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EXTRA EDITION

DOCUMENTARY/ ARTISANS

DECEMBER 12, 2016

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N T ITOR A GE DEIX T O P B» IELXLTIRN A EDITION

NEWS BRIEFS

OVERHEARD

HBO, Abrams Team on ‘Glare’

“So now, the next time I have to do a crying scene, the sad thing that will make me cry is Stephen Frears cutting my crying scene.”

HBO is developing a space series with power-producer J.J. Abrams. “Glare” is an hourlong drama series exploring the colonization of another planet. Other than that short description, no other details have been released. Abrams will executive produce with Ben Stephenson and Javier Gullón, who is the writer on the project. Currently in early development, “Glare” has secured a script deal. Warner Bros. Television, where Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions is based, is producing the potential series.

ABRAMS: MATT BARON/BEI/SHUTTERSTOCK; ELLISON: JIM SMEAL/BEI/SHUTTERSTOCK; RANDOLPH: DAVID FISHER/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; ADAMS: ROB LATOUR/VARIETY/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; VERHOEVEN: MICHAEL BUCKNER/DEADLINE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; MITCHELL: CHELSEA LAUREN/VARIETY/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; MCKINNON: MARION CURTIS/STARPIX/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Ellison Launches Uncharted Label David Ellison’s Skydance media company has launched an Uncharted label with Dwayne Johnson’s “Baywatch” action-comedy movie as its first title. Skydance will continue to produce content driven by action-adventure such as the “Mission: Impossible” franchise; science fiction such as the “Star Trek” movies; fantasy such as “World War Z”; and worldbuilding. Uncharted will focus on stories that fall outside those areas.

HUGH GRANT In conversation with Colin Farrell in the Variety Studio

‘Fast’ Franchise Sets Title for Next Film The eighth installment of the “Fast & Furious” will be called “The Fate of the Furious,” and is set to hit theaters on April 14. The film will center around a mysterious woman, played by Charlize Theron, who convinces Dom (Vin Diesel) to rejoin the world of crime. The whole crew is dragged back into the game in order to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world.

COLIN FARRELL In conversation with Hugh Grant in the Variety Studio

“I assumed I would be in the picture and Michael said, ‘Dad, he thinks you’re too old.’ I was too old!? They told me they cast Jack Nicholson. I said, ‘Who is he?’ ”

PLAYERS

Annapurna Nabs Kelly Pic Pitch Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures has landed an untitled pitch from “The Big Short” scribe Charles Randolph revolving around Megyn Kelly and the women who made sexual harassment accusations against Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News. The pitch made the rounds last week and Annapurna was quick to pick it up. Margaret Riley will produce with Ellison and Randolph. Randolph will likely write the script as Annapurna looks for a director to helm the project. Randolph won an Oscar for his work on “The Big Short.”

“To annoy Yorgos, you’d say to him, ‘So what’s my character feeling in that scene?’ He’d be like, ‘Ah! Actors!’ ”

KIRK DOUGLAS On the making of “One Flew Over the Cickoo’s Nest”

The Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival will present Amy Adams with the Chairman’s award Jan. 2.

“Elle” helmer Paul Verhoeven has been tapped as president of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival jury.

“Trolls” director Mike Mitchell will helm live action/animated “Puff, the Magic Dragon” for Fox Animation.

Kate McKinnon is set to star in Amblin’s “The Lunch Witch.” Clay Kaytis is on board to direct.

“There are a lot of movies this year with women at their center. That’s a good development.” JOHN MADDEN Discussing “Miss Sloane”


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6 Contenders

PRIOR EXPERIENCE

Douglas Aibel cast Lucas Hedges and Kara Hayward in “Manchester.”

CASTING DIRECTORS CHALLENGED

Award Season Awash in Edgy Young Roles

F

RANDEE DAWN @randeedawn

ans of 2012’s “Moonrise Kingdom” take note: There’s an Easter egg of sorts hidden in “Manchester by the Sea” that should delight you: Lucas Hedges and Kara Hayward. Casting director Douglas Aibel first hired the pair as virtually untried preteens for the quirky Wes Anderson film — and four years later, put them back on screen again in “Manchester.” “Lucas was the first person I thought of when I read the [“Manchester”] script,” Aibel says. “There was a risk that his character

could be an annoying smart aleck, but Lucas brought this emotional truth and emotional vulnerability that broke the role open.” Hayward, who plays one of his girlfriends in “Manchester,” came more coincidentally to the new film, though four years ago she hadn’t even acted. “She didn’t want to be an actress; she just showed up for the open call and a few months later was shooting this leading role,” Aibel recalls. Finding young actors for emotionally demanding, awards-season powerhouse roles is not for the faint of heart, and clearly when a winner, or two, comes along, casting directors hold on to their gems. There

Sometimes, you don’t have an ‘ahha, they’re perfect’ moment. But when you do have them, it’s so satisfying.” JEANNE MCCARTHY

are thousands of wannabe young actors out there, many of whom have better access than ever to casting directors thanks to the rise of self-tape submissions, and many can end up in a film with serious Oscar potential before they even hire an agent. But with more raw material to sift through, casting directors have to work even harder to ensure they’re hiring a rare bird: a child who can be believable in some truly extreme (if fictional) circumstances. “Lion’s” casting team, headed up by Kirsty McGregor, possibly had one of the most daunting tasks of the season, wading through around 2,000 auditions and audi-


8 Contenders tion tapes over four months to find the right Indian children to play the film’s leads. After narrowing those faces down, they workshopped around 200 hopefuls and ultimately ended up with first-time actors Sunny Pawar and Abhishek Bharate. “With Abhishek we never had any doubt [that he could play the demanding role], but with Sunny it was more of a leap of faith,” McGregor says. “We spent a lot of time in the audition process, so we felt he could cope, but bear in mind — he was 5 or 6 years old at the time. You have to avoid kids who can’t handle the repetition and hours of filming — many children don’t have the patience, but Sunny did.” “Kids get distracted very quickly,” says Yesi Ramirez, who cast multiple child and teenage actors for “Moonlight,” all to play the same pair of boys growing up together. “You don’t want that distraction to carry over to set. I try to give them something to do — I give building blocks, which help them focus.” Even with slightly older young actors, casting directors have to be aware of the psychology of the teen and preteen mind. Shaheen Baig hired Lewis MacDougall for “A Monster Calls,” but apart from the virtual newcomer’s skills as an actor, she needed to know he could be subtle in a way that didn’t come naturally to a boy his age. “Lewis has wonderful instincts and a huge emotional landscape he wasn’t frightened to access,” Baig says. “Young boys at that point in their lives are trying to hide their emotions, so it’s hard to find young actors who are comfortable enough with who they are, who can emote.” Mark Bennett, casting director for “20th Century Women,” also had to locate a nuanced teenage actor, and found Lucas Jade Zumann through a self-tape and a recommendation from another casting director. “The character needed to seem a bit green, but the actor could not be,” he says. “He was a character who listens and reacts; this is not a film where characters explain, ‘This is why this was significant and taught me about life.’ Listening on camera and responding authentically is more difficult than giving a kid dialogue to perform.” Trying to cast a large family living in unique circumstances is also no easy task, and that’s what Jeanne McCarthy had to do for “Captain Fantastic,” a story about six children, and their dad, who live off the grid. “You wanted to find kids who seemed connected emotionally and physically,” she says. “You had to find kids who were believable as kids who’ve grown up living in the woods and in nature — and also kids who could give over in their imagination to the situation of the film.” Finding the right child, one who listens

RIDING ON FAITH

Thousands auditioned for the “Lion” role before Sunny Pawar was found.

You can’t be intimidated… You have to know right away if they can stand up to you as an actor.” VICTORIA THOMAS

and can be present, who isn’t distracted and who feels right for the role is only the start of the long list of challenges casting directors face — they must deal with correct accents (think of “Manchester’s” specific New England cadences), visas (McGregor could only hire children who could obtain visas to film in Australia), and the occasional skittish or inappropriate parent. Still, even when all of those factors come together nicely in one package, there’s yet one major hurdle: Can the child play in the big leagues? One of the final steps in the hiring process involves pairing up the film’s adult actors with the youngsters, to see if there’s chemistry and if they can hold their own. In the case of “Fences,” Jovan Adepo had to face off in an emotionally charged audition with none other than the film’s director and star Denzel Washington. Casting director Victoria Thomas had admired Adepo for years, but had a hard time finding the

right part for him — and was sure the role of Washington’s son in the film was right. But Washington did not make it easy. “You can’t be intimidated,” Thomas says. “That’s a lot of power and force coming at you — and in the very first auditions [Washington] did with the actors he came right at them. He even went a little over, just to see how they’d react. You have to know right away if they can stand up to you as an actor.” The ones that can take the heat, say casting directors, are always thrilling to discover — all note that the fun of casting the exact right person never grows dull. “Sometimes, you don’t have an ‘a-ha, they’re perfect’ moment,” McCarthy says. “But when you do them, it’s so satisfying. When everything and everyone lines up and you feel like you’ve helped — you collaborated with the director and really bring something exciting to the project. It feels wonderful.”


