Ranran Meng has always felt inspired by the world of film. As a child, she felt transported from her living room couch in China to all new worlds while watching her favorite movies. Now, she finds that the medium is truly limitless, with the opportunity to create anything and everything through visual effects, and it is that power that makes her love what she does.
As an industry-leading compositor, she helps transport audiences from their seats to the world she has helped create. Through visual effects and her extensive artistic background, Ranran has put her touch on many wildly successful projects, from award-winning movies like tick, tick… BOOM! and It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood to critically-acclaimed series such as Succession and Escape at Dannemora.
Millions around the world have seen Ranran’s work, even if they don’t know it. The 214 million Netflix subscribers worldwide have had the chance to see her work on The Devil All the Time, a Netflix original film starring BAFTA Award winner Tom Holland and award-winning actor Robert Pattinson. Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrificial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.
“The film talks about several sinister characters who converge around a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality. Religion plays a big part in the story. In the barren and poor land, people follow the trend and are disciplined in the moral system established by religion, except Alvin has long been free from the shackles of blind faith. He believes that right and wrong come from the heart, not from the preaching of God. I like this message that only we can help ourselves. The best way to find strength is to believe in yourself,” says Ranran.
Ranran had many vital tasks during the film’s post-production. She was in charge of several blood effect shots. In a film with a dark tone like this, these shots are key to capturing the essence of the story. In one of the film’s opening scenes, a character is tied to a wood pillar, and Ranran added blood through visual effects to darken the scene and make it look more realistic. As this takes place at the beginning of the film, it needed to shock the audience and set the tone. In another scene later in the movie, a character cut her throat. The blood was added though VFX rather than makeup to make it look more realistic, simulating how it would truly drip, bleed, and splash. It is an important scene, and Ranran’s touch makes it truly realistic and convincing.
It wasn’t all just adding gore. Ranran’s work is used throughout the film to make everything appear more realistic. In one scene, there is a fight, and the actor’s wore inflated clothing to protect themselves. During post-production, Ranran used her compository skills to make the clothing look like a normal size. This made the fight seem real, greatly contributing to the overall effectiveness of the scene and film.
The Devil All the Time was released in select theaters on September 11, 2020, and on Netflix on September 16, 2020. It was the most-watched on Netflix over its first two days, and third overall in its first five days. In November 2020, Variety reported the film was the 22nd-most watched straight-to-streaming title of 2020 up to that point. Ranran is thrilled to have contributed to this success.
“It was a great opportunity to work on a movie with actors I admire. I hope to continue working on films that provide a similar experience in the future,” says Ranran.
The Devil All the Time is still available to stream on Netflix anytime.