Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Katrina, there wasn’t a lot of archival footage of some of the more devastating moments that producers wanted to depict in Five Days of Memorial — like when the roof came off the Superdome and the 9th Ward flooding. So VFX Supervisor Eric Durst (Snowpiercer, Perry Mason) said his team went back “forensically” to research those moments before depicting them in the Apple TV limited series.
It took nine months alone to recreate the breaching of the 9th Ward levee.
“We had to visualize what that was, the breaching of the lower 9th Ward, where a wave of 12 to 20 feet was unleashed. It was like a tidal wave that wiped out everything in its path,” Durst said Sunday at Deadline’s Visual Effects + Screen. “We wanted to be was accurate a possible. This event took 1,400 American lives. We had to be very careful how to do it and not just have a spectacular shot. They had to be powerful but they also had to be emotional.”
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Written by EPs Oscar winner John Ridley and Emmy winner Carlton Cuse, Five Days at Memorial chronicles the impact of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath on a New Orleans hospital. In the five days following the storm, thousands were trapped inside Memorial Medical Center. When the floodwaters rose, power failed and heat soared, exhausted caregivers at the hospital were forced to make decisions that would follow them for years to come.
To help recreate the flooding, the team worked in a water tank that held one million gallons of water. The city of New Orleans, circa 2005, was then meticulously recreated in the background via special effects.
Old internet photos came in handy, when trying to rebuild those devastating scenes. “When I first went to Google Earth to look at this event, you can see New Orleans the week before and then day after Hurricane hit, I got to see exactly what happened,” said Durst.
The limited series stars Vera Farmiga, Robert Pine, Cherry Jones, Julie Ann Emery, Cornelius Smith Jr., Adepero Oduye, Molly Hager, Michael Gaston and W. Earl Brown. It’s based on Sheri Fink’s nonfiction book. Five Days At Memorial is executive produced and written by Cuse and Ridley, and directed by Cuse, Ridley and Wendey Stanzler (For All Mankind, Dispatches From Elsewhere). Five Days at Memorial hails from ABC Signature, a part of Disney Television Studios.
Check back next week for the panel video.
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