EXTRA EDITION ANIMATION/ MUSIC
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Â© 2016 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
ANNIE AWARD nominations
WINNER HOLLY WOOD MUSIC IN MEDIA AWARDS
BEST SONG A N I M AT E D F I L M
“C A N’ T S T OP T H E F E E L I NG!”
WINNER HOLLY WOOD FILM AWARDS HOLLYWOOD SONG AWARD
“C A N’ T S T OP T H E F E E L I NG!”
N T ITOR T O P B» IELXLTIRNA GE DEIX A EDITION
‘Rogue One’ Tops Ticket Pre-Sales
“I’m not an expert, but I struggle from film to film. I make them as they come. ‘Snowden’ was a film that was outside the realm of the U.S. interests.”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is already a hot ticket. The space opera spin-off recorded the second-highest first day of presales in domestic box office history, Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster said at an investor conference on Nov. 29. The record-holder for first day pre-sales is “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which debuted last year to nearly $248 million. “Rogue One” is on track to open to north of $130 million when it debuts on Dec. 16.
‘Florence’ Gets Theatrical Encore Paramount Pictures plans to re-release “Florence Foster Jenkins,” a period comedy that stars Meryl Streep as a woefully off-key opera singer. The film will screen in select theaters starting on Dec. 2. It seems as though the studio will use the re-release to try to bolster the film’s awards chances. “Florence Foster Jenkins” was released last summer and made $27 million to date. It debuts on home entertainment platforms Dec. 13.
OLIVER STONE Reflecting on the new world order for indies
‘Manchester’ Named Top Pic by NBR “Manchester by the Sea” was named best film of the year by the National Board of Review, while the film’s Casey Affleck took the acting honors and Kenneth Lonergan nabbed original screenplay kudos. Barry Jenkins took director for “Moonlight,” while the film’s Naomie Harris won the supporting actress award. “Arrival’s” Amy Adams was named actress and Jeff Bridges nabbed supporting actor for “Hell or High Water.” Variety.com/nbr
Parsons Develops Comedy Series Jim Parsons is executive producing “Lance 2.0,” a singlecamera comedy from writer Alex McAulay. The series centers on a couple dealing with the aftermath of an accident the boyfriend had that changes his personality and causes him to lose his impulse control. McAulay penned the pilot and will serve as coexecutive producer, working alongside Parsons who is exec producing with Todd Spiewak. Eric Norsoph, head of development and production for Parsons’ shingle, That’s Wonderful, will oversee the project. Warner Bros. Television is the studio.
“The bad thing about doing things on film is they live forever.” TOM HANKS In conversation with Viola Davis in Variety
“It’s your job as an actor to humanize. It’s almost your job as an actor to find the mess. But you’re finding the mess in someone.” VIOLA DAVIS In conversation with Tom Hanks in Variety
Ridley Scott will receive the Directors Guild of America’s lifetime achievement award Feb. 4.
Jodie Foster will star in Drew Pearce’s feature directorial debut, the crime thriller “Hotel Artemis.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda will serve as creative producer/musical mastermind on “The Kingkiller Chronicle.”
Tony Leung Chiu-wai has joined the cast of “Monster Hunt 2,” sequel to the Chinese blockbuster.
“It seemed kind of crazy to do, because I’m not really an impersonator. And to have to play someone so well-known was really scary.” NATALIE PORTMAN In conversation with Michelle Williams in Variety
GREG FOSTER: ERIC CHARBONNEAU/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; PARSONS: JIM SMEAL/BEI/SHUTTERSTOCK; SCOTT: MEDIAPUNCH/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; JODIE FOSTER: DAVID BUCHAN/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; MIRANDA: NILS JORGENSEN/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; LEUNG: IMAGINECHINA VIA AP
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE BEST ORIGINAL SONG “HOW FAR I’LL GO” Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda Performed by Auli‘i Cravalho
“YOU’RE WELCOME” Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda Performed by Dwayne Johnson
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE Mark Mancina
“Moana feels like a victory lap. It’s a work of supreme confidence.” FORBES, Scott Mendelson
ANNIE AWARD NOMINEE INCLUDING
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
For our screening schedule, visit us at WALTDISNEYSTUDIOSAWARDS.COM ©2016 DISNEY
BEST ANIM BEST DIRECTOR travis knight
“AN ANIMATED MASTERPIECE. Completely transcendent. While magical is a word that gets thrown around a lot about the movies, few actually deserve to be called that. ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ does, and in spades. A stunning achievement. ++++.” DAVID FEAR, ROLLING STONE
RD NOMINATIONS INCLUDING
ATED FEATURE BEST WRITING marc haimes, chris butler
FROM THE MAKERS OF , AND
“LAIKA’S BEST FILM YET.” NPR
for your consideration in all categories
LOVINGLY HANDCRAFTED IN THE U.S.
LAIKA’s filmmaking process includes the contributions of the traditionalist and the futurist, the craftsman and the engineer, the sketch artist and the Rapid Prototyping expert. It is this juxtaposition of legacy and innovation, all at the service of storytelling, that pushes the boundaries of the medium technological advancements and handmade artistic endeavors flourish side by side.
Filmmakers Check Into the Green Room
KATHERINE BRODSKY @mysteriouskat
t ain’t easy being green, but Hollywood’s film and TV productions are moving more and more toward eco-friendly practices on sets that not only help the planet, but also can save money. Not too long ago such titles as “sustainability director” did not exist at studios. What a difference a few years make. Oct. 7 at the Vancouver Intl. Film Festival, four sustainability execs from major Hollywood studios gathered to participate in a packed forum on sustainable produc-
tion, with keynote speaker and “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter opening the one-day event. “Vancouver will become a model for green production in North America,” Carter said. “When word gets out, productions will flock here. You’re going to have to build a wall. It will be huge, made out of recycled materials. And yes, the Americans are going to pay for it.” The industry must be aware, Carter added, that what we’re manufacturing is essentially a luxury good, and so “we must work to do no harm and promote good habits. … Every choice on a production is an energy
We need to pay more attention and make sure we’re doing our due diligence and not leaving a larger impact than we really need to be.” LISA DAY
choice.” And he walks the talk. On the recent “X-Files” reboot filmed in Vancouver, the 20th Century Fox TV Prods. series managed to recycle upward of 80% of material waste. It was the first production to recycle dirty expanded polystyrene foam, which would have otherwise ended up in landfills. The production also enforced a no-idling policy and used biofuels and biodiesel whenever possible. Recyclable plates and cutlery were used on the production, and props were reused or borrowed, and then donated to such organizations as Habitat ILLUSTRATION BY SAM FALCONER
CONSIDER THIS BEST ORIGINAL SCORE Justin Hurwitz BEST ORIGINAL SONG “City Of Stars”
Music by Justin Hurwitz Lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul Performed by Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” Music by Justin Hurwitz Lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul Performed by Emma Stone
“The film’s score is such a melodious achievement that there are moments it evokes the bittersweet majesty of George Gershwin.” OWEN GLEIBERMAN, VARIETY
“La La Land does nothing less than jolt the movie musical to life for the 21st century.” PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE
“The X Files” production recycled some 80% of its material waste.
for Humanity and the Salvation Army. Also noteworthy is the bottom line: The production saved tens of thousands of dollars. “It takes more effort, but if you’re conscientious about it, you can turn garbage into good purpose,” Carter says. He’s been thinking about sustainability for some time now. “When ‘The X-Files’ ended its television run in 2002, one of the first things I did was to actually go and study the subject of trash,” he says with a laugh, “Because I was kind of horrified by how much trash we created.” He was also amazed to discover how resourceful recycling outfits are at processing that trash and what a big business salvaging is. “There’s a lot of other people thinking about this, too, and it’s not like it all goes into landfills, there’s thoughtfulness in the process.” He adds that it takes energy to save energy. When it comes to the implementation of green policies, Hollywood majors have been stepping into the sustainability arena. NBCUniversal’s sustainability director, Shannon Bart, thinks that it’s crucial for the entertainment industry to maximize its uses of natural resources “because it’s the right thing to do and is good business.” Re-use, she says, is a cornerstone of sustainable production. In 2012, the studio invested in a 160,000-sq.-ft. central warehouse that’s used to store more than 150,000 items — from props to wardrobe, to set decoration and furniture — that
One of the first things I did was to actually go and study the subject of trash. I was kind of horrified by how much trash we created.” CHRIS CARTER
NBCUniversal productions can pull from for free. Just the one facility has saved them millions of dollars a year, and the studio is considering additional centers in New York and Vancouver. NBCUniversal has also seen a lot of success when it comes to LED lighting, even creating its own: Mac Tech. Over the past year, it has tripled the amount used on the lot and expects it to become the dominant standard on sets. “It changes everything,” Bart says. LED light fixtures are 70% more efficient than commercial lighting, quieter, and emit a lot less heat, thereby decreasing air conditioning and generator needs, not to mention energy and fuel expenditure. Studios are also slowly implementing solar-powered trailers. Universal’s “Fast & Furious” and Fox’s “Wolverine 3” are among the latest to use them. “Incorporating technology into the filmmaking process will really help us in areas of high impact,” Bart says. So which areas of production have the largest impact? Fox’s energy initiative director Lisa Day says it comes down to the amount of energy and fuel being used. There’s a move toward biodiesel and renewable diesel (Warner Bros. also has used B20 biodiesel across productions for past six years), but as a newer technology, it still has a bit of a price mark-up. But even something as small as providing crew with re-usable water bottles can provide a substantial cost-savings, in addi-
tion to leaving a smaller carbon footprint, she says. Catering is another area where productions are looking to make a difference by sourcing local, seasonal foods and reducing red meat consumption. Whether it’s about trying out a new material in set construction or putting a star into a solar trailer, occasionally there’s still a bit of resistance. “Part of it is that fear of the unknown,” Day says. “We’re pretty fast-paced and things have to happen and they have to happen correctly, so when you’re talking about things being done a bit differently, people get concerned about that because what happens if something goes wrong? So you have to get over that hurdle with people and show them that these new things will perform as they should.” But, this is the way the world is heading, she says. “We need to pay more attention and make sure we’re doing our due diligence and are not leaving a larger impact than we really need to be.” Fortunately, sustainability is one area where collaboration, rather than competition, among studios has been notable. After all, this is an industry that shares its resources, whether they’re vendors, crews, or filmmakers. “We all want to solve the same problems,” Bart says. “We all want to find an easier way to use less energy, create less waste, and reuse. And it helps [for] everybody to be collaborative.”