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BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

capture that magical romanticism, we will be fine.” We were also swapping lots of photos, in addition to movie sequences and stills we liked.   CINEMATOGRAPHY, LINUS SANDGREN

GRAY’S GOLD TIM GRAY

Reality, Only Better The team behind ‘La La Land’ focused on creating a specific world for the helmer

W

ith Lionsgate’s “La La Land,” the big challenge for Damien Chazelle and his artisan team was to find the balance between heightened reality of the musical numbers and material that they wanted to be realistic, even mundane. Here he talks about their work. PRODUCTION DESIGN, DAVID WASCO

He was one of the first people I met with. He brought a photo he’d taken of the El Royale (the 1920s apartment building); there was something about the time of day, the angle, the details of the building, and the way the green art-deco lettering fell against the magic-hour blue sky, I thought, “If our movie can

DALE ROBINETTE

FAITHFUL TO PAST

Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling work on old-fashioned sound.

Linus is young, but approaches it like an old-timer; the more analog everything is, the happier he is. We wanted to shoot in lyrical long takes, with a flowing camera and heightened color. We were always trying to solve things in-camera, like the colors; we didn’t want to rely on CG or manipulated color correction. He and colorist Natasha Leonnet worked together from prep and to post, figuring out exactly what would give us the most vivid colors. COSTUME DESIGN, MARY ZOPHRES

She did a great job in creating clothes that could pop, but not so heightened that they would feel incongruous. One burden on her shoulders was the green dress that Emma’s character wears about halfway through the movie, including the Griffith Observatory sequence. That green would carry a baggage — so when you later saw green in the movie, it would harken back to that lost, perfect moment in their romance. A lot of emotional subtext stems from that dress. What’s so wonderful is that it doesn’t feel like a dress born out of that pressure. That’s just one example of Mary’s work.

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EDITING, TOM CROSS

“La La Land” was a more challenging process than we’d expected. There was a lot of give and take to find the right tonal balance throughout — how to build to a number, and then come out of it. Tom would find a small change in reel one would affect something in reel five and vice-versa. Some of the most challenging but fun sequences involved montages set to a song, which take you to several locations and environments. But Tom has such an instinctive sense of rhythm and tempo. SOUND, ANDY NELSON, MILDRED IATROU, AI-LING LEE, STEVEN MORROW

The balance between everyday realism and a heightened MGM-style affected how vocals were recorded, how dialogue was recorded and how everything mixed together. We tried to minimize modern digital tinkering. We wanted to have the sound be more faithful to analog times; that helps you bridge the gap between dialogue and vocals. For the score, we gathered the 90-piece orchestra in one room with room mikes. You may get imperfections: If you listen you can hear an occasional player turning pages.

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BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Simon Niblett

BEST ORIGINAL SONG “Angel By The Wings” Written by Sia and Greg Kurstin

THE

E AG L E HUNTRESS A film by OTTO BELL


10 Actors on Actors

P H OTO G R A P H BY ART STREIBER


Actors on Actors 11

Hugh Grant & Colin Farrell

H

ugh Grant (“Florence Foster Jenkins”) and Colin Farrell (“The Lobster”) checked into the Variety Studio to talk about directors, why the Irish are so emotional, and the effect of mustaches on their private lives. Hugh Grant: Colin. Colin Farrell: Hugh. Grant: This is so weird. Farrell: As I live and breathe, in the flesh. Grant: So listen, I’m very unhappy about how good you are in “The Lobster.” Farrell: So the rumors I’ve heard about you are true. You are a fan of schadenfreude. Grant: That’s exactly right. I don’t like anyone having any success. You are very good. It’s a brilliant film. And tell me how that came about? How, why would [director] Yorgos — Farrell: Oh I like the way you roll your R’s. I don’t know if it’s correct, but I like it. Grant: Yeah. Farrell: Yorgos Lanthimos … I had seen a film that he did five or six years before. A thing called “Dogtooth.” Did you see it? Grant: I like “Dogtooth.” Farrell: So bizarre, and so disturbing. Grant: I know. It’s given me nightmares. Farrell: As it should. If it didn’t, I’d be worried. But I came out of a cinema in Philadelphia on a Tuesday evening and just was scratching my head thinking, “What kind of level of disturbance does the director and writer of that film experience on a daily basis?” I couldn’t believe it, because it was all so meticulously crafted. It was awkward from its very inception obviously. And there was a kind of a logic to how absurd and disturbing the whole world was in “Dogtooth.” And I just thought it was brilliant. And then, five years later, I heard from my agent that [Lanthimos] was making his first English-language film, and I thought, well this should be an interesting read. So they sent the script and, I can’t quite say that I completely grasped, or still to this day have grasped what’s — Grant: Well I was going to say, what does it mean? I thoroughly enjoyed it. I mean, it’s brilliant in every possible way. Farrell: Thanks. I don’t know. What’s the film about? I have no — Grant: Does he talk about that kind of

stuff? Farrell: No. Doesn’t want to know. Grant: OK. Farrell: About talking to actors. Grant: Oh really? Farrell: To annoy Yorgos, you’d say to him, “So what’s my character feeling in that scene?” He’d be like, “Ah! Actors!” Grant: That’s how Roman Polanski was. Woody Allen. Stephen Frears. Farrell: Woody Allen I don’t know if he could pick me out of a line-up. And I worked with him. Grant: Yeah, exactly. Farrell: Literally, Woody, I did a film with Ewan McGregor, and three days before we started shooting, Woody was given pictures of Ewan and pictures of me in costume and he looked at the shot of Ewan in a suit and he went, “Why is Colin dressed in a suit?” And I was over his shoulder, and I said, “No, Woody, that’s Ewan. I’m Colin. How are you?” Grant: Bloody hell. Farrell: That was three days before we started shooting. But yeah, Yorgos, he knows who you are, but he doesn’t want to know. The world he creates, him and Efthymis [Filippou], his co-writer, is so specific that the worst thing you could do, I think, is imbue them with a contemporary way of speaking and moving, and then you would

kind of nullify the extraordinary awkwardness of the worlds that they create. Grant: Yeah. Farrell: Anyway, when I read it I just wanted to do it because, have you found the greatest thing as an actor … is a trust in your director, you know? We’ve talked about that. Actors talk about it all the time. You know, trusting their choice — not that you always go with them, but that you trust in their single-minded approach and, and their perspective, their opinion on why they’re doing something and how to achieve the realization of what they’re trying to capture to the fullest of its potential. Grant: It looks like all the actors — they’re all brilliant — but it looks like all the actors have been told, just sort of be quite deadpan. Farrell: There was none of that. No. I think we all understood, having seen his previous work, that there was a kind of a tonal universe that his films existed within. Everyone was deadpan. Except Olivia Colman, she had more color in what she did, I think, than a lot of us. Rachel Weisz, she arrived three weeks into it, going, “What the fuck is going on?” You know, how’s it going? None of us knew what we were doing. Grant: On the set, does he look like a man who’s making a drama, or a comedy? Because I think it’s very, very funny, “The Lobster.” Farrell: It wasn’t that funny to read, because I was just so confused, discombobulated, by it. But I don’t know. He’s a bit of a cipher. Yorgos. He doesn’t tell you too much. Grant: Really? Farrell: If you’re looking for a director to pat you on the back and tell you you’re

Colin Farrell Awards/Noms: Nominated for a European Film Award for “The Lobster” Select filmography: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) “The Lobster” (2015) “Seven Psychopaths” (2012) “In Bruges” (2008) “Intermission” (2003) “Minority Report” (2002)

ON THE RUN

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz fall for each other in “The Lobster.”


12 Actors on Actors doing great, stay away. So how was Frears? Tell me about Frears and tell me about “Florence Foster Jenkins.” Tell me. Grant: Frears is equally silent, actually. Farrell: Have you worked with him before? Grant: No, never. I knew him through politics, actually, used to support my campaign in London. So I knew him a bit that way. And he used to say, “We should do a film together.” And I used to say, “Oh I don’t think so, Stephen. I don’t do much show business any more, and anyway, you make classy films and I make romantic comedy, sort of mass market stuff.” And then to my surprise he suddenly sent me this script, which was really good. Farrell: It had romance and it had comedy in it. It had kind of a struggle of the central character, the female central character, played by Meryl [Streep] — there was the maintenance of a dream, and it took this whole support system around her to [maintain it]. I mean for me, it seems [Frears] deals a lot with characters whether it’s the Lance Armstrong character, or whether it’s the Queen with public perception versus the private struggle behind that. Grant: That’s good. Yeah, it’s quite difficult to find a common thread for him. But I sometimes think he’s quite good at disorientating the audience. You don’t know quite what genre you’re in or what you’re meant to be feeling like and, in our film, are you laughing at them? Are you laughing with them? You know, where’s the tone? Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Farrell: I found it hard to place your character. How much is he in on the joke, how much was he — Grant: Using her. Yeah. Farrell: How did you find the balance between that? Grant: I liked the fact that the character was difficult to place, enigmatic. And you don’t really know if he’s a goody or a baddie for quite a long time. In the end, I decided we should wonder for about two-thirds of the film and then be certain in the last third that he loves her. Farrell: Yes. Grant: But again when I said to Frears in pre-production meetings, “So come on, I think we should at least know, is he a goody or a baddie? What do you think?” He said, “I don’t know. No idea.” So he’s very like your guy. He doesn’t like chitchat. Farrell: Yeah. Grant: And just lets the thing breathe. Farrell: So working with Ms. Meryl Streep, I’ve been told just to call her Meryl, because we all know there’s only one Meryl. But how was that? Did you know her before? Grant: No. No. She came as part of the package. It’s a lovely story about the writ-

HIGH SOCIETY

Hugh Grant plays a complicated character in “Florence Foster Jenkins.”

er actually. He was not having a great phase in his career. He was writing good TV in Britain, but then was having a bad phase and thought, “I’ll write this feature film spec idea I have.” Gave it to his agent, and said, “I don’t know, see if you can sell that.” And four days later, the agent comes back and says, “It’s being directed by Stephen Frears and starring Meryl Streep.” Farrell: No way! Grant: Yeah. Farrell: Wow. Grant: And he’s sitting in a small flat in you know, South London. Farrell: Wow. Grant: So that’s the package that came to me, and Meryl Streep, the fact that she would agree even to be in a film with me was thrilling, but then yeah of course the terror sets in — Farrell: Did you do a table read beforehand? Grant: Yes. The most frightening day of my life. Farrell: Yeah, they’re awkward aren’t they? Grant: Yeah. Farrell: They just are. You wonder how much to give, or if you give too much it’s ridiculous. If you don’t give enough are they going to fire you? Grant: That’s right! Farrell: God forbid you should have to do an accent, do you pull it out at the table read? Grant: I know. I mean it’s the same I find on the set, when you have a line-up at the beginning of the day … a lot of good actors, especially American actors I notice, mumble, they just mark it. But I’m too vain to do that. Because I’m thinking the crew will

Hugh Grant Awards/Noms: Nominated for European Film Award for “Florence Foster Jenkins” Select filmography: “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016) “Cloud Atlas” (2012) “Music and Lyrics” (2007) “Love Actually” (2003) “About a Boy” (2002) “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001) “Notting Hill” (1999) “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994)

Table reads are awkward. God forbid you should have to do an accent, do you pull it out at the table read?” COLIN FARRELL

think I’m crap. So I give it everything and to be honest I’m bloody good in the lineup. And then I get progressively worse and worse — Farrell: I did some of my finest work way, way off camera. Grant: Way off camera. Farrell: I mean, in my hotel room. Grant: Yes Farrell: So, you’ve been doing this a while. How long, when did you start acting? Grant: 1983. Farrell: Theater or classes or commercials … ? Grant: It was theater. I was a tree in the wind at Nottingham Playhouse. Farrell: Did it stay with you? Grant: To this day it was my best performance. Farrell: What’s your relationship been like through the years with it? Did you love it at the start? Did you stop loving it? Did you re-engage with it? Or, how, do you see any kind of trajectory, personal trajectory, not career-wise or how people perceived your work, but your own relationship inside of being an actor for the last 30 or 40 years, whatever it’s been. Grant: Well it’s been gusty. I have gusts of incredible enthusiasm. Usually once I’ve signed up, out of sheer panic. Because if I’m bad, everyone’s going to laugh at me. So I try bloody hard, and go to enormous trouble to try and be as good as I can, and then, and worse, once I got the power, I then became very interfering behind the camera as well. Farrell: You did? Grant: Yeah. Barbra Streisand in trousers, I was. Just awful. You know, everything down to how the poster looks in South


Actors on Actors 13

BAD BOYS

“In Bruges” starred Colin Farrell as a hitman; Hugh Grant in “About a Boy.”

Korea — Farrell: Oh that — Grant: Yeah. But I’m better about that now. Farrell: What do you think that was? Just an attempt to maintain or control what you had arrived at? Grant: To be honest, it was more to do with the films that were comedies because, you know, it’s such a fragile thing, jokes. And it only takes one tiny thing and suddenly the laugh is lost. I can remember being in an editing suite of a comedy film and you would change the background music that’s playing on the jukebox in the scene —and it’s not even very loud — and at the next preview, all the laughs have gone. It’s so fragile. And that makes you sometimes a bit of a — I can’t find the word, I’m too hungover. What do you call someone who’s persnickety? Farrell: Control freak. Grant: Absolutely. Are there other aspects of life that you’ve found have helped you step away from acting or have existed alongside acting? You mentioned politics earlier, I’m wondering has that informed your work? Does being a father make you a better actor? Farrell: I don’t know, but it makes my life outside of acting more rich. And I have to believe that that can only enrich the work that I do. Grant: Yes. Farrell: Or I choose to believe that can only enrich the work that I do. Grant: Yes. Farrell: You know I find that when I claimed in my early years not to identify with being an actor, and I was all, I don’t give

The next time I have to do a crying scene, the sad thing that will make me cry is Stephen Frears cutting my crying scene.” HUGH GRANT

a fuck, and this and that and the other, and I really just didn’t know how to manage my own care for it, or my own uncertainty around it, or my own anxiety around it. And now the more rich my life has gotten outside of the world of acting, and, making films and stuff, the less serious I take it with regards to the value that it puts on me as a man. But that also has this strange paradox where it allows me to invest more of myself in it without the weight it once did. Grant: Yeah, that does help. I mean, I, it is a bit of a cliche I suppose to say one’s children have improved one, but they definitely improved me. I went from being a nasty old 50-year-old to — I’m delightful now. I break my heart with how nice I am now, because I have, I have so much love. Farrell: Yeah. Grant: You know? And I definitely think I couldn’t have done bits of “Florence,” for instance, the bits that are to do with untrammeled love. Farrell: There was a deep sincerity in his love for her, I felt. Grant: I think also when you get older you also get a bit less self-conscious. You know, you just don’t care so much anymore. And I think the same applies a bit with acting, that there are things like towards the end of “Florence Foster Jenkins,” she’s dying and I have to be quite emotional. I don’t feel inhibited anymore. Farrell: Yeah, I know, it’s beautiful. Grant: You sort of feel sotted. Farrell: I felt you were more raw in this film than anything I’ve seen you in. Grant: But you are less repressed than me. You’re Irish. You’re better at dealing with

emotion than us uptight Brits. Farrell: I don’t know if I’m better at dealing with emotion. I think I’m probably better at possibly drowning under it, if that’s better at dealing with it. You know what I mean? I think part of the reason why we [Irish] drink as much as we do — and that’s a gross over-generalization — but it’s not just to have good fun, but it’s to try and navigate or orchestrate or give context to the emotions that we feel, because we’re very, very emotional people, the Irish. Grant: I believe that. Farrell: I think that’s one of the reasons why I like the job, and it’s also a danger because you think as an actor, “If I’m crying or screaming I’m doing a great job,” but you know sometimes you’re just beating the audience over the head with your emotions, and you’re not giving them the room to feel or to experience what the story is. Grant: Well that became a big thing in my film. Because it said in the script when she dies, “he sobs uncontrollably.” And I thought, “Christ, I can’t do that.” Farrell: I know. Right? Grant: And then to my astonishment, I did. I got myself in the right mood, and did all those things, and sobbed. And everyone said, “That’s marvelous, I can’t believe you did that.” And then, to my horror, as previews went through, preview by preview, there was less and less crying until there was none. And it ended up with Stephen Frears saying. “I think the audience feels it more if you’re not crying.” So now, the next time I have to do a crying scene, the sad thing that will make me cry is Stephen Frears cutting my crying scene. Farrell: Yeah. Grant: Well I’m horrified at how thin and fit you are now. I was rejoicing in the fact that Colin Farrell had got fat. And you’re not. Farrell: I’m not. Grant: So you obviously did a Bridget Jones — Farrell: Inside I might be. I did put on a bit of weight. I put on 43 pounds in eight weeks. Grant: When did you choose the mustache? Farrell: I think myself and Yorgos talked. I think they were probably the most in-depth conversations that we [had]: “I think [my character] should be soft and maybe have a mustache.” Grant: And that was it. Farrell: That was about it. Yeah. Grant: You looked good in that mustache. I tried a mustache for my character in pre-production. Farrell: Oh, and no? Grant: Well the mother of my children refused to have sex with me while I had it. Farrell: Deal-breaker.


14 Scene Stealer

Alan Rickman “Eye in the Sky” (Bleecker Street)

Written by Guy Hibbert Directed by Gavin Hood

“E

ye in the Sky” is a true ensemble piece, with actors playing individuals all over the world who participate in the decision to launch a drone missile strike, and those affected by the choices. When casting the film, director Gavin Hood wanted to think outside the box — in fact, the role of Helen Mirren’s colonel was originally written for a man. And when it came to casting Lt. Gen. Frank Benson, played by the late Alan Rickman, Hood knew he wanted something special. Benson supervises the meeting of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room, where’s he forced to make some tough decisions. Hood spoke to Variety about working with Rickman, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in January. JENELLE RILEY

Director Gavin Hood: “What I was concerned about is that the role of the general could so easily be played as a stiff, career general. A slightly grumpy general who just wants to get the job done and is only one note. The exciting thing about an actor like Alan Rickman is he’s a master of nuance. With the slightest sneer, the slightest roll of an eye, he gives a twist to a line that can make you laugh or add great gravity. I thought, “If Alan would say yes to this role, we couldn’t do better.” There isn’t a lot of time to generate a lot of backstory for characters, they have to be felt almost immediately. How can you pack the most nuanced performance into a relatively tight space? “I always ask actors before we’re shooting if they have any questions or anything that concerns them. And Alan very humbly said, ‘Gavin, I just don’t want you to let me get in the way of telling the story. You’re looking for these moments of humor, don’t let me overplay them.’ And I thought, ‘What a humble man, what an intelligent man, what a kind man.’ He knows just how to play the gravity of the moment and let you release with laughter. “There’s a scene at the end of the film where he says the wonderful line, ‘Never

The exciting thing about an actor like Alan Rickman is, he’s a master of nuance. With the slightest sneer, the slightest roll of an eye, he gives a twist to a line that can make you laugh or add great gravity.” GAVIN HOOD

tell a soldier he does not know the cost of a war.’ You have to be able to compartmentalize your life in order to survive in that kind of job. When you’re at home with your family, you have to be at home with your family. When you’re at work, you have to leave your family and be at the job. There is a question at the end of the film if Aaron Paul’s character, a drone pilot, will be able to do that and come back to his job. So many drone pilots drop out because it’s so hard to compartmentalize. “But a character like Alan’s has survived in his job because he’s learned to compartmentalize. So what was great in Guy’s script is you meet Alan when he’s shopping for a doll for his granddaughter. He’s taking it very seriously because he’s in that compartment. Then he comes to work, hands off the doll, goes into that room and doesn’t think about doll or family or anything again. Until he walks out of that moments and says, ‘Never tell a soldier he does not know the cost of a war.’ He’s still in that zone as he exits into the corridor. And the captain hands him the doll and there’s this wonderful moment, very subtle, where he goes ‘Oh! Yes, thank you, captain.’ And takes the doll. And in that one moment, in that shift, he transitions from one world and moves himself back into the world of the granddaughter. It’s a tiny moment, but I love that moment. And it’s those kind of beautiful pauses that are filled with meaning that an actor like Alan Rickman is so good at executing. “I loved working with him, I do wish he were here to talk to you. I do miss him. This was his last on-screen film and he was genuinely interested in the questions the film raised and very articulate in discussing them. I wish he was with me at Q&As, he would have contributed so much to the conversation. “I didn’t know he was ill and I don’t know if, when we were filming, he knew. We finished filming at the end of 2014 and we edited through 2015. I remember he was going to come to Toronto in September of 2015 for the premiere. I got this email from him that said, ‘Gavin, I’m so sorry old chap, but I’m afraid I’ve got to put my feet up for a little bit and I’m not going to be able to make it to Toronto. I’m so sorry. I hope it goes really, really well.’ That was Alan, always selfeffacing and kind and never making a big deal about it. I wrote him and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll see you at the premiere in London.’ Which, sadly, didn’t happen.”


Facetime 15

‘I Used to Get Cast As Dumb People’

T

he four-time Emmy winner will grace the big screen this year in Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures,” about a trio of mathematicians (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe) working at NASA in the late 1960s. Parsons, best known for playing Dr. Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory,” plays another genius in the film — an engineer who resists working with Henson’s character. JENELLE RILEY You seem to find yourself in great ensembles, from “The Normal Heart” to “The Big Bang Theory” and this. Do you seek that out? Maybe subconsciously. I do find again and again that the most rewarding things for me have strong ensembles. “Hidden Figures” reminds me a lot of doing “Normal Heart,” in a way. Part of it is that they’re both based on true stories and hugely important moments in human history. And part of it is feeling the job of being an integral part of a machine telling the story in the ensemble.

P H OTO G R A P H BY M I C H A E L L E W I S

What was it like to play someone in this time period? It took me a couple reads to accept what my role in this story was. You really don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, even in a movie. And this may sound odd, but one of the ways I felt a better focus on what my role in the story was by looking at Kirsten Dunst’s story in her storyline. They’re not the same thing, but we serve the same purpose: we’re an embodiment of hurdles and attitude of the time. Taraji is a great scene partner. She’s amazing in this movie, and what she’s doing is so drastically different from anything I’ve seen her do before. And certainly different from what she’s doing on “Empire” right now. Speaking of typecasting, have you ever wanted to play a dumb person? Yes! I used to get cast frequently as dumb people. Or rather, they were either not bright or had a certain idiot savant quality about them. There is great joy in playing someone who doesn’t know what the hell is happening.


DOCUMENTARY

RISING TIDES

Leonardo DiCaprio’s activism helped “Before the Flood” gain attention.

Activist Filmmakers Create Change This year’s documentaries set sights on contemporary issues, aiming for impact By Kathy A. McDonald

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D DOCUMENTARY

DOCUMENTARY’S ROOTS ARE IN ADVOCACY and as a means to highlight the need for social change. Dissent takes center-stage as many awards contenders focus on weighty topics in this highly politicized year. A range of social issues are confronted, from Europe’s ongoing migrant crisis (“Fire at Sea”) to online cyber-warfare and hacking by nation states (“Zero Days”) to the constriction of reproductive rights in the U.S. (“Trapped”). “Audrie & Daisy” looks at the ripple effects of two disturbing examples of sex crimes among teenagers intertwined with toxic social media, while “Amanda Knox” fully exposes the global tabloid culture where facts take a backseat to fabrication. Climate change is the unwelcome star of the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced “Before the Flood,” and the illegal ivory trade, which is killing off the elephant population, is the subject of “The Ivory Game,” also backed by DiCaprio. Meanwhile “13th” examines the repercussions of the 13th Amendment, which ensured freedom for slaves with a damning caveat, while “I Am Not Your Negro” tackles issues of race through the eyes of writer James Baldwin. Docs have an established track record in resetting criminal cases aiding exoneration (“The Central Park Five,” “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills”) and exposing wrongful convictions (“The Trials of Darryl Hunt,” and “Making a Murderer”). But can documentaries have the same profound impact when it comes to broader contemporary social issues? “I feel documentaries can make a huge difference, not necessarily at that moment,” says helmer Fisher Stevens of “Before the Flood.” Stevens previously collaborated on the Oscar-winning “The Cove” and “Racing Extinction.” He says “The Cove’s” impact surfaced years after the film’s release by leading to a significant reduction in the number of dolphins slaughtered in Taiji, Japan, first revealed to the world via the film seven years ago. “You hear the words climate change and want to tune out: we want audiences to tune in,” says Stevens of his intent to create “an accessible documentary.” “Before the Flood” makes full use of producer-narrator DiCaprio’s fame to wrangle interviews with world players from the pope to the U.S. president plus scientists and even oil company execs. “National Geographic [Channel] blasted it out,” ensuring maximum eyeballs for the doc, which criss-crosses the globe gathering evidence on climate change’s threat. There are several concrete calls for action at the close of the film, further detailed on its website, beforetheflood.com. “Documentaries can effect culture and change; but not overnight though, it’s a long process,” as Stevens has found firsthand. Although an activist bent seems inherent to most docmaker’s DNA, the storyteller gene is often equally dominant.

RUSH TO JUDGMENT

“Amanda Knox” explored the media’s role in her murder case.

We come from the camp that docs can be social-action devices, but are not worth making unless they are great movies and great stories.” JON SHENK

“We come from the camp that docs can be social-action devices, but are not worth making unless they are great movies and great stories,” says “Audrie & Daisy’s” co-director Jon Shenk. The film’s premise — teen girls bullied online after alleged sex crimes — reads like a modern-day “Scarlet Letter,” says co-director Bonni Cohen. “What attracted us to the subject was its story potential,” she says. The drama “raises eyebrows” and is intended as a conversation starter regarding the serious issue of teenage sexual assault, coupled with social-media navigation and bullying. The accompanying social-action outreach campaign hit a sweet spot when the film was released to Netflix’s 80 million subscribers simultaneously, adds Cohen. “I think of my films as agent provocateurs,” says “Zero Days” director Alex Gibney. “Hopefully, audiences see a film like this, and think about it long after they’ve left the theater.” Co-funded by Participant Media and Universal, “Zero Days” investigates the U.S. government’s top-secret use of the Stuxnet computer virus to sabotage Iran’s potential nuclear arms capability. The implications of nation states engaged in cyber warfare — a


DOCUMENTARY

war without conventions — clearly becomes more relevant in light of Democratic National Committee’s hacked email during the last few month of the recent U.S. presidential campaign. “You always hope to hit the zeitgeist; when we saw all the DNC hacks and [Clinton campaign manager John] Podesta’s email reveals, it’s a page out of ‘Zero Days,’ ” Gibney notes. He hopes to provoke both thought and action when it comes to government secrecy. “You start to want to demand answers and I think that is a good thing.” Informing and “moving minds” by providing knowledge and empathy surrounding the issues of mass incarceration and criminalization of people of color was Ava DuVernay’s goal when making “13th.” Her aim for the Netflix-funded doc is to instigate changes in behavior and perception. “This subject matter isn’t a political trend to me,” DuVernay says. “It’s embedded in the very fabric of communities of color like the one I come from in Compton. Issues of politics for profit, police aggression, sentencing disparities, negative imagery, school-to-prison pipeline, etc. are ever-present,” explains the filmmaker. The feature-length format allowed DuVernay to deeply investigate the issue, by weaving together archival footage, present-day interviews and a 150 years statistical evidence. “These are not discussions you see on cable news, they are not the kind of discussions we are having in the media,” finds “Amanda Knox’s” co-director Brian McGinn. Today’s 24/7 media cycle does not allow for questioning the status quo; he believes that quality docs —made instantly accessible through online platforms like Netflix — are essential to a functioning democratic society. The filmmakers consider “Amanda Knox” a cautionary tale in today’s misinformation age where there’s frequently a rush to label

They see more than ever how important it is to talk about their work and why they do it. I am immensely proud to be of help to them since they help so many.” DAWN PORTER

and judge when it comes to sensationalized events. “We commodify tragedy and turn those involved into characters who are disregarded as real people,” says co-director Rod Blackhurst. “With the advent of social media, it’s as though we’re trying to cast Marvel movies in real time.” “Social media makes it harder to see others as real humans,” McGinn says. “Amanda Knox” shows the psychological cost to those at the center of the story, whose misfortune was turned into entertainment. Community and educational screenings continue to be a way for documentaries to influence the national conversation. “Trapped” director Dawn Porter saw requests spike immediately after the film’s Sundance debut; giving voice in the film to abortion providers who would otherwise be silenced was important too. “They see more than ever how important it is to talk about their work and why they do it,” Porter says. “I am immensely proud to be of help to them since they help so many people.” “What is your position?” opens Gianfranco Rosi’s Berlin film fest winner, “Fire at Sea.” It’s a recording of the Italian coast guard questioning imperiled refugees intercepted in the Mediterranean; the query serves as a metaphor for viewers. “What’s your position? becomes what’s my position?” Rosi says. “I want people who come out of the film to ask themselves the same question: What can I do?” He regards the film as a cry for help for the thousands escaping from tragedy who often encounter death in the middle of the sea. Rosi echoes his fellow contenders who all delve into grave subjects, “Art cannot change the course of history, but we can create an awareness.”

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION | BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE WINNER DIRECTING AWARD: U.S. DOCUMENTARY

FULL FRAME DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL

SAN FRANCISCO INT’L FILM FESTIVAL

NANTUCKET FILM FESTIVAL

BERKSHIRE INT’L FILM FESTIVAL

WINNER

WINNER

WINNER

WINNER

AUDIENCE AWARD

AUDIENCE AWARD

AUDIENCE AWARD

AUDIENCE AWARD

“AN ASTONISHING JOURNEY. The trust placed in Roger Ross Williams allowed for an emotional honesty that is the film’s greatest strength.” Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES

“MOVING AND PROFOUND.

An investigation of what it means to be human.” Bruce Handy, VANITY FAIR FROM ACADEMY AWARD -WINNING DIRECTOR ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS ®

BASED ON THE BEST-SELLING BOOK BY RON SUSKIND

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DOCUMENTARY

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BOATLOAD OF CRISES

“4.1 Miles” is among this year’s docu shorts that cover current events.

Short Docs Pack a Punch Hot-button issues are at the center of the Oscar category’s top pics By Will Thorne

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hen the noms for documentary short subject are announced Jan. 24, Oscar watchers antsy for star power may be tempted to check their email. But film fans should pay closer attention, because the spectrum of films shortlisted for the award provides an at-times heartbreaking, at-times uplifting, reflection of issues that have intensified around the world in 2016. Two current political tragedies jump out from the shortlist: the migrant crisis in Europe and the civil war in Syria. “4.1 Miles” deals with a small community that represents a microcosm of the much greater repercussions of the migrant crisis across Europe. The 21-minute film, directed by Bay Area-based documentary filmmak-

Short Subject Short List “Brillo Box (3¢ Off)” Brillo Box Documentary “Close Ties”  Munk Studio/Polish Filmmakers Assn. “Extremis”  f/8 Filmworks in association with Motto Pictures “4.1 Miles”  University of California, Berkeley “Frame 394”  Compy Films “Joe’s Violin”  Lucky Two Prods. “The Mute’s House”  The Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School “The Other Side of Home” Feeln “Watani: My Homeland”  ITN Prods. “The White Helmets” Grain Media and Violet Films

er Daphne Matziaraki, places a camera on board a Greek coast guard boat as it rushes in and out of port to save as many immigrants as possible from the freezing waters of the Mediterranean. At the center of the film is the boat’s captain, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who talks about the island of Lesbos’ current predicament. He tells how the crisis has escalated from something the coast guard could just about manage, to an overwhelming tide of death and tragedy. “In 2001, 20 refugees from Afghanistan came to (Lesbos), I remember it was the biggest news of the year. Now it’s 2015, and things have changed completely,” the captain says. “4.1 Miles,” like most films on the shortlist, is difficult to watch, but if anyone was in any doubt as to the fear and desperation that people from war-torn countries go through to resort to this almost suicidal journey, the film lays it out clearly. The documentary ends with this staggering statistic: between 2015 and 2016, 600,000 migrants crossed the 4.1 miles of water between Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos. Several of the films on this year’s shortlist deal with conflicts that appear to be at the root of the migrant crisis, among them “The White Helmets,” released on Netflix earlier this year. The film documents the lives and acts of everyday civilians in Syria who band

together when bombings occur nearby, and become the de-facto first responders on the scene. They wear white helmets and rush toward the sound of explosions and screaming, when most civilians would run the other way. In terms of political turmoil in the U.S., the shortlist has that covered with “Frame 394,” about Canadian Daniel Voshart, who deconstructs and reconstructs video footage from the shooting of an African-American man, Walter Scott, by police officer Michael Slager in South Carolina in April 2014. Voshart takes the original footage, enhances it, and slows it down, before posting it on Reddit. His video becomes the most commented in the history of the website, yet when he takes a closer looks and analyzes the video in greater depth, Voshart begins to question his decision and the narrative his newly edited video presents. He decides to contact Slager’s lawyer and present him with his work, which could potentially acquit the ex-cop at his murder trial. However, by adding the perspective of a local Black Lives Matter leader into the equation, the film cleverly questions and possibly subverts Voshart’s actions and approach. It brings in narratives from all sides of the case to show how by getting bogged-down in the details, Voshart and so many others are missing the bigger picture of the police brutality issue.


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DOCUMENTARY

Doc Fans Salute Feature Shortlist Egregious omissions are few, fest faves many in ultra-competitive year

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he Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Dec. 6 the 15 documentary features to advance in the race to the Oscars. It’s standard to brace yourself for egregious omissions from the annual initial culling of the documentary feature race. The exclusion of films including “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” and “Catfish” from the shortlist in recent years has raised eyebrows. This year, however, there were relatively few noteworthy absentees. The six films that have led the discussion and were well-represented by the International Documentary Assn. and Cinema Eye Honors — “Cameraperson,” “Fire at Sea,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “13th,” and “Weiner” — made the cut. Arthouse favorites like Robert Greene’s “Kate Plays Christine” or either Werner Herzog effort — “Into the Inferno” and “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World” — would have been welcome inclusions for many, but by and large, the Academy whittled things down to a relatively inarguable list. Also advancing are “The Ivory Game,” a Leonardo DiCaprio-backed film taking on the poaching of elephants; and Keith Maitland’s “Tower,” a look at the events surrounding the 1966 massacre at the University of Texas at Austin, using animated rotoscoping. Kristopher Tapley contributed to this report

Documentary Short List

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“Cameraperson” Big Mouth Prods. “Command and Control” American Experience Films/PBS “The Eagle Huntress” (1) Stacey Reiss Prods., Kissiki Films and 19340 Prods. “Fire at Sea” (2) Stemal Entertainment “Gleason” (3) Dear Rivers Prods., Exhibit A and IMG Films “Hooligan Sparrow” Little Horse Crossing the River “I Am Not Your Negro” Velvet Film “The Ivory Game” (4) Terra Mater Film Studios and Vulcan Prods. “Life, Animated” Motto Pictures and A&E IndieFilms “O.J.: Made in America” Laylow Films and ESPN Films “13th” Forward Movement “Tower” Go-Valley “Weiner” (5) Edgeline Films “The Witness” The Witnesses Film “Zero Days” Jigsaw Prods.


ARTISANS

Time for Arts and Crafts to Get Kudos Closeups Cinematography p.24 | Production Design p.26 | Costume Design p.28 | Editing p.30 | Composing p.32 | Sound p.34 | VFX p.36 ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN HOLCROFT

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CINEMATOGRAPHY

Many Eyes on the Prize in Wide-Open DP Race Films big and small, plus tech achievements, all vie for camera and lighting kudos By David Heuring

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fter an unprecedented dominance of the field by DP Emmanuel Lubezki, who won the cinematography Oscar three years in a row for “Gravity,” “Birdman,” and “The Revenant,” this year’s competition in the cinematography category appears to be wide open. Contenders range from extraordinary technical achievements (“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” “The Jungle Book”) to more indie-flavored human stories shot by relative newcomers (“La La Land,” “Lion,” and “Arrival”). Such perennial candidates as Lubezki (“Knight of Cups”), Roger Deakins (“Hail Caesar!”), Tom Stern (“Sully”), and Robert Richardson (“Live by Night”) should not be counted out, but the field is more unpredictable than it has been in several years. John Toll’s astonishing visuals for “Billy Lynn,” director Ang Lee’s bold foray into high frame rate, high dynamic range 3D, will garner significant consideration in spite of the film’s mixed reaction thus far from the public. The cinematography community is

I love playing with film, bending and twisting the negative to achieve different textures.” RODRIGO PRIETO

always watching in anticipation for the latest tech breakthroughs, and Toll, a master visual artist, may have shown them the first steps to the future. Meanwhile, Bill Pope’s work on the lush imagery of “The Jungle Book” involved groundbreaking levels of collaboration with visual effects pros and other digital artists. As with “Gravity,” “Life of Pi” and “Avatar,” a nomination here would likely spark controversy given the gray area between the two

fields. Janusz Kaminski (“The BFG”) may be similarly situated. On the other end of the tech spectrum is “Silence,” for which Rodrigo Prieto and Martin Scorsese returned to 35mm film in the anamorphic format to envelope viewers in 17th century Japan. “Marty and I immediately agreed that we wanted ‘Silence’ to be on film,” Prieto says. “Film has incredible color depth for nature, which surrounds these missionary priests,


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WIZARDRY

“The Jungle Book” mixed a lot of CGI with real locations.

and for skin tones. I love playing with film, bending and twisting the negative to achieve different textures.” Three-time Oscar winner (“The Aviator,” “Hugo,” “JFK”) Richardson was nominated last year for “The Hateful 8,” in which he resurrected the widescreen Ultra Panavision 70 film format. A nomination for “Live by Night” would be his 10th, tying him with Conrad Hall and leaving only Deakins and a handful of golden-era DPs with more.

On “Live by Night,” Ben Affleck’s Prohibition-era tale, the cinematographer felt the story and shooting style would benefit from large-format digital. He shot with a combination of Arri Alexa 65 — a camera formerly on the bleeding edge but fast becoming a standard tool — and Panavision lenses, some with older glass. Richardson says, “65mm film cannot be compared at this time to a larger digital sensor, but that might prove to be a false state-

ment in the years to come. That said, there is a unique quality to the Alexa 65, and I am learning.” Speaking of cinematography royalty, Caleb Deschanel was tapped by Warren Beatty to film “Rules Don’t Apply,” the director’s long-gestating Howard Hughes-in-Hollywood project. The film has been a disappointment at the box office, but considering Beatty’s old-school popularity at the Academy, don’t count out Deschanel, a five-time nominee. His imagery is unfailingly elegant, with each frame masterfully considered and executed. Australian DP Greig Fraser vaulted into strong contention by taking the top prize at the 2016 Camerimage Intl. Festival of the Art of Cinematography in Poland with “Lion,” the emotional story of a lost Indian boy who is adopted by an Aussie family. Camerimage jurors noted the film’s dependence on visual storytelling rather than on dialogue. Fraser has been wowing cinematography insiders for some time with his range on “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Foxcatcher,” and “The Gambler,” and he also shot the forthcoming “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Another next-generation director of photography is Linus Sandgren, whose distinctive, improvisational approach fits perfectly into the jazz nightclub locations in “La La Land.” Sandgren’s talent has been apparent for a while — “American Hustle” featured his evocative imagery and earned 10 Oscar nominations, albeit not one for the DP. Perhaps the Academy will take notice this year. Anthony Dod Mantle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) brought his iconoclastic approach to Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,” taking the Bronze Frog at Camerimage. The Silver Frog at the influential fest went to Bradford Young, who served notice in 2014 of a strong new voice with his work in “Selma” and “A Most Violent Year.” This year, his genre-defying imagery on Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” was a breath of fresh air. “It’s important to understand and appreciate the work of the greats, but I also try to deconstruct my notions of what filmmaking is,” says Young. “I grew up around creative people, so I try to take inspiration from all the arts.” That dynamic — respect for the masters, and an eye for the fresh and new — will be in play as Academy members choose this year’s nominees in the wide-open cinematography category.


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PRODUCTION DESIGN

Creative Designs Evoke Past, Present, and Future Vintage L.A., 1930s Korea, grungy Miami, and a spaceship thrill this season By Todd Longwell

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roduction designers working on this season’s awards contenders drew on some unlikely sources to create eye-catching sets that not only provided a stage for the action, but also subtly reinforced the narrative. For “Passengers’” production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, it was the sight of wingshaped sycamore tree seeds helicoptering to the earth outside the building he was staying in while working on the biopic “Steve Jobs” in San Francisco. It sparked an idea for his initial concept sketch of the mammoth space ship in “Passengers,” depicting three curved hulls rotating around a central propulsion unit, creating gravitational pull. He showed the sketch to “Passengers” director Morten Tyldum in their initial meeting, and it won him the job. “I was looking for something that would give us kinetic energy, so whenever we cut to the ship, we wouldn’t end up with just a stagnant lump moving through space,” says Dyas, who was Oscar-nominated for his work on 2011’s “Inception.”

I was looking for something that would give us energy so we wouldn’t end up with a stagnant lump in space.” GUY HENDRIX DYAS

Production designer Seong-hie Ryu also drew on nature for “The Handmaiden.” The film is set on a country estate in 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea, where its owner, enemy collaborator Uncle Kouzuki (Cho Jinwoong), forces his niece Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) to perform readings from his collection of antique erotica in his library, which features a mix of Japanese, European, and Korean styles. While doing a location scout on a Japa-

nese garden for the exterior of the estate (realized through a combination of practical locations, sets, and CGI), she got the idea to incorporate it into the library in the form of tatami mats that Kouzuki lays out during the readings, with white pebbles, stones and water. “Korean gardens are humble, organic, close to nature. Japanese artificially design their gardens, and consider it a miniature of the world,” explains Ryu in an email trans-


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SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES

“La La Land” evoked vintage Los Angeles with a contemporary twist.

lated from Korean. “By showing the process of him making the big effort to create this indoor garden on the stage area and then dismantling it each time as if he’s performing a ceremony, I thought I could show his twisted and disturbed mind through this obsession.” The $5 million budget for “Moonlight” didn’t allow for much in the way of set construction, so to reinforce the life arc of a young black man named Chiron living in

Miami’s Liberty Square housing projects from the early ‘90s to the mid-2000s, production designer Hannah Beachler used a lot of paint, along with period-correct set dressing. Beachler chose classic Miami shades of yellow and teal as the film’s base colors. In the first section of the narrative, which depicts a relatively optimistic time in Chiron’s life, they’re accompanied by pastels and popping greens.

By the final third of the film, “when we’re in [Chiron’s] apartment and he’s in the sort of in the abyss, all of that color is sort of gone,” Beachler says. “We painted a mute cream palette and his room is steely blue gray, which is a play on the teal.” For writer-director Damien Chazelle’s love letter to Los Angeles, “La La Land” production designer David Wasco sought out pockets of the city previously unexplored by filmmakers, from the 110-105 freeway interchange to Ferndell Trail in Griffith Park, both of which were used as settings for musical numbers. To portray a coffee shop frequented by jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), Wasco used an old drive-up grocery store on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank across the street from an Art Deco movie theater that, in the film, is supposed to be a studio where jazz greats Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk recorded. It turned out to be a case of art imitating life. Sort of. “We discovered it was actually a recording studio that was Barbra Streisand’s called Evergreen,” said Wasco, who previously explored L.A.’s underbelly in such films as Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Jackie Brown,” as well as Michael Mann’s “Collateral.” It was more difficult for production designer Jeannine Oppewall to have Los Angeles to play itself in director-star Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply,” due to the film’s 1958 setting. She found much had changed since her previous retro-L.A. films, 1997’s “L.A. Confidential” (set in 1953) and 2002’s “Catch Me if You Can” (set in 1963), so much of the film’s vintage settings had to be built on soundstages, including non-L.A. sets in depicting hotels in Acapulco, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. But when it came to a scene involving a drive down Hollywood Boulevard in the 1950s, building was out of the question. So Oppewall tracked down stock footage of the street from the era, then worked backward, procuring a vintage car for Frank (Alden Ehrenreich) to drive that matched the one in the shot. “We were able to turn up things that had enough pixels in them to work for us,” says Oppewall, “but the footage needed a significant amount of cleaning up.”


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COSTUME DESIGN

Clothes Line Between Actors Nothing informs a movie’s characters more than the design and feel of their outfits By Randee Dawn

“C

aptain Fantastic” costume designer Courtney Hoffman likes to think of herself as “almost a sidekick director.” Before you jump to the conclusion that she’s overinflating her job description, consider this: “As a costume designer you’re interacting with the actors very early in the process — having conversations about what’s in their pockets, how the shoes make them walk, how their clothes make them feel,” she says. “That directly informs their performance if you’re doing it right.” As with all choices in a film, the costume designer’s decisions on color, fit and overall appearance telegraphs something about characters’ personality, history, emotion and story arc. But during awards season, every stitch is up for scrutiny in a whole new way as peers try to decide who deserves the big prizes. “Costume isn’t separate from character design,” says Deborah Cook, who clothed not people but stop-motion creations in “Kubo and the Two Strings.” But not having live individuals to interact with and develop character with didn’t stop her from assessing every inch of fabric she created.

If Lady Susan had been a wallflower, I wouldn’t have pitched the colors I used.” EIMER NI MHAOLDOMHNAIGH

“I work with the director, the character designer, and project designer on the color script, and then I work with the character designer to draw them up,” she says. “It’s never a direct drawing from one person [in stop-motion].” In Cook’s case, title character Kubo’s outfit had to reflect his warrior father and make him pop for the audience. “He’s young and vibrant, and out there to prove himself in the world, so he wears red, which is a youth-

ful color in Japanese culture,” she says. Similarly, his mother’s early costume of ancient robes covered in symbols spoke to her history, and the combination directly supported her narrative for the first part of the film. For “The Handmaiden,” Cho Sang-kyung also drew from historical Asian imagery, but had to express Korean and Japanese cultures and outfits with layered subtlety. She knows that the “Japanese audience might have thought it was wrong” to feature Kou-


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UPPER CRUST

“Love & Friendship” made bold use of late Georgian silhouettes.

zuki (Cho Jin-woong) in a twisted-up traditional Japanese jacket and trousers, but “I intended it to show his desire to be a Japanese man as well as subconsciousness of his true identity as a Korean,” she explains in an email. Other period films face their own challenges in trying to illustrate character with costume. “Jackie’s” Madeline Fontaine was constrained by the fact that most of the world already knows what Jackie Kennedy

(Natalie Portman) wore on the day her husband was assassinated. So Fontaine chose less-public moments to find ways to get her costumes to convey character. “I think I had two sequences where she was not public,” she recalls, noting that they adhered to colors of the period (the 1960s), and ensured that even outside the public eye she remained “very fashionable.” “I try to do a lot of sociological research,” says “Café Society’s” Suzy Benzinger, who

matched clothes with class and aspiration. “Poor girl” Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) was always seen “looking perfect. She starts out very sweet and girly, this Hollywood starlet,” Benzinger says. “Girls always had to have their hair done and look adorable. Girls never looked relaxed.” So when Vonnie rises in society, that meant a shift to classic Chanel outfits and “ostentatious jewelry,” she says. “It worked out beautifully and historically.” Wanting a particular type of silhouette led to placing “Love & Friendship” in the late Georgian period, where corsets had not yet been eclipsed by Empire-waisted looser dresses, and helped underscore the seductive humor in the script, says costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh. Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) has a larger-thanlife personality and presence, so keeping her costume choices bold (as she moved from dark mourning clothes to mauves that signaled her availability again) was important. “We made a decision to build things up big,” she says. “Bigger hats, bigger hair. If Lady Susan had been a wallflower, I wouldn’t have pitched the colors I used.” The period in “Passengers” is the distant future and the story takes place in space, which costume designer Jany Temime decided would be “beyond fashion.” She helped telegraph who “working-class hero” James (Chris Pratt) was by dressing him in T-shirts and overalls largely in the color of the materials he works with — wood and metal. “When you meet him, you think, this is safe, this is good, this is old value, he’s a good guy,” she says. In contrast, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) is a dream girl, and wears mostly white and light gray. “I only gave her color in flashbacks, because that’s when she’s a character of flesh,” Temime says. “As she evolves she gets more and more white, more peaceful.” In the end, it’s about trying to tell the film’s story in parallel with the action, but silently. When costume designers and directors work in symbiosis, the film as a whole benefits. And the designers themselves can have a moment of feeling like they directed it a bit, too. “Sometimes, actors say that this character would have worn this outfit,” writes “Handmaiden’s” Cho. “This is a great compliment, since this sounds like the character says that to me.”


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EDITING

Skillful Cutting Tells Stories and Reveals Character Editors all use their skills to expose inner lives and advance action By Karen Idelson

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hen a virtuoso film editor crafts a scene just so, pulling together shots that at first might have seemed out of place, all the audience knows is that it is immersed in a story. Great editing is making all the segments on the screen seem like they were naturally meant to go together. It’s no easy feat to come up with that kind of a cut. Some of the most famous edits have been the results of a happy accident that brought certain visuals and audio together in the editing room. Most of the time, editors work through their footage until the cut feels right to them. For Joe Walker, editor on “Arrival,” there’s a particular method he tends to use to create tension, enhance storytelling and maximize character development. It’s not something he takes lightly. “Time is the editor’s super power,” Walker says. “It’s my obsession because the way you use time in a film will let you accomplish many things, from taking great scenes and making them better or making something that’s not quite there yet work for the film.” In “Arrival,” Walker needed to slowly reveal the relationship between Amy

The right detail at the right moment is what you want. It’s how you create tension.” JOE WALKER

Adams’ character and aliens who appear in a spacecraft that hovers above the ground. It was up to him to reveal the right elements and hold back information that would deflate the impact of the story overall. “The right detail at the right moment is what you want,” he says. “It’s how you create tension and how you let the audience have their reactions to what they’re seeing.” Sebastian Sepulveda also used time as his super power when editing “Jackie,” which

follows the life of the young first lady Jackie Kennedy as she struggles with the death of her husband and remembers key moments of her life in flashbacks. These moments carry the inner life of the character. In putting them together, Sepulveda was aware flashbacks need to be handled carefully and that the inner life or memory has its own kind of logic. “When you or I remember our past, sometimes it’s not in order, sometimes it’s


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LOST IN CAMELOT

“Jackie” editor Sebastian Sepulveda had to re-create memories.

because of something we see or smell, we’re not in control of it,” says Sepulveda. “So if you saw someone’s memories playing, it would not make sense, but in the movie it has to make sense somehow.” Without careful decisions in the editing room, flashbacks can become clichéd and sequences meant to look into the mind of a character could come off as a random series of images that leave the audience confused. “That is the art,” says Sepulveda. “An editor

can take images that seem crazy, confusing and play them together so the audience has an emotion or feeling they didn’t have before.” “Manchester by the Sea,” the latest by writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, also relied heavily on flashbacks to tell the story of a character holding in secrets that tortured him over the long haul. Editor Jen Lame had to handle them in a way that allows the audience to discover Casey

Affleck’s backstory at just the right time. “I knew [Lonergan] was making this movie and I read lots of drafts of the script, because I really wanted to work on this movie,” says Lame. “By the time we talked I knew scenes he’d cut from the story and could offer him ideas about how to bring everything together based on what had already been written at different points.” Lame also realized simple cuts and storytelling would allow Affleck’s complex character to develop more easily for the audience. There was already so much happening with him, it would almost be too much to see jarring edits as the heavy inner life of Affleck’s character played out on screen. “You could really hurt the impact of the amazing performance if you throw too much at the audience visually,” says Lame. “Sometimes as an editor, you have to be conservative not to take away from something that’s already amazing.” Tim Squyres, who has worked with helmer Ang Lee for more than a decade, faced down immense technical challenges on “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” to keep the project moving forward and cut together in the emotional evocative way Lee wanted it to be seen. While Lee’s aim was to make a film that would be shown at visually stunning 120 frames-per-second, 4K, and 3D, Squyres didn’t have the tools to edit in that format so he had to focus on getting as close to that mark as possible in order to be sure that the edit decisions would play the right way in the optimized format and at a lower resolution as well. “I needed to cut in 3D at the highest frame rate as possible and that turned out to be 60 frames per second,” says Squyres. “There wasn’t any hardware to support working at 120 frames so it had to be 60, and we had to invent out own way of working.”


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COMPOSING

Tunesmiths Talk Time and Technology Composers prefer long attachments to films, and are wary of temp scores By Jon Burlingame

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hrinking budgets, tight schedules, temporary music, new recording techniques — these are just some of the challenges facing film composers these days. Variety asked several composers in contention for awards this season about trends in their business. Most roll with the changes brought on by technology, and some were pleased about filmmakers understanding the need for adequate time to create — especially on the big scores. For example, Johann Johannsson worked on “Arrival” for more than nine months, starting before shooting began. His director, Denis Villeneuve, is a firm believer in long lead times and had even invited him to the set of their previous collaboration, “Sicario,” to, as Johannsson says, “get a feel for the geography, the atmosphere of the place … on a film that relies so much on exteriors and real locations.” (Because so much of “Arrival” was visual-effects-driven, Johannsson didn’t feel the need to visit.) For “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” composer James Newton Howard also started early, writing two “eight- or nine-minute suites” of proposed themes for early auditioning by director David Yates. “Most of that thematic material ended up in the movie in important ways,” Howard says. He was on the film for seven months. “Immersion in a movie over months and months will give you what you just can’t get in the same way over a four- or six-week

Immersion over months will give you what you just can’t get in the same way over a four- or sixweek period.” JAMES NEWTON HOWARD

period,” Howard says, referring to the usual late-in-post-production scramble to find the right music. Regarding budgets, major studio pictures still seem to have the resources for a proper score. John Debney’s “Jungle Book,” for example, had a Disney-financed orchestra of 100, plus a 50-voice choir. But the mediumto lower-budget independent films, he says, are often under-budgeted for score, so that “it becomes very difficult to do an original

score with a live musician or two. “I am hearing of smaller films with topname actors but little or no money, maybe a couple of thousand dollars, for music,” Debney says. He has turned down jobs “where the budget won’t allow me to do what I think the film needs, musically.” (Among the reasons, he surmises: the Pandora/Spotify mentality where “you push a button and you get free music.” That doesn’t take into account the costs of writing it, orchestrating


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SONIC UNIVERSE

James Newton Howard scored “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

it, recording it with actual musicians.) Even though it’s been a standard practice for decades, the use of temp music — pre-existing music added to an early cut, often before a composer is hired to write an original score — remains controversial. Some embrace it as a key tool in understanding what the director is looking for; others find that it can damage the cause of originality and fresh approaches to the material.

Nicholas Britell, who scored “Moonlight,” sees both sides of the equation. “Music is very difficult to talk about,” he says. “One of the most powerful things that a temp can do is provide a reference for an idea or emotion or some musical concept that might be difficult to explain in words. The negatives are when people [editors, directors or both] fall in love with something, to the detriment of the picture.” He adds, “A lot of temp is like throwing

a dart at a board. You’re just testing things out. And the only way you figure things out is by experimenting. Ultimately, it’s about how the temp is used. If it is used as a conversation starter, then it can be helpful. It’s a problem if they’re saying, ‘this is what we need.’” Nearly all composers are now asked to “mock up” their score on synthesizers in advance of recording so that directors can approve each cue before they get to the scoring stage. “The point of purchase for what we do is now that mockup,” says “Allied” composer Alan Silvestri. “If that mockup does not communicate, that piece is not in the movie.” In fact, Silvestri says, composer mockups now routinely go into the movie for preview screenings. “For the duration of the preview process — to the execs, or showing it to audiences — that mockup better hold its own in a movie theater,” he says. One of the most talked-about trends in film music is the relatively new practice of “striping” — recording sections of the orchestra separately to give filmmakers greater control of the score during dubbing (the final mix of dialogue, sound effects, and score). Brass is recorded separately from strings, woodwinds from brass, and so on. Veteran composers disapprove. “I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I wanted with the orchestra if I had to do it that way,” says John Williams, composer of last summer’s “The BFG.” “The players really need to hear each other. When an orchestra plays together, they’re inspired by what’s going on around them. The violas have to match the horns in pitch and articulation, for example. It can all be done in layers, but I don’t think it’s ever going to quite have the emotional impact, or conviction, or character of the piece.” Adds the five-time Oscar winner, “A conductor can create a variety of sounds and characteristics [if the orchestra plays together]. It’s not possible the other way; it’s going to be, in some sense, clinical.”


34

ARTISANS

SOUND MIXING AND EDITING

Authenticity Challenges Aural Experts Getting the sound right is the key to believability for any type of genre By Daron James

T

he sound contenders in this year’s Oscar race echo a vast auditory range, from the subtle complexities of a poet’s inner monologue to the whimsical songs of a couple falling in love, and even an explosive true-to-life battlefield. Each soundtrack harmoniously conveys a unique emotional tone, making it difficult to pick a clear standout in a crop of diverse films. The Damien Chazelle-directed “La La Land” tested production sound mixer Steven Morrow and crew to provide the energy on set. “One thing Damien laid down was the challenge to make the music loud enough so the actors could feel it, not just hear it,” says Morrow. The mixer used up to 32 different audio tracks to record live instruments and songs from Justin Hurwitz’s original score. “It was important to create a soundscape that was pretty but also one based in reality,” notes sound designer and sound supervising editor Ai-Ling Lee, who along with re-recording

It was about creating a real intimate and personal portrayal of what it is like to be in the thick of the battle.” ROBERT MACKENZIE

mixer Andy Nelson finely tuned moments leading into song so they didn’t feel as if they came from a vocal booth. “It was about balancing the correct blend of live and recorded elements into each song,” says Lee. Robert Hein, the sound designer, sound editor, and re-recording mixer on “Paterson,” manipulated repetition to tell the story of a bus driver with a secret love of poetry. “Paterson wakes up every day and every day is a little different. The issue with sound

when the film is repetitive is not to make the sound repetitive, but reflect on that,” says Hein. “The intention of the film was to feel that quality of every day being somewhat similar but not. We did a lot of delicate maneuvering with sounds and tried to make it evolve as the film went along. It was important to have every day feel like it was the same but in reality every day was different and special.” The sound team behind Mel Gibson’s


ARTISANS

35

BATTLE HARDENED

The sound team behind “Hacksaw Ridge” wanted to immerse the audience.

“Hacksaw Ridge,” which is based on a true story, created intense combat sequences to place the audience directly into the experience. “Everything was high-impact and very visceral, very engaging,” says sound designer and re-recording mixer Robert Mackenzie. “It was about creating a real intimate and personal portrayal of what it is like to be in the thick of the battle.” In building the intensity, sound supervisor and re-recording mixer Andy Wright

played guns to a realistic level, with explosions overpowering the audience to keep them on edge. Randy Thom, supervising sound designer, sound editor, and re-recording mixer, was tasked with finding authentic sounds for the period film “Allied,” starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. “We not only had to find cars from the 1940s but cars you would most likely hear in North Africa and England,” says Thom. For its re-cre-

ation of the London Blitz, the sound team went to England’s Imperial War Museum to retrieve original sounds. “We used a variety of recordings from other places as well and pieced them all together to make it as believable and authentic and powerful of a montage as we could.” For “Manchester by the Sea,” supervising sound editor, sound designer, and re-recording mixer Jacob Ribicoff traveled to Massachusetts to record environments for all the locations, making stops in Beverly and Gloucester before heading to the practical sets that included a high school, hockey rink, fisherman’s bar, hospital and beaches. In building environments around Casey Affleck’s character Lee Chandler, simplicity was key. “Sound extends the landscape so that it can wrap itself around the viewer,” Ribicoff explains. “All it took was one proper wind or bird or boat engine to connect the viewer and characters to their landscape. We also made a choice to feel wind from inside the rooms in the house; feel it, not hear it.” While Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” may seem like a visual spectacle, a layered aural story had to be shaped by supervising sound editor Shannon Mills and the sound team. “Magic is always hard because it’s so subjective,” says Mills. “It can sound like a lot of things, so trying to find the tone that tells the story or what’s in the director’s mind is a hard thing to figure out.” To provide sound to the M.C. Escher-esque visuals, where buildings begin to distort, the team needed to find the right balance of real and magical sounds so it felt fantastical but in realistic way. Even the cape Doctor Strange wears needed a touch of magic. “We knew early on we had to walk a line of believability and flair and comedy for his cape,” says Mills. “We created voices with cloth as a palette and tried to give him a little bit of character or speech so it wasn’t cartoonish.”


36

ARTISANS

VISUAL EFFECTS

VFX and VR: Collision Course Top visual effects pros weigh in on the impact of virtual reality on their craft By Karen Idelson

A

re the worlds of visual effects and virtual reality converging? The jury may still be out on that, but as VR continues to grow in impact, it’s inevitable that the new technology will increasing inform the look of VFX in films. To be sure, VFX and VR artists rely on many of the same skill sets. Most effects pros regularly deal with stereo imagery and asset building, which are crucial for VR as well. Both areas share such tools as real-time rendering (as does gaming), and require similar skillsets. But tools and techniques aside, do visual effects supervisors look over their shoulders and feel a little nervous about what’s coming down the VR pipeline — or feel pressure to match it? “I think that’s all coming in the future,” says Rob Legato, VFX supervisor on “The Jungle Book.” “Right now you have filmmakers who grew up composing shots in a way that’s traditional for cinema and we make

If you grow up watching VR, that look will seem more natural to you.” ROB LEGATO

the visual effects part of the imagery serve the story and show you where to look. With virtual reality the viewer is guiding the experience, and we’ve yet to see how this will influence filmmaking over time.” Two-time Academy Award-winner Legato and his team worked out a way to “use the computer like a camera” in order to create a more realistic look for the animals in the retelling of the classic children’s story. Legato used a visual style that made it easy for

the audience to accept the animals as “real” and then almost forget the visual effects and just follow the story. “Audiences are used to seeing movies in a certain way today, but that will change as the type of things this next generation watches also change,” says Legato. “If you grow up watching VR, that look will seem more natural to you.” Academy Award-winner John Knoll also leaned into audience expectations for


ARTISANS

37

SPACE ODYSSEY

“Passengers” aimed for a more classic look inspired by “2001.”

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The “Star Wars” films come with a considerable visual legacy — a distressed, run-down look created in the original film in 1977 — that still lingers in the minds of fans. Knoll used contemporary tools to make the film look like it fits within a series that started decades ago. “I definitely see films that have camera moves and design that borrows from gaming-type experiences, but I’m personally not a huge fan of that type of stuff and

stick with cinematography that’s inspired by real camera moves,” Knoll says. “We did a handful of shots that were rendered in our advanced game engine, which was an experiment to see if we could do it. It turned out really well, and the advantage is that you’re seeing a very close version of what the final shot will be, which is good interactive feedback.” For Richard Bluff, visual-effects supervisor for “Doctor Strange,” it was about let-

ting his artists run mad with the visuals and pulling in some VR tech elements to help his crew get the perspective they needed to tell the story. “We 3D-scanned various locations in New York in order to rebuild them later and we took along what we called the ‘Strange Cam,’ a camera rig we built and manufactured that housed six GoPro cameras,” Bluff says. “So we were able to have video of 360-degree environments while hanging off the side of a building, and we then brought that material back to ILM in San Francisco and stitched it together and