,” Verfuss says. “So having someone steering who can say, ‘Wait, no, there’s something important here,’ was a huge help. We also had stacks of manga in the corners of the production office that you could go and flip through, and I watched some of the anime during my research.”
The proof of their success will be whether Netflix greenlights a second season. After all, the first eight episodes barely scratch the surface of the One Piece universe.
“Hopefully we got this one right, and that fans are gonna love it and think this is the best version,” she signed off to Screen Rant, “Or if not the best version of One Piece then the best version of a live action anime that you could possibly want.”