ANNIE AWARD NOMINEE INCLUDING
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“It manages an emotional complexity that puts most supposedly grown-up movies to shame.” –Bilge Ebiri, THE VILLAGE VOICE For our screening schedule visit us at WALTDISNEYSTUDIOSAWARDS.COM ©2016 DISNEY/PIXAR
F O R YO U R CO N S I D E R AT I O N
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
SKE RIDES THE KUDOS TRAIL
An Awards Season ‘High’ for Indie
idney Kimmel Entertainment is shedding its usual low profile, flying high with its Texas drama, “Hell or High Water,” becoming a serious awards contender. Jeff Bridges has received a Gotham Awards nomination for his role as a Texas Ranger tracking down a pair of bank-robbing brothers. Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay
for the film that debuted in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard has also nabbed a Gotham nomination. Domestic grosses on the $12 million project have gone past $27 million. Not bad for SKE, which seems to have found solid ground in the ever-shifting and contracting independent marketplace. Carla Hacken, who joined the company in 2014 as president of production after stints at Fox and New Regency, admits that “Hell or High Water” — SKE bought the Black List script in 2012 — required steadfast backing from Kimmel during its development. This included shooting in 110-degree heat in the early summer. “It’s so rare to have a film succeed like ‘Hell or High Water’ did,” she says. “It got willed into existence. It was like a giant boulder that ran over me a lot. It’s easy to lose your perspective on a movie. We were unsure right up until it got screened at Cannes.” Hacken knew the project before she came
to SKE, as she’d tried to buy it while at New Regency. When she arrived two years later at SKE, it had fallen apart, but being at an independent turned out to be an advantage. “We got a new director and put David Mackenzie on it,” she says. “I don’t think it would have gotten made at a studio without a big director and big stars.” Hacken has accelerated the company’s output, with movies co-financed and produced by SKE in her tenure: the romantic comedy “Sleeping With Other People”; John Turturro’s “Going Places” (in which he revives his Jesus Quintana character from “The Big Lebowski”); Ben Stiller’s drama “Brad’s Status”; and “The Book of Henry,” starring Jacob Tremblay and Naomi Watts with Colin Trevorrow directing in between his “Jurassic World” gigs. “Henry,” written by Gregg Hurwitz, involves a boy and his brother being raised by their single mother. The boy has a crush on the neighbor girl and to protect her from harm from her father, he comes up with a plan to rescue her. His mother discovers the plot and decides she will put it into motion. “’The Book of Henry’ is almost impossible to pitch, in that it’s like ‘American Beauty,’” Hacken says, noting that studios simply are avoiding all but the most certain of bets in what they green light. Her track record at Fox 2000 included hits that were also critical successes like “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Unfaithful” and “Walk the Line.” “When I left Fox, I felt as if movies were getting harder and harder to do,” she says. “I talked with Stacey Snider while she was at DreamWorks and Peter Chernin, who told me I had high-end premium cable taste.” Kimmel made his fortune in the apparel business. He has been involved, she says, with movies going back “9½ Weeks,” “The Kite Runner,” “United 93,” and “Lars and the Real Girl.” His goal as a philanthropist had been to give away $1 billion. “His true love and passion is fighting cancer,” Hacken says. John Penotti, who came on board last year as president of SKE, notes that he’s had an 18-year relationship with Kimmel. It was first through GreeneStreet Films (where he produced “In the Bedroom” and “Swimfan”) and has formed SKE Global with Ivanhoe Pictures. The production company is backed by financier Robert Friedland and run by Penotti. “Sidney’s taste is sublime — ‘Beyond the Pines,’ ‘Age of Adaline,’ ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ ‘United 93’ — and wonderfully distinctive,” Penotti says. “The key question is always ‘Am I moved by the story?’ I think we have an extraordinary opportunity. We get a constant stream of scripts.” Kimmel declined a request to comment for this report.
Voices 13 good judgment about performances and rhythms. For example, there is a slow-motion funeral; she came up with a beautiful sequence. In the end, I think we did four or five passes at the movie altogether. That process can be a lot of fun. It’s just you and the editor trying to make the movie work, trying to solve these puzzles and to discover what this movie’s really about. PRODUCTION DESIGN, RUTH DE JONG
GRAY’S GOLD TIM GRAY
Lonergan Lauds Crew Artisans give ‘Manchester’ special look
anchester by the Sea” writer-director Kenneth Lonergan is getting praise for his work and the performance of the actors, but Lonergan is equally enthused about his artisans behind the camera on the Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions release. “These are immense contributions that don’t get enough attention, but are so important to a film,” he says about his colleagues. CINEMATOGRAPHY, JODY LEE LIPES
I wanted a naturalistic approach, with as much natural lighting as possible. He showed me photos, and we looked at some films and talked about light and depth of focus; we looked at “Barry Lyndon” a lot. We both like film and we were shooting on an Alexa digital camera, but he’s good at getting digital to look like film. EDITOR, JENNIFER LAME
I hired her over the phone. She was working the whole time we were filming, with questions and suggestions. I liked her even before we met face to face, and then we spent a lot of time together editing. She has
She did a lot with a little. She didn’t have a lot of money to work with and she’s tirelessly good-natured, but not in an annoying way. She worked a lot with Kai Quinlan, a location manager — a hugely important job that never gets enough respect. It’s a slogging process, you have to drive and drive and Kai would knock on all those doors. Ruth would say to me, “I know you’re tired, but when you see this place, you’re going to cheer right up!” That happened lots of time. We saw many houses for each location and then Ruth and her team would clear out each room inside and dress it. People work so hard on a film! As a director you just say you want a boat or a car, and they show you pictures of boats, pictures of cars, pictures of houses and pictures of rooms. Everything you see is a result of someone finding this stuff for you to choose from. MUSIC, LESLEY BARBER
It was a challenging film to score because the emotions are so intense at times. She wrote a lot for the movie, including some beautiful chorale pieces. That’s her daughter (Jacoba Barber-Rozema) singing on multiple tracks, with the light, angelic voice. It’s great to see how Lesley’s work fits so seamlessly with the other pieces. So you have Handel, then Lesley Barber, then the Ink Spots, then Vivaldi. And it all works. SOUND, JACOB RIBICOFF
Supervising sound editor/sound re-recording mixer Jacob Ribicoff was both sound editor and mixer on the film; that doesn’t always happen. That person is responsible for creating the whole sound of the film. You have the dialogue, the music, and sometimes little sounds, like a car going by or birds. These guys are so important. Kevin Parker recorded on the set. That’s another very difficult job. You need to capture the dialogue as cleanly as possible, to give the director maximum flexibility. You can then get elaborate with it: You can overlap dialogue, and mix several different takes, like “Let’s put in that ‘um-hm’ from a couple of minutes ago.” It’s not always great to do that kind of stitching, because you want to keep the rhythm that was there. But the sound people make it all possible.
14 Actors on Actors
PHOTOGRAPH BY ART STREIBER
Actors on Actors 15
Nicole Kidman & Casey Affleck
N JENELLE RILEY @jenelleriley
icole Kidman (Garth Davis’ “Lion”) and Casey Affleck (Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea”) came to the Variety studio to talk about their films and approaches to their characters: In “Lion,” Kidman’s Sue must be the epitome of strength, love, and grace while dealing with life; Affleck’s Lee closes up after a tragedy.
Nicole Kidman: Why did you choose to do this movie, “Manchester by the Sea”? Casey Affleck: I had worked with Kenny Lonergan; I did a play with him called “This Is Our Youth.” [His characters] sounded like people who I knew and conversations that I had. There was nothing theatrical or stilted about any of it. The stuff I saw on stage, and even reading it, it had a rhythm that felt very familiar to me, that I wasn’t accustomed to seeing in the theater. Yet it sort of also was just as profound, just as moving, just as complex and deep as anything else that you would read that had been around for a hundred years and was as dense as Beckett, Shakespeare. That was really exciting to me. And I wanted to work with him. I kept auditioning for his plays and he never hired me. Kidman: Wow. Affleck: And then they were doing “This Is Our Youth” in London. I think it had been done in New York, or maybe Kenny was just distracted or had stopped caring so much, and so he finally let me do it. I asked him if I could make some suggestions for the other parts and so they hired those people too. He must have had a lot of other stuff on his mind. We got to do that production and then I got to know him really well. When this came around, he sent it to me and I thought it was just one of the best things I’d ever read. It was everything I liked about his writing and it was also a part that I just felt I understood the first time I read it. I said yes immediately of course, with the caveat that I thought there was some things I couldn’t do. Kidman: Like what? Affleck: He took three years to write it, and he writes in a way that it’s not a kind of a blueprint for something else to be made.
It’s sort of a finished piece in and of itself. Every word is chosen carefully, and you can tell that it’s not a first draft, it’s not a 15th draft, that this is something that he’s really spent a lot of time with. Everything’s there for a reason. The action is very specific, too. There’s a scene where I’m watching my house burn down, and it just describes [my character] holding his groceries as he’s watching the fire, and I for whatever reason, couldn’t understand that. Of everything I knew about being in situations like that, [I think it] seemed more active and more expressive. Kidman: You had to go through with him something like holding the groceries, which with some other director wouldn’t even come up, because he’s the writer-director? Affleck: Yeah. Exactly. Kidman: And he said, “It’s OK. I’m willing to move off that” or — Affleck: No; well he said, “Let’s talk about it.” I said, “I think that it’s this reason, that reason, let’s think about other parts of the scene first and then maybe that’ll fall into place.” And he was right. It did. The response to that tragedy that I was witnessing could have been done in a bunch of different ways, but if [my character] is the sort who closes down on himself and he just tries to hold onto the one thing he can hold
onto, it made the rest of the movie make sense. Kidman: That’s amazing! Affleck: Yeah, he’s really brilliant, and that’s why I wanted to do the movie. Kidman: I was so happy when they said I could do this with you, because the performance — I mean there’s maybe four or five performances I’ve seen where for some reason I have the reaction that I can’t get out of bed after I’ve seen it. Emily Watson in “Breaking the Waves,” you in this, because — and I’ll cry so I don’t want to cry now — but it’s an, it’s an extraordinarily deep, real, performance, and I think it’s incredibly male. I mean I think there’s a lot of women that may react that way, but as a woman watching it, there’s an understanding of a man in this situation, and that’s what’s so exquisite, because it is, as you said, you still feel the connection. It’s not like a cold, walking around, disconnect. Even though you are. So it’s unbelievably powerful. Affleck: Oh, that’s very nice. Thanks so much. I think that a lot of what works in it, whether it’s the men or women — Michelle Williams is in it — Kidman: She’s amazing in it, too. Affleck: She’s great. Kidman: Well that scene you two have is just, I mean it’s virtuoso. Affleck: I think the writing does so much of the work, because every single character in it, you feel like they’re a real human — if they’re on the screen for one minute, you go, oh wow, you totally understand that person. Kidman: Yeah! Affleck: “To Die For” is the first movie that I did. That was where I met you. Kidman: I remember.
I think the writing does so much of the work, because every single character in it, you feel like they’re a real human.” CASEY AFFLECK
Casey Affleck Awards/Noms: NBR win, Spirit award nom for lead in “Manchester by the Sea,” Oscar supporting actor nom for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” Select filmography: “Manchester by the Sea” (2016) “Interstellar” (2014) “Gone Baby Gone” (2007) “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (2007) “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) “To Die For” (1995)
‘SEA’ SIDE HEIGHTS
Casey Affleck with writer-director Kenneth Lonergan on the set of “Manchester by the Sea”
16 Actors on Actors Affleck: That was 23 years ago. Kidman: God. Let’s go back to you … Affleck: No, hang on — and in between then and now, you did “Birth,” “The Others” — Kidman: I did. Affleck: “Moulin Rouge” Kidman: Yeah. Yeah. Affleck: So many good movies to — oh my God, help me out. “Eyes Wide Shut.” Kidman: Yeah, a bunch of stuff. Affleck: A bunch of great stuff. Kidman: Yes, so lucky. Affleck: With incredible directors. Kidman: So lucky. You find certain people that you are just good with. And they find you and the rest is kind of easy. And then I tend to circle back and work with them again. Affleck: So what was the set like on “Lion”? Kidman: I’ll segue for you — Affleck: OK. Kidman: — because Garth Davis is friends with Jane Campion so, as for my circling around people and directors and coming back, that’s how I ended up with him. Affleck: Did you meet Garth through Jane Campion? Kidman: I knew of Garth because he directed three episodes of “Top of the Lake.” And Jane said, “This guy’s really good.” And then I read the script and Garth was in New York, and we just sat down and talked for an hour and a half about everything to do with
Nicole Kidman portrays a strong and principled adoptive mother in “Lion.”
life and maybe two minutes to do with the screenplay. Affleck: Did you go back to the real person [you played in the film]? Kidman: Yeah. Who’s subsequently become like a soulmate of mine. Affleck: Oh wow. Kidman: She’s really very nurturing and loving and maternal, which I’m always drawn to. Affleck: So when there’s a real person, do you use the details as much as you can? Or is that less important than the kind of essence of what they are in the movie? Kidman: Garth creates just a huge rehearsal period, and then kind of says, “Will this help?” And gives you things. Not so much with dialogue, he creates scenarios. And because I was working with a small child who was not an actor and spoke no English, that was most of the rehearsal for me, just spending time with both the children, because if you work with a child, they don’t come with any preparation, they’re just sort of there. Affleck: Yeah. Kidman: I had to do the work to have him let me, you know, be his mother. Affleck: What about the role itself attracted you? Kidman: Because I have adopted children, and [my character] Sue adopted two little boys from India, so that was probably the connecting tissue for me. And when she
I don’t know how else to explain it, but the way in which she behaves is, for me, the women I grew up with.” NICOLE KIDMAN
Nicole Kidman Awards/Noms: Won actress Oscar for “The Hours,” two more noms for “Moulin Rouge!,” “Rabbit Hole”; 10 Golden Globe noms, three wins Select filmography: “Lion” (2016) “The Hours” (2002) “The Others” (2001) “Moulin Rouge!” (2001) “To Die For” (1995) “Dead Calm” (1989)
speaks about having a vision when she was little, that she would adopt a brown-skinned child. Affleck: Right. Nice. Kidman: And that I totally related, and from that point on, I was like, OK. And then, being Australian, the idea of playing that very strong yet she’s just deeply Australian, Sue. I don’t know how else to explain it, but the way in which she behaves is, for me, the women I grew up with. Affleck: It’s a really complicated story but it just, it doesn’t seem like it is. Kidman: For me, the strongest part of that also was when he’s so frightened to tell her that he wants to find his birth mother, and that he’s done all of this. When she sees all the work he’s done, and it’s all there, and she says, “I can’t wait for her to meet you and see how beautiful you are.” I mean, as an adoptive mother, that is the essence of mothers. I love her, because I love you, and we’re all intertwined, which is what I believe in life anyway. But bringing it back to “Manchester,” it’s similar in the sense that it’s just people existing, trying to come to life, you know? Affleck: Yeah, that’s true. It’s a story about people going through their struggles and they’re all sort of different, and no one really knows exactly the moment that they’re in. Kidman: And it makes me cry, because I love it.
“THIRD TIME IS DEFINITELY THE CHARM FOR THIS SERIES. I THINK KUNG FU PANDA 3 IS THE BEST OF THEM ALL.” – PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE
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18 Scene Stealer
Margo Martindale “The Hollars” (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by James Strouse Directed by John Krasinski
argo Martindale is such a beloved character actress she actually voices a character named “Character Actress Margo Martindale” on Netflix’s animated dramedy “BoJack Horseman.” But the three-time Emmy winner (for FX’s “Justified” and “The Americans”) rarely finds a big screen role as meaty as matriarch Sally Hollar in “The Hollars.” The quirky indie directed by John Krasinski, who also plays her son, bowed at Sundance. Martindale drew her customary rave reviews, but she says the experience was anything but routine. GEOFF BERKSHIRE
Martindale: “I had done a commercial with John like 16 years ago. He was in college at the time and we really bonded. He had come to see me on Broadway before he got ‘The Office,’ and that was the last I saw him. When I was doing ‘The Millers’ with Will Arnett, he asked Will if he’d give him my number. [John] called me and said, ‘Do you remember me? Will you read this script?’ I said, ‘Of course! Like I haven’t been watching your career?’ “I loved the script. Jim Strouse, I love his writing, it’s very specific and surprising and everyday. He makes it special because his voice is unique to this family. “I loved the idea that this is a nice woman who loved her family and also the idea that a woman was facing a crisis in her life, I don’t know that I ever played that. I knew it was a quiet movie and it also made me laugh out loud, I loved that. And I loved the idea of Richard Jenkins [who plays Sally’s husband, Don] and me together. I knew him and we had wanted to work together. We had done a movie together [Tim Blake Nelson’s ‘Eye of God’] but we hadn’t [been in
The hospital room became a sort of character. There’s a sanctuary in a hospital room, there’s heightened emotion, heightened irreverence; comedy is easier in a hospital room.”
scenes] together. “I was there 14 days; the shoot was 22 days. It didn’t feel short of time; it never felt rushed. It felt complete to me. I’ve done $100,000 movies, this was at least a few million. I couldn’t have told you that this wasn’t a $30 million movie as far as being taken care of and feeling comfortable. “I didn’t even think about being in a hospital bed. It was like the movie happened to me. We were in a hospital room, my family came in, we communicated, we experienced our lives, we talked. The hospital room became a sort of character. There’s a sanctuary in a hospital room, there’s heightened emotion, heightened irreverence; comedy is easier in a hospital room. All of those things made it feel extremely real. “John being the director and going back and forth from actor to director, the bubble of that reality was never broken. It felt like there were no cameras; the director was an intimate part of the story. “I’ve worked with a lot of actor-directors in television, which I love: Tony Goldwyn, Adam Arkin, Bryan Cranston. Clint Eastwood I loved working with [on ‘Million Dollar Baby’]; it felt like there were no cameras there, it was a quiet set. “And there are many director-directors who are visionaries: George Miller and Robert Benton, who feels like an actor-director, Alexander Payne, who I absolutely adore. John felt like he had a great vision. He stuck to his guns, he didn’t settle. He knew what he wanted. He’s very deep thinking. I just love him. Having him as my son — all we had to do was hold on to each other and pray we don’t cry. Just looking at him made me cry. “It’s great to be my age because you’ve had many experiences already that you’ve lived through. I did try to find out about what happens when you have a seizure. The rest of it was about pushing my fear down, which is both Sally Hollar and Margo Martindale. “I had to suppress my feelings, to never let it erupt. And also be so aware that every word and every exchange with [Sally’s] children was important. It should be that way any day. [The role] forced you into that. You try to keep on track that this is just a mother taking care of her family, until she had to really face the reality of what was about to happen, to make it easier on people. She’s a very loving person. “I loved doing ‘Paris je t’aime’ with Alexander Payne, that was an incredibly fulfilling and transcending experience for me. This feels similar to that in my experience of that. It’s a less characterizing and more living. It was an oddly true, wonderfully fulfilling time for me. Acting is being, we always hear that, and this was past that somehow. I don’t think that happens very often.”
ANATOMY OF A SCENE
Affonso Gonçalves, editor Robert Hein, sound designer
n “Paterson,” a film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, the tale takes place over seven days following Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver with a ritualistic routine and a love for poetry. His idol is William Carlos Williams. Each morning he wakes around 6:15, checks his watch, and takes a moment to spend time admiring his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), before heading down for a bowl of Cheerios. He walks the same streets to work, drives the same route in the city of Paterson, N.J., before returning home to walk the couple’s dog, Marvin, and stopping off at bar to drink beer with the locals. DARON JAMES
Editor Affonso Gonçalves, known for “Winter’s Bone” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” came aboard with sound designer Robert Hein from “Precious” and “Blue Jasmine” to deliver the film’s rhythmic appeal. Paterson’s days unfold in a similar way so Gonçalves had to sell the idea of repetition without monotony. “We established a pattern early on and set up step-by-step how Paterson starts his morning, how he gets to the bus depot, and his life back home. Then on consecutive days we played with shots from different angles using the same sounds
or tried the same shot with a different set of sounds. It feels like you’re watching the same thing, but you’re not.” Sound followed tune by creating a track that evolved with the evolution of the characters and story. “We had to be very delicate with the balance of things to not make the sound repetitive but reflective,” Hein says. “So every day Paterson wakes up it’s a little different in terms to what he hears. Our intention was to have what he hears affect how he writes poetry and how he reacts to the world.” In building the relationship between Paterson and Laura, the editor sought to intertwine her idiosyncrasies into the story from the beginning. “We didn’t want her appearing only when Paterson comes home. She’s part of the pattern and as he is going through his day she is also going through hers. It became more a matter of when to place her character into the world,” Gonçalves says. “The same with Marvin, the first two days you see him interacting with them so you see him as a part of the fabric to their environment.” Before Paterson begins his bus route, he sits writing a poem into a notebook. We hear and see the words written onscreen — at times he even slips in and out of his poetic thoughts while driving. One time he is inspired by a box of Ohio Blue Tip matches and he turns nuances of its design into his adoration for Laura. While Hein built the bus audio from scratch using original recorded material, the challenging part for Gonçalves was how to visually introduce the poems and then tran-
We … set up step-by-step how Paterson starts his morning, how he gets to the bus depot, and his life back home.” AFFONSO GONCALVES
sition back into to the bus world. Blending Paterson’s changing perspective and sound achieved a balance between the city soundscape with his inner monologue. “When Paterson is off in his own thoughts you still hear conversations from the passengers on the bus,” Hein says. “You still hear the noise of the city but it’s like you’re hearing the sound through a barrier. What he hears is the catalyst to his writing and once he is writing in his head everything else takes a more subtle level. Then when his world is interrupted and he comes back to reality, it all comes crashing down on him in an overwhelming way.” Sounds of waterfalls, which Paterson visits for poetic inspiration, were woven in and out of the bus ride to further add to his dreamlike state, and visually, Gonçalves layered images to imitate the flow of water as his minds starts to wander. When Paterson experiences a personal setback, he finds himself sitting in front of waterfalls, spirits emptied until a tourist played by Masatoshi Nagase sits next to him. “That scene is beautiful,” Gonçalves says. “The pace of it is from me following Masatoshi. He’s savoring the moment in his own world and Paterson is in a completely different one. When they start talking and bonding, Paterson slowly opens up as he realizes they have the same love of poetry. “It was challenging because you have to respect the pace, but Robert was able to fill the negative spaces sonically with rich detail. It was important for you to feel that moment and I think we accomplished it.”
Sinking His Teeth Into Producing
’ve never been busier in my life,” says Ian Somerhalder. Even though his hit series “The Vampire Diaries” is wrapping its run after eight seasons, he’s making a plan for his future as a producer, with a new deal with Warner Bros. TV with his wife, Nikki Reed. And then there’s his passion project: his commitment to environmental causes, through his eponymous foundation. DEBRA BIRNBAUM
GROOMING: AMBER CROWE; HAIR: JOHN TARRO
You just announced a pod deal with Warner Bros. TV. What kind of shows do you want to make? All kinds of shows — scripted, unscripted, drama, comedy, docuseries, digital, all of it. The reality of it is telling good stories. Really good stories. That’s really all we want to do. Fortunately I’ve been able to work with some of the most incredible talent in this business. I’m excited to take the stuff that I’ve learned and use it as applied science. It’s exciting when you walk into a room or walk on a set and experience a problem that you possess the tools to find solutions effectively and economically. You’re also a correspondent for the docuseries “Years of Living Dangerously.” Why is that so important to you? Our greatest challenge of humanity is climate disrup-
PHOTOGRAPH BY HAROLD DANIELS
tion. Whether you want to believe it or not, it’s happening. You’re going to feel it. I personally feel that being involved with “Years” has been the single most important part of my professional life at this point. Will you be making series that address the climate issue? Absolutely. That’s something that we have in the works right now. I’m ecstatic to explore it. My dream as a kid was to be working as a scientist or on a Nat Geo expedition. I got to do that. And I’ve never been the same as a result. “The Vampire Diaries” is ending after eight seasons. How hard will it be to say goodbye? You want things to end on a good note. We really had an amazing run. It’s just
time. The real beauty of it is that it doesn’t actually come to an end. We have these incredible outlets where media just lives on. What would you like to see in the “Vampire Diaries” finale? Paul [Wesley] and I talk about this all the time. Damon’s 174 years old and in love with an 18-year-old. It’s the most unbelievable example of robbing the cradle, first of all. Secondly, these boys, they came into this town, they wreaked havoc, they ruined lives. Honestly, I think the best thing for Mystic Falls would be for these guys and all of these vampires and witches to just go away. Let Elena wake up and have these boys gone and never know any of this happened. A phenomenal, go humanity thing would be where these creatures don’t win. We would love to see the two boys go down to the Caribbean somewhere and sit on a beach drinking some rum, and as the sun comes up, just toast each other, give each other a hug, and take off their rings and throw them into the sea and let them just poof — turn into ash. I’ve created so much death and so much violence on this show that I think it would be such an amazing win for humanity if Damon and Stefan just went bye-bye. Let’s hope it happens.
Inside Toon Talk Creative forces behind animated awards contenders weigh in on their goals, the inspirations PHOTOGRAPHS BY
Mark Osborne DIRECTOR, “THE LITTLE PRINCE” “I wanted to let the book stay small, and I wanted to let it drive the movie and be the heart of the movie, but I wanted to tell a larger story about the power of the book, and that needed to stay very close to the book, and be sort of born out of the elements of the book. That turned out to be I think the biggest challenge.”
Conrad Vernon CO-DIRECTOR, “SAUSAGE PARTY” “We definitely went back to a Bob Clampett-style of animation. We had the rubber hose arms with the giant Mickey Mouse gloves, and the floppy Don Martin feet. But we also, you know when they would fall and stuff, we created multi-arms and wipes and things you’d see in a Chuck Jones cartoon.”
Mike Mitchell DIRECTOR, “TROLLS” “The technology’s gotten so sophisticated that you can make things look real. We wanted to make things look handmade, and made out of, instead of grass, we had carpet, and our trees were felted, and the characters, instead of skin, were like Gummy Bears flocked in velvet. And we hired artists to build forests out of felt.”
Garth Jennings DIRECTOR, “SING” “We have four children, and my wife gave up her job to raise our kids, and then when she tried to go back, it was really tricky, for all kinds of reasons. The fact that it seemed like the world was closed to her, that she felt like she was too old, huge ups and downs, a crisis of confidence. … And it was it was going through that with her that inspired the character Rosita. …There are scenes in the film where Rosita is trying to talk to her husband, and her children are eating at the table, and they can hardly hear each other, and those were recorded at my dinner table with four children.”
Rich Moore CO-DIRECTOR, “ZOOTOPIA” “I don’t like and all my life I’ve never liked movies that are talking down to me as a kid, as an adult, you know where they’re trying to kind of preach a message. I like things that have something to say, and are about something substantial so … it was very important to me that it never came off as getting on a soap box.”
Travis Knight DIRECTOR, “KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS” “I think the interesting thing about just the medium we work in is that because it is a stylization, because it’s removed from reality, in some way it’s an abstraction, it does allow you to explore some things that are a part of everyday life in a way that takes a little bit of the sting out it, so you can talk about something that’s really important, really relevant to people’s lives, but do it in a stylized, fantastic, animated way, where people can see it and enjoy it, but then hopefully reflect on what the beating heart, what the meaning is underneath it.”
Michael Dudok de Wit DIRECTOR, “THE RED TURTLE” “Music and sound design were crucial. If you don’t have dialogue, there’s danger of losing empathy. And my sound designer suggested a very simple trick. We recorded the breathing of the main characters throughout the film very subtly but you hear it. And that carries unconsciously, subconsciously.”
FROM THE PRODUCERS OF ERNEST & CELESTINE AND SONG OF THE SEA
”A GORGEOUS PIECE OF WIDE-SCREEN ANIMATION THAT IS AS DELIGHTFUL AS IT IS UNEXPECTED.” - KENNETH TURAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES
”ACTION, DANGER, A JOURNEY, A COMING-OF-AGE, HEARTWARMING AND HEARTBREAKING MOMENTS, HANDSOME ANIMATION AND A STRONG STATEMENT OF GIRL POWER.” - MIKE HALE, THE NEW YORK TIMES
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Ron Clements and John Musker dove into Polynesia for their seventh feature.
Disney Vets Ride the Tide ‘Moana’s’ seasoned writer-director team have seen it all at the Mouse House, and learned new CGI tricks for the feature By Terry Flores
BRIAN BOWEN SMITH
on Clements and John Musker have just about seen it all in their 30-some years at Disney. They are largely credited — as the creative powers behind 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” — with launching Disney’s animation renaissance following a period of less-than-successful films for the studio. Today, their seventh animated collaboration, “Moana,” is the writer-directors’ first CG-animated project; Jared Bush wrote the screenplay.
We had to learn a whole new pipeline. Once into the production process, it is a different thing.” JOHN MUSKER
“Moana” tells the tale of a head-strong teen who defies her village’s ban on sailing the ocean in order to save them from destruction. The movie has been a learning experience for the seasoned veterans. “We had to learn a whole new pipeline,” Musker says. “The way to get from script to storyboard is the same, but once you get into the production process, it is a different thing. It’s less linear.” In hand-drawn animation, artists go from storyboards to drawing the sets and figuring out where the cameras are going to be, to character animation, followed by cleanup, painting, then placing that on a painted background. “Then you’ve got a finished scene shot-by-shot,” he explains. “In CG, it’s much more erratic. You’re shown scenes that are animated, but you say ‘Is that the real sky?’ And [the animators] say, ‘Forget about the sky. That’s not the real sky. We’ll put that in later.’ Then we ask, ‘Is that tree going to be the real tree?’ And they say, ‘No, that’s not the real tree.’ ‘What about those rocks?’ ‘No, they’re not going to be there. You’re just looking at this one thing.’”
“ ‘Are you OK with the sparkle on this thing?’ “ interjects Clements. In many ways, the processes are flopped, they say. Getting started goes much more quickly in traditional, hand-drawn animation, than it does in CG. “Very broadly, in 2D you can get going faster,” says Musker. “I have a piece of paper and a pencil, and if I want to explore how a character looks or moves, I just go. You do it instantly. In CG, you have to sort of build that character in the computer. You have to rig it to control how it’s going to move. But once you get going, you iterate more because everything’s sort of there. Or you can reiterate just parts of scenes more easily, where if you had to redraw the scene in 2D it would be a kind of nightmare.” To prove the point, Clements points out that while they’ve been working on the film for about five years, “We really got going on the production in January. The bulk of the film has been made just since then.” In some ways Moana’s journey mirrors Musker and Clements’ own as they’ve weathered the choppy seas at Disney over the past 30-odd years. Clements and Musker came to the studio in the 1970s excited about animation, but the studio was going through a difficult period after founder Walt Disney died in 1966. The executives at the time were still trying to decide if they wanted to continue making animated features and weren’t really looking toward the future. “I came to Disney a year or so before CalArts started its character animation program, then there was a period when there were a lot of young people coming into Disney very excited, very passionate about animation and looking to the future,” says Clements. “But the films actually being made at the time weren’t necessarily the most inspiring,” adds Musker. “Tim Burton, Brad Bird, we all came from CalArts. Maybe Brad was the most gung-ho of anybody: ‘Yeah, man animation! We can change the world!” We had this rose-colored view because at CalArts, it was a utopian world where everyone could have an idea and everyone is listened to. It was so collaborative. Then we got into the real world and there was hierarchy and bureaucracy. You were not necessarily encouraged about your ideas at times by certain people.” Says Clements: “I think here was a feeling at Disney that it was exciting to be there and learn the craft, but everybody was waiting and wanting to do something. We went through our own personal dark period with ‘The Black Cauldron,’ which is a story in itself. ‘Black Cauldron’ was a very difficult film that took a long time to make. We were on it for about a year and then they broke off a little satellite group of people who were really frustrated, and that group went on to make ‘The Great Mouse Detective.’ John
BY THE SEA
“Moana” stars the voices of Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho.
was actually brought on to help direct ‘Black Cauldron.’ Musker adds that although he was brought on as a younger voice, “the older people I was working with didn’t like any of my ideas. We had Tim Burton doing designs that were so great, but the directors looked at them and said, ‘Nah, these are too weird. Get rid of these.’” It was about this time that big changes were happening in Disney’s corporate offices. Saul Steinberg was trying to engineer a corporate takeover of the company. “If he’d bought it, his intention was to break up the company, sell its assets, make a lot of money and, essentially, kind of destroy it,” Clements recalls. “The film library, the parks, there wouldn’t be a Disney anymore. But that didn’t happen.” Adds Musker: “Instead, Roy Disney paired up with the Bass brothers from Texas and they pulled in Frank Wells from Warner Bros. and Michael Eisner from Paramount ...” “... who brought in Jeffrey Katzenberg and then everything changed really, really dramatically,” continues Clements. “Out of that, I would say ‘Roger Rabbit’ was the first thing that really kind of woke people up.” Musker and Clements had worked together at the studio for years before they got the chance to direct “The Little Mermaid,” which began a new string of animated hits for Disney. “I pitched ‘The Little Mermaid’ in a gong show for Jeffrey Katzenberg,” recalls Clements. “The gong show was a thing Michael Eisner brought over from Paramount. He
brought in a bunch of story guys and directors and had everybody bring in five new ideas for animated features. I had come up with five ideas, but this was the one I’d liked best. I had gone into a bookstore and I read ...” “You stood in the bookstore reading, too cheap to buy the book,” interjects Musker with a chuckle. “No, I bought the book,” Clements fires back. “I still have the book.” “Yeah, yeah. You bought the book,” says Musker. “It was a book of fairy tales and one of them was ‘The Little Mermaid,’ “ Clements goes on. “I had never read it before and it seemed like it had a lot of potential. I wrote a basic two-page outline, but when we reconvened in the gong show, it was gonged.” The studio was in the process of developing a sequel to the live-action mermaid romance “Splash,” and thought it would overlap too much. “But two days later, they’d read my treatment and liked it. They called me back and said, ‘We actually think there’s something to this and we want to develop it,’” Clements recalls. The two turned again to literary sources when they pitched the idea for their new film, but initially the main character wasn’t a plucky young woman but a tricky demi-god. “When we were casting about for ideas for a new film after ‘The Princess and the Frog,’ one of the arenas we were looking at was the Pacific islands,” says Musker. “I was intrigued by the Pacific islands, having read
We came back with a new pitch, saying, ‘This is the world we found and the lessons we learned.’ ” RON CLEMENTS
novels by Melville and Conrad, and seeing paintings by Paul Gaugin that made them look so beautiful. It seemed a rich environment to build a story on. And that led me to read Polynesian mythology, which I’d never read before. It was an amazing, rich vein of storytelling. I discovered in that there was a character named Maui, who I’d never heard of other than the Hawaiian island. He was shape-shifter who had a magical fish hook that could pull islands up from the sea. He had these great epic tales built around him.” He showed the stories to Clements and they pitched the idea to Disney Animation Studio chief John Lasseter about five years ago. “John said, ‘I love this arena. It’s intriguing, but you guys have to dig a lot deeper into the research.’” After research trips to Fiji, Tahiti, and Samoa, they threw out the original story except for Maui and shifted the focus to the area’s tradition of navigation and the 1,000year period when the people didn’t sail, turning it into a coming-of-age tale about a teenage girl who reawakens a new era of navigation. “So we came back with a new pitch, saying, ‘This is the world we found and the lessons we learned. They think of the ocean as alive and a real character. What better medium than animation to make the ocean live? We heard phrases like ‘You’ve got to know your mountain,’ that unless you know your lineage and where you came from, you don’t know where you are or who you are,” says Musker. And if anyone knows their mountain, it’s got to be Musker and Clements.
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Oscar’s French Connection Gallic animators and producers are shaking up the toon world with fresh voices and styles By Elsa Keslassy
rance appears to have firmed up its reputation as home to the world’s second biggest animation industry behind the U.S. — for proof, look no further than this year’s Oscar animated feature race. In the mix are Mark Osborne’s “The Little Prince,” Franck Ekinci and Christian Desmares’ “April and the Extraordinary World,” Claude Barras’ “My Life as a Zucchini,” Remi Chaye’s “Long Way North,” Michael Dudok de Wit’s “The Red Turtle,” Alexandre Heboyan and Benoît Philippon’s “Mune, Guardian of the Moon,” and Alain Gagnol and JeanLoup Felicioli’s “Phantom Boy.” Two more animation entries, “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Sing” from Illumination MacGuff, were entirely created in France. Although these films have different animation styles, tones, approach, and scopes, they all have a Gallic element in common: a French director and/or producer, or they were made in France with local creatives. “France has a very strong auteur filmmaking tradition, of course, so that’s a big piece of it. But it also has some of the best animation schools and talent, government support, a vibrant co-production environment, and a domestic market that supports independent animation,” says Eric Beckman, co-founder and president of GKids, the U.S.’ biggest supporter of European toons. This year, it’s got “My Life as a Zucchini,” “Mune,” “Phantom Boy,” and “April and the Extraordinary World,” among others, on its slate. Indeed, Paris’ prestigious Gobelins School of the Image has become so popular among U.S. studios — from Disney to Illumination and DreamWorks Animation — as a source of fresh talent that this year it launched an English-language master of arts in character
Tooned Up Animated films from France or with a Gallic provenance in the Oscar race
The Little Prince Director: Mark Osborne
April and the Extraordinary World Directors: Franck Ekinci, Christian Desmares
My Life as a Zucchini Director: Claude Barras
Long Way North Director: Remi Chaye
The Red Turtle Director: Michael Dudok de Wit
Mune, Guardian of the Moon Directors: Alexandre Heboyan, Benoît Philippon
Phantom Boy Directors: Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
The Secret Life of Pets Directors: Yarrow Cheney, Chris Renaud
Sing Director: Garth Jennings
animation and animated filmmaking. France’s track record in animation features also stems from its large pool of topnotch producers such as Les Armateurs, Sacrebleu Prods., as well as distribution house Gebeka Films, and its leadership in TV animation — a heavily subsidized industry that requires TV channels to pre-buy and program homegrown toon shows. And animation in France is considered a crown jewel of local culture and as such is nurtured not only by schools but also by film festivals, such as Annecy Animation Film Festival or even Cannes Film Festival, including Directors’ Fortnight. Indeed, auteur-driven prestige toons have been gaining ground at international festivals. For instance, “The Red Turtle” premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard and won the special jury prize (Sony Pic-
tures Classics distributes in the U.S.), while “My Life as a Zucchini,” a GKids pickup, premiered in Directors’ Fortnight and was chosen by Switzerland to rep the country in the Oscar’s competitive foreign-language race. French animators also benefit from a vibrant short film culture, says Gilles Renouard, co-managing director of Unifrance. He points to the record 14 French animated shorts (out of 70) in the running for this year’s Oscars and the previous wins of 2009’s “Logorama” and 2013’s “Mr. Hublot.” The wide-ranging selection of films with French directors, partners or makers also underscores how global the animation business has become on every level. Case in point: A wordless tale of a lone castaway surviving on a desert island, “The Red Turtle” was directed by Dudok de
Clockwise, “The Little Prince,” “Sing,” “April and the Extraordinary World,” and “Long Way North,” are some of the quality animated pics coming from France.
Wit, a Dutch-born, London-based animator (whose 2000 short “Father and Daughter” won an Oscar), co-written by French director Pascale Ferran (“Bird People”), and co-produced by France’s Why Not Prods. (“I, Daniel Blake”) and Japan’s iconic Studio Ghibli. On a bigger scale, “The Little Prince,” a reimagining of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 children’s classic, was directed by “Kung Fu Panda” director Mark Osborne and produced by French outfit ON Entertainment with a budget of $75 million-plus. The movie pioneered a breed of big-budget French toon pics showcasing a U.S. creative input; next up is Quad Films with “Ballerina.” Assembling international teams has also proven the right recipe for Illumination MacGuff, whose Paris studio is mainly staffed with Gallic creatives.
France … has some of the best animation schools and talent.” ERIC BECKMAN
“I think our international crew component helps us in a huge way to appeal globally. We rely on the good ideas of the artists at every step of the way as part of our process, and we benefit always from the expansive talents and unique perspectives that our diversity provides,” says Illumination MacGuff’s Paris-based producer Janet Healy. She also acknowledged the major role played by French production designer Eric Guillon, on both “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Sing.” In terms of international sales and foreign box office prospects, French animation is a huge driving force. As much as 90% of all French animated features travel abroad and most, if not all, of French animated films find U.S. distributors, says Renouard. He notes that a trio of French toons — “The Little Prince,” “Asterix and the Domain of the Gods,” and “Mune” — repped 20% of Gallic films’ ticket sales outside the country in 2015. With nearly $100 million in worldwide box office, “The Little Prince,” produced by Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam, is France’s most successful animated film to date, with nearly 12.5 million admissions. “Smart family content is indeed in high demand internationally,” says Anna Marsh, head of international sales at Studiocanal, which reps “April and the Extraordinary World.” “Both arthouse theatrical circuits and SVOD platforms have a real appetite for quality animation, not to mention physical DVD sales which, for this genre, are still very much alive.” Marsh says arthouse animated pics have also proven a viable economic bet for distributors looking for an alternative to studio movies. The role played by digital players such as Netflix and multi-platform distribs like Shout! Factory have also optimized the commercial potential and exposure of non-Hollywood animated films beyond the Los Angeles and New York theatrical audiences. “With their millions of subscribers around the world, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are allowing our films to reach mass audiences in U.S. for the first time and without necessitating gigantic P&A spends, and as a result, they’re enabling audiences to discover the eclecticism of animation production,” says Soumache. Netflix mounted a limited day-and-date theatrical release for “The Little Prince” in the U.S. to qualify for awards consideration. Cross-platform Shout! Factory has also been active on the arthouse animated film front and is pushing for “Long Way North” to clinch an Oscar nomination. “Since digital distribution creates a wealth of opportunities and an accessible playing field for independents, we work diligently to maximize sales in that channel,” says Melissa Boag, senior VP of family entertainment
at Shout! Factory and Shout! Factory Kids. The combined work of traditional arthouse distributors like Sony Pictures Classics, which previously handled animated films “Persepolis” and “Waltz With Bashir,” as well as dedicated animation distributor GKids, has played a key part in getting Academy voters as well as world cinema lovers and adult audiences to embrace these director-driven features. Beckman calls the increased appeal of arthouse animation the “Kirikou” effect, referring to Michel Ocelot’s cult hit. “We are still reaping the benefits of the ‘Kirikou’ effect, where a highly original, auteur-driven film was also a big financial success,” he says. “This led directly to ‘Triplets of Belleville,’ ‘Secret of Kells,’ and ‘Ernest and Celestine’ from ‘Kirikou’ producer Didier Brunner, and tons of other French producers piled into animation as well, bringing us ‘Persepolis,’ ‘A Cat in Paris’ as well as ‘My Life as a Zucchini,’ ‘Mune,’ ‘Phantom Boy,’ and ‘April and the Extraordinary World.’” Because they’re working with more contained budgets than U.S. films, French animators often have more freedom to experiment with new visual styles or place more emphasis on the story and characters. Making his directorial debut with “Long Way North,” Chaye, a former first assistant director on such films as the Oscar-nommed “The Secret of Kells,” acknowledged that he took a gamble with the film’s minimalist graphic style to focus on narration and characters’ emotions rather than the animation’s details. “Our idea was to find a graphic style that would ignite the imagination and let it fill the blanks, because when too many details are given, it tends to dampen the imagination,” says Chaye. His film follows the epic journey of a strong-headed young Russian aristocrat in the 19th century who sets off the find her grandfather, an explorer, in the North Pole. “My Life as a Zucchini,” the debut feature from Swiss director Barras, based on a script from Céline Sciamma (“Girlhood”), also dares to tackle drama, a genre that U.S. studios shy away from in animation. The film, adapted from a children’s novel, turns on a boy dealing with his mother’s sudden death and who is placed in a foster home. While Pixar/Illumination-style films are bound to dominate the box office for the foreseeable future, Beckman predicts “more and more films will break that mold ... as there are more and more ways to get a film distributed without a $30 million P&A budget. “There is a growing appetite for different kinds of animated filmmaking, from families looking for alternatives to mainstream fare, to adult audiences looking for new cinematic experiences, to a wide and passionate audience of people who grew up with Japanese animation,” Beckman says.
Diversity Key to Laika’s Output Portland’s quirky production house puts women in strong roles By Karen Idelson
rom the beginning, stop-motion animation house Laika set itself apart from the rest. The company is based in Oregon. It focuses on a technique that gives its stories a deeply unique look, and uses pioneering technology like rapid prototyping to create its films. And, while many studios lag behind in putting together a diverse workforce, it turns out women hold significant creative roles in the organization. Costume designer Deborah Cook; head of production Arianne Sutner; creative supervisor of puppet fabrication Georgina Hayns; and Alice Bird, art director on “Kubo and the Two Strings,” are four of the high-profile women creating, managing and collaborating on Laika’s films. “With our boss, Travis Knight, he’s just looking for talent, for effective people,” says Sutner, who was a producer on “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “ParaNorman.” “The more diverse we can become, the richer the kinds of stories we can tell.” Bird, art director on “Kubo and the Two Strings,” has been with the company for six years and found it easy to make a home at the stop-motion studio. With a steady flow of material that pushed boundaries and a supportive crew, it became the best of all worlds. “It’s definitely true that there are some experienced women in more concentration at Laika than there are at other companies,” says Bird, who notes that having Sutner on staff is one of the things that drew her there.
Georgina Hayns works with sculptor Christy Becker on a puppet for “Kubo and the Two Strings.”
‘Kubo’ by the Numbers
Height of skeleton puppet
External pieces on Beetle’s armor
Number of feathers on each sisters’ cape
“[Sutner] is a really warm and engaging person who makes an effort to get to know her staff.” Hayns, creative supervisor of puppet fabrication with credits on “The Boxtrolls,” “ParaNorman,” and “Coraline,” also believes the company attracts the kind of quirky talents who can find kindred spirits at Laika and feel comfortable in the eclectic Portland area. “Artists who come here often have highly specialized talents that work well in one of the few parts of animation that’s still truly hands-on,” she says. There are special legal benefits for those working in the state that make the company even more appealing for some. Oregon offers 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid maternity or paternity leave, California doesn’t have job-protected leave. This makes the already family-friendly state even more attractive for residents. “I never thought it was going to be the end of my career if I had a baby,” says Hayns, who has two young children and feels supported by Laika on a personal level as well. “Some industries are not like that.” Since animated films often take years to complete, Hayns has been able to coordinate and plan with fellow crew members to
structure her leave so that it wouldn’t disrupt production. Laika has been attracting strong female talents for a decade. Cook, the lauded costume designer who worked on “Kubo,” “The Boxtrolls,” “Corpse Bride,” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” arrived at the studio 10 years ago just as it was launching. Though she thought she’d just help out with a few projects, she quickly began to see the company as a great place to stay. Cook saw that the studio developed material that brought her strong creative challenges and the company also attracted other talents who were solid collaborators. It was a combination that made the studio just right for her. “Before I came to Laika, I’d worked in quite a few places where I was the only woman or one of two [women],” says Cook. “We’re a pretty strong bunch here and we’re drawn to each other, I think.” Hayns agrees and also believes the company is focused on attracting talent more than anything. “People from all walks of life, all countries come here to work on these movies,” she says. “What they’re really looking for is people with an enthusiasm to make things.”
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Gender Toon Up Women in Animation targets hiring initiatives to get more female talent in creative posts By Karen Idelson
nimation is often seen as a part of the industry friendly to families and women because the longer production cycles for each feature – typically three to five years – mean more steady employment and opportunity to attend to life’s demands outside of filmmaking. But women still have a long way to go before they’re equally represented in animated features and television shows. Statistics from the animation guild, IATSE 839, paint the picture for animators. Right now about 3,800 artists, writers and technicians work under the guild’s jurisdiction in
and around Los Angeles and slightly more than 23% of this number are women. Roughly 18 months ago, around 21% were female, so the number is climbing a bit. That’s still not fast enough for Women in Animation co-chair Marge Dean, who is working with the organization on a 50-50 by 2025 initiative that aims to see an equal split
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of jobs for men and women on animation productions by the year 2025. Though such animation schools as CalArts report that more than 70% of their program is made up of female students, women are still underrepresented in hiring at most studios. “Women are pushed into producer positions or into production assistant jobs and
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Kathy McNeal’s “Roadside Assistance” is staffed with 50% women.
Women in Animation
Workers in the animation guild, including Marge Dean and Kathy McNeal (above)
they aren’t encouraged to become creators or storytellers,” says Dean. “We want to encourage women to become creators and animators, to do their own projects and have their own creative voice.” Part of the process, according to Dean and animation director Kathy McNeal, will also need to involve educating women about sal-
Women in the animation guild
Percentage of women in CalArts animation program
ary negotiations and opportunities as well as giving women access to production. “I’ve had to become more determined to get my film into production,” says McNeal, who is in production on the animated short “Roadside Assistance,” which was deliberately staffed with a 50-50 balance of both women and men. “And I’ve encouraged the women on this project to become more confident about their ideas and be more active expressing their opinions.” “Roadside Assistance” is being made with a small budget through the Nimble Collective platform, which is designed to provide a production pipeline for content producers. For McNeal, it provided the chance to jumpstart a dream production. WIA was launched in 1995 with the aim of helping women advance their careers in the animation industry. Recently, Walt Disney Animation came on board as the org’s first corporate sponsor, which has helped WIA continue to host a slate of events and increase its mentorship program. In addition to their Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York chapters, there are also WIA groups in India, France, England, and Ireland. Student-based chapters can be found in Detroit, New York, Atlanta, Savannah, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto,
Montreal, Dublin, and Seoul. On top of the 50-50 by 2025 initiative, the organization sponsors a short film program, mentorship and professional development programs, and a scholarship for animation students. Their advisory board comprises many high-profile execs from companies across the industry such as Bonnie Arnold, co-president of feature animation at DreamWorks Animation; Julia Pistor, vice president and executive producer at Mattel; and Jennifer Dodge, senior vice president of development & production for Nickelodeon preschool. With these resources, Dean hopes to push for greater parity in hiring, as well as a chance to educate and mentor women so they can actively advocate for themselves. And filmmakers like McNeal think being in the position to hire and cultivate women animators, directors, and writers is crucial to forging a path for the next generation entering the workforce. “I think women need to support each other and encourage each other and become each other’s mentors so we can pay our experience forward,” says McNeal, whose film is described as showing that unlikely outcomes can happen when time, effort, and collaboration are given to an idea.
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Thomas Newman’s “Passengers” score utilized both piano and electronics.
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Going Where No Scores Have Gone Before Composers Johann Johannsson, Thomas Newman chart unexplored worlds with sci-ﬁ scores By Jon Burlingame
THERE ARE MANY CLASSIC SCIENCE-FICTION SCORES, from the all-electronic “Forbidden Planet” to the all-classical “2001: A Space Odyssey.” So the challenge for today’s film composer working in the sci-fi genre is to find a fresh approach. For “Arrival,” Iceland-born, Berlin-based Johann Johannsson used the film’s theme of communication between humans and extraterrestrial visitors as his starting point, with much of the music based on unusual vocal sounds. For “Passengers,” set on a spaceship traveling to a distant planet, L.A.-based Thomas Newman employed a hybrid orchestra-plus-electronics approach for the people on board and the crises they face. “I knew from the time I read the script that the human voice would play a big part in the score, and that there would be a lot of writing for voices,” Johannsson says about his third film for director Denis Villeneuve. “But I wanted very unconventional, avant-garde, extended-technique choral writing as opposed to the more traditional choir sounds.” Johannsson’s unearthly soundscape, which unfolds as Amy Adams’ linguistics expert character tries to understand the alien language, involves both voices and modernist musical techniques. “There are circular motifs in the film — the logogram the aliens use, their written language. So I wanted to work with loops. “We created a 16-track tape loop and used that to create a variety of textures, one of which was based on three different grand pianos, layered. We recorded only the sustained tone and not the attack,
What is the notion of future? What kind of music would they be listening to? I had to play to conventions of what a space movie would sound like.” THOMAS NEWMAN
so it’s a continuous, ever-shifting texture of low piano wire, acoustic instruments recorded on tape at various speeds, and layered. Purely analog sources.” As for the voices, Johannsson reports, there are no lyrics. Rather, “we are using vowels, sounds, the voice as a textural instrument. I wanted to approach the voices in a way that I hadn’t heard before in cinema.” He went to Copenhagen to record “the very trained and disciplined” choir of contemporary-music ensemble Theatre of Voices, then recorded “more individual voices that came from an entirely different direction,” including singers Robert Lowe and Joan La Barbara and cellist-singer Hildur Guonadóttir. Lowe, for example, conjured “a very ethereal, otherworldly” sound in his throat which Johannsson mixed into the analog tape loop to send Villeneuve during the first week of shooting. The director liked what he heard and asked for more. “I tried to keep the voices as natural and pure as possible,” Johannsson says. “They are very much layered, and to a certain extent recorded in unorthodox ways. But the overtones and harmonics you hear in the vocals are human sounds, produced by the singers themselves.” As for the orchestra, “it’s not very melodic. It’s influenced by spectral music and a very textural way of using the orchestra; there is layering and processing of various elements.” Low strings, low wood-
NEWMAN: ROGER ASKEW/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; JOHANNSON: DEUTSCHE GRAMMPHON
Johann Johannsson used tape loops to sculpt “Arrival’s” sound.
winds, and some brass predominate. He says he spent “nine to 11 months” on the score As with his previous score for Villeneuve’s “Sicario,” music and sound design often blend in “Arrival.” “I work very much with sound,” says Johannsson, “and, increasingly, the lines are being blurred.” Morten Tyldum’s film “Passengers” marked Newman’s second foray into science fiction; previously he had done Pixar’s “Wall-E.” This, however, was live action, and very different: much of the movie deals with just two humans (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) on a journey to a far-off planet. The composer wrestled with the notion of the right sound. “What is the notion of future? What kind of music would they be listening to?” he asks. He didn’t want to “get caught in the trap of trying to create futuristic music, which then has to be a kind of justifiable language.” Ultimately, he decided, “I had to play to the conventions of what a space movie would sound like.” But, he points out, “It wouldn’t just be moody space music. It’s a relationship that takes place over time. There were opportunities for many different tones. Late in the movie, it goes into an action realm; before that, it’s more in a relationship realm with some curves and mazes in it.” Starting in July, Newman enlisted the help of key soloists, writing and recording with woodwind player Steve Tavaglione, programmer
Thomas Newman and Johann Johannson took very different approaches to composing for science-fiction films.
John Beasley, guitarist George Doering, and percussionist Dan Greco, finding sounds that seemed right. “There was a lot of experimenting,” Newman admits. “What is she thinking right now? What is he thinking? And how is that expressed in music? Is the music supporting loneliness? Or humor? It was a huge discovery process. You put two pieces of music against the same scene and they do slightly different things.” Newman doesn’t define the score as piano-driven, but he concedes there is considerable “featured” piano — which he plays himself — and a liberal use of electronics. “I would like to think that it’s not overly electronic, but it is electronically based,” he says. The piano and electronics lend a very contemporary sound. “There is drive and pace to a lot of the music,” Newman says. Yet he also did seven orchestra dates, including 60 strings and 13 brass players, finally recording 96 minutes of music. The more traditional orchestral sounds add a size and dimension befitting a space odyssey. “The big thing was that it had to refine and sharpen the tone of the images and the sense of character interaction,” Newman says. “It was just trying to make the movie more of what it already was.” Back in September, “Passengers” writer Jon Spaihts tweeted: “I wrote ‘Passengers’ listening to Thomas Newman. Now he’s scoring the film. Dream come true.”
“Hacksaw Ridge” used synthesizers to convey the hellishness of war.
Sounds of Strife ‘Allied,’ ‘Hacksaw’ reach beyond war movie clichés By Jon Burlingame
Scoring Stage Generals
Alan Silverstri and Rupert Gregson-Williams created music for Mel Gibson and Robert Zemeckis’ latest epics.
interesting working with Mel on sound; he doesn’t hold back. He chose some quite powerful moments.” There is also choir, but used sparingly, Gregson-Williams says. “I didn’t want to dose the whole thing in choir. But there was a moment up on the ridge where Desmond questions his faith; he doesn’t know whether he should abandon the ridge. He kneels down. I wanted to invoke something there.” The composer turned to three soloists: renowned British cellist Caroline Dale, electric cellist Peter Gregson, and – surprisingly – his own voice. “We can make the electric cello sing,” he says. A trained chorister, Gregson-Williams sings himself, “in a couple of places, very high, a sort of countertenor. It gives the score a magical purity; it’s another reflection of that early-music sound,” he explains. For “Allied,” his 16th film with director Robert Zemeckis, composer Silvestri was flown to London, the day after principal photography wrapped, to watch the first assembly with his filmmaking partner of more than three decades (encompassing “Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump” and “Cast Away”). Silvestri says he spent weeks searching for the right approach. For the opening, as Brad Pitt parachutes into the North African desert, he recalls Zemeckis saying, “I don’t really want to give away anything we don’t have to.” So the music “doesn’t say anything
about 1942, or the Germans. That’s not what the movie is about.” The composer searched for what he calls “a point of access” and found it in a line that Pitt says halfway through the film, when questions arise about his wife (Marion Cotillard): “C’est la guerre.” That inspired a delicate theme for their family. “I started to think of that as an anthemic piece of music that somehow addresses the paradox of what we’re seeing,” Silvestri says. “You’re seeing the most beautiful event known to man taking place, this birth of a new life, in the midst of the most horrible things known to man: death, destruction, brutality.” Interestingly, Silvestri never alludes to the period in his score and, he adds, “it wasn’t an action score on any level. Yes, it was about war, but I didn’t need to play this as a World War II movie.” So he also augmented his 80-piece orchestra with “tons of tracks of electronics all through the movie.” The period was reflected not through the dramatic score but through newly recorded versions of classic 1940s-era songs including “The Sheik of Araby,” “You Are My Lucky Star,” and especially “Sing, Sing Sing.” They decided against licensing the master recordings of the original hits because of “the recording technology of the day,” Silvestri says. “Our perception of the sound of these is sometimes different than the reality.”
GREGSON-WILLIAMS: BENJAMIN EALOVEGA; SILVESTRI: STEPHEN LOVEKIN/VARIETY/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
ar-movie scores aren’t just military drums and brass bands anymore. The music is as much about the men as about the battle. That was made clear this year with Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music for “Hacksaw Ridge” and Alan Silvestri’s score for “Allied.” “Hacksaw Ridge” director Mel Gibson tracked down English composer Gregson-Williams after hearing his work on this summer’s “The Legend of Tarzan” and offered him the film about Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the pacifist combat medic who won a Medal of Honor for saving 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa. “We didn’t want to make him into a conventional action hero,” says Gregson-Williams. Instead, based on Doss’ religious convictions, he wrote a theme “that harks back to ancient religious harmonies ... something a little psalm-like. My idea was to keep it simple, because Desmond was not complex. I wanted to give him some faith without being pious.” For the early home scenes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, he added a subtle touch of guitar. Gibson chose, however, to play the first 12 minutes of battle scenes without any music. “It’s just the realism of war,” the composer says. Music does play a key role throughout that second half of the film, with orchestra augmented with synthesizers. “With synths, you can create other atmospheres that you’ve never heard before. Plus, as we got onto the ridge, I wanted to make us feel like we were in hell. Synths enable you to crackle and push and tighten the rope more effectively than just orchestra.” And later on, he notes, as the music reflects the Americans being overrun by the Japanese, “we chose to lose some of the sounds of war. So the music rises above it and gets your heart pounding. It was quite
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“EVEN MORE MINE” Music and Lyrics by
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James Newton Howard’s “Fantastic Beasts” score introduced a new batch of memorable themes.
Fantastic Beats and Where to Hear Them John Williams and James Newton Howard conjure old-school musical magic By Jon Burlingame
agic, wizarding, giants, strange creatures — fantasy always needs music to help us suspend disbelief and imagine new worlds. This year, two of Hollywood’s most acclaimed composers tackled big special-effects fantasies: five-time Oscar winner John Williams, in his 27th film with director Steven Spielberg, “The BFG”; and eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard, launching the J.K. Rowling franchise “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” “I loved doing it, because it was a change from a lot of the things we’ve done,” says Williams of “BFG.” “It was done with such feeling and such humanity that it represented a charming palette for me.”
For Williams, the orphan girl Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and her adventure with a Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) “was really an opportunity to compose and orchestrate a little children’s fantasy for orchestra.” He likened the experience to working on “Home Alone” 26 years ago, especially “the lightheartedness and fun of it. Even when scenes are threatening or ominous, we know that it’s not serious.” Williams composed more than 90 minutes of music for an 85-piece L.A. orchestra, including especially virtuosic parts for the flute section. “We tried to animate these little dreams that flit about the screen with flutes and harps and wispy harmonies,” the composer adds. “BFG” was based on a 1982 children’s novel by British writer Roald Dahl, whom Williams often encountered at the home of his friend and collaborator, director Robert Altman, in the late 1960s. “He seemed to be a tweedy, literary type,” Williams recalls, noting that he “had interest in music” and they met not long before “Wil-
Beautiful, Bright, Twisted Fantasies John Williams and James Newton Howard take viewers on musical journeys.
ly Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” the 1971 musical version of his “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Williams concedes that he had hoped for greater commercial success for “The BFG,” which was deemed a box-office disappointment after its July 1 release. His next film, however, surely won’t be: He begins scoring “Star Wars Episode VIII” in December and expects to record through March or April. To some degree, Howard is following in Williams’ musical footsteps with his ambitious and lengthy score for “Fantastic Beasts,” the spinoff franchise from the “Harry Potter” series (of which Williams scored the first three installments). Howard even links the two series by reprising Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme” at the start of the movie. After that, it hurtles off into its own new direction. Explains Howard: “My goal was to try and keep the bar high in terms of thematic legacy for these movies, which John had established so brilliantly. But it’s a new franchise, and I felt the music needed to stand on its own two feet.” Stories involving magic invariably demand “pretty detailed and somewhat sophisticated orchestral writing,” Howard says. “You’re going to have a lot of woodwind and percussion flourishes, a certain chromaticism in terms of the melodic structures. Also choir and harps, and in my case, a fair amount of electronics as well.” And a single theme won’t suffice. “The opportunities for really great thematic structure were so great in this movie. Once I felt that I had the themes, and David [Yates, the director] was happy and it was all working, then it becomes a massive architectural project, telling the story.” There is an opening fanfare, which Howard says was written quite late in the process and will be exploited more in the next film, a mystery-filled “Fantastic Beasts” theme; two themes for Eddie Redmayne’s eccentric Newt, one somewhat lighthearted — “Newt can be quite a Chaplinesque character” — and another more heroic; and several secondary motifs. There are also grand set pieces, and the sheer variety of music required, from waltzes to marches to romantic music, “is what appealed to me the most. It was the broadest musical spectrum one could imagine.” Augmenting his 94-piece London orchestra were a 40-voice choir and the 20-voice Trinity Boys Choir; an early-music consort including baroque cello and viola da gamba; and a small jazz combo for Howard’s colorful ‘20-style jazz (part ragtime, part Dixie) featuring fun clarinet solos, muted trumpets, and stride piano. Howard spent seven months on the score, including three in London working closely with Yates. “There was a lot of experimentation and rewriting,” he says. “I think I worked as hard on this score as anything I’ve ever done.”
WILLIAMS: COURTESY GORFAINE-SCHWARTZ AGENCY; NEWTON HOWARD: KARL SCHOENDORFER/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
Abel Korzeniowski’s “Nocturnal Animals” score avoided guitar or country music in its Texasset scenes.
Breaking the Musical Molds ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Lion,” and ‘Nocturnal Animals’ all took unorthodox scoring approaches By Jon Burlingame
ometimes an unexpected musical approach to a subject reaps dramatic dividends. Abel Korzeniowski’s music for “Nocturnal Animals” switches genres in a manner that’s the opposite of the film. Nicholas Britell’s “Moonlight” uses hip-hop techniques, but not hip-hop per se. And Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka’s music for “Lion” avoids all reference to Indian music despite India being the setting of much of the film. Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” inter-
What if I actually wrote and fully recorded music, and then chopped and screwed the score?” NICHOLAS BRITELL
twines two stories, about an unhappy art-gallery owner (Amy Adams) and her ex-husband’s novel about a violent crime in west Texas that ruins the life of a peaceful man (Jake Gyllenhaal). “One is a psychological drama, purely internal and emotional,” Korzeniowski says. “The other is a crime story, as bloody and violent as you can get. The movie makes the case that an emotional harm is as devastating, as life-shattering, as any other kind of violence. “To address this, the score is written in reverse. The crime story is scored as a very emotional, intimate journey. The story outside, the drama of Susan, is scored like a thriller.” Korzeniowski’s richly orchestrated and haunting opening music, scored for a 70-piece ensemble, sets the stage, although the composer says he reworked the piece “to the very end, to find the right balance.” On “Moonlight,” New York composer Britell’s “a-ha” moment was learning that director Barry Jenkins was a fan of “chopped and screwed music,” a style of
Southern hip-hop in which, Britell says, “you take tracks and slow them down, where you get this very rich and deepened audio texture to the music.” So, Britell offered, “What if I actually wrote and fully recorded music, and then there was this second part of the process where I chopped and screwed the score? That’s what we ended up doing.” He began by writing a piece for violin and piano for Little, the boy in the first third of the film. “In the early cuts that I saw, there was this feeling of intimacy, sensitivity and beauty,” Britell says. “I was trying to channel the musical sound of poetry. “Then I started slowing it down and bending it. It was two or three octaves lower. Then I layered it on top of itself but staggered, then I ran it through a vinyl filter. You just felt this kind of rumbling, and occasionally poking through would be this bell-like sound — the violin and piano from the original theme — and that became the music of the schoolyard scene with the fight.” For “Lion,” director Garth Davis wanted two composers for the two halves of his film. Both were pianists — German-born Hauschka (Volker Bertelmann), and American-born O’Halloran — and unbeknownst to Davis, they are also good friends. According to Hauschka, Davis wanted him for the first half (“because my music has a lot of childish elements as well as exploring elements, and some wildness”) and O’Halloran for the second (“the more emotional part of the story”). They did, in fact, spend a month working separately in their own studios. “We explored the scenes that we liked,” says Hauschka. They then joined forces in California, “taking all of our ideas and finishing it up together,” says O’Halloran. An orchestral approach, O’Halloran says, “would have been too much. For us, it was trying to find the right restraint, the right level.”. “The focus is on his emotional state,” says O’Halloran. “It was about getting the right performance.
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50 My First Time in Variety
ore than simply a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band the Byrds, Roger McGuinn helped the sun rise over the ’60s music scene, primarily with his distinctive vocals and hugely influential 12-string Rickenbacker guitar, the instrument that launched a million “jingle-jangle mornings” on the band’s No. 1 hit version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 1965. He’s been on the road and in the studio for the five decades since, keeping the flame of American folk music alive, whether playing as part of Dylan’s famed Rolling Thunder review or just him and his guitar. Which is where he started and Variety first name-checked him (as Jim McGuinn) in early 1963 playing guitar for the legendary Bobby Darin in Las Vegas. STEVEN GAYDOS
So folk music was your first love? No, we all started with rock ’n’ roll, Elvis Presley, the whole Sun Records gang. But folk music quickly stole your heart. I loved the stories, the histories, the melodies. For instance, I’ve always loved sea shanties.
Roger McGuinn 1963, with Bobby Darin in Las Vegas
“Bobby was a great performer, but he also had a 360-degree vision of music and business.”
How did Darin happen to find you? He discovered me when I was playing with the Chad Mitchell Trio. He saw us when we were the opening act for Lenny Bruce at the Crescendo.
He was one of the biggest stars in the business. Bobby was a great performer, but he also had a 360-degree vision of music and the business. He told me, “Get into rock ’n’ roll and then you can do anything you want after that.” So the road leads back to rock, which is where Darin started. Did you pick up any performing lessons from Darin? I’m sure I did, but I also absorbed so much from folk music. I had been playing since I was 14 and practically grew up at the Gate of Horn in Chicago. I never learned a better “gimmick” for an arist than what I saw Josh White do many times. He’d be in the middle of “Strange Fruit” and he’d always “break” a b string on his Martin D-21 guitar. So while he was “fixing” the string, he’d smoke a cigarette and have a little impromptu conversation with the audience that was totally transfixing and then he’d go back into the song. It didn’t take long for me to realize, “Aha, he’s an actor.”
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Bobby Darin is much less remembered for his folk music than for his big pop hits like “Mack the Knife.” You have to remember that there was a huge folk music fad. It was more than just the music. It was like an alternative lifestyle. I had gotten into it years earlier because it was the music that represented the Beatniks, beat poetry, Kerouac, wearing sunglasses indoors, being a bohemian. In 1957, when it first hit, it was as big as hip-hop in its impact.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION BEST ANIMATED FEATURE - BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
‘‘MAGIC AND IMAGINATIVE”
‘‘A JOY TO BEHOLD’’ ‘‘A DELIGHTFUL HOMAGE TO THE GENIUS OF SAINT-EXUPERY’’
‘‘A MASTERPIECE’’ ‘‘PILES PLEASURE UPON PLEASURE, SURPRISE ON SURPRISE’’ ‘‘CAPTIVATING’’
‘‘THIS LEGENDARY TALE GETS ADORABLE NEW SPIN’’
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S P E C I A L S C R E E N I N G S for A M P A S , H F P A , G U I L D S & P R E S S Q&As with the director Claude Barras after all screenings.
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