An American Pickle is a 2020 comedy-drama starring Seth Rogen, who plays two characters separated by a hundred years. He is Herschel Greenbaum, a worker who emigrated to America in 1919 to provide a better life for his family, who has the misfortunate of falling into a vat of pickles in the factory he’s working in and wakes up 100 years later in 21st century Brooklyn. Herschel soon discovers that his only living relative is his great-grandson Ben, also played by Rogen.
Directed by Brandon Trost, the film required some crafty and innovative problem-solving to achieve sequences with both of Rogen’s characters in the shot. Visual effects studio Nviz, whose past projects included The One and Only Ivan, The Witcher, and Solo: A Star Wars Story, did VFX work on the film and drew on its experience with split-screens and face replacements on the film Legend, where Tom Hardy played the Kray twins.
The most obvious challenge was the facial difference between Rogen’s two characters: one had a spectacular beard while the other was clean shaven. The crew had to shoot half of the film first then come back six weeks later to shoot the other half, which involved meticulous planning for every shot on set and on location.
Besides the split-screen sequences, the bulk of Nviz’s work centred around transforming modern-day Pittsburgh into early 20th century Schlupsk (the fictional Eastern European town Herschel came from) or modern-day New York. This involved multitude matte paintings and environment enhancements. Nviz also created the rats in the pickle factory, going off references from the director and applying a fantasy realism aesthetic that resulted in almost photo-realistic caricature versions of the rats. A crowd simulation tool was used for shots with more than 60 rats, but otherwise the team gave the rats, which the director envisioned as a gang, distinctive characteristics.
Watch the full visual effects breakdown video below. The film is now available via UK Amazon Prime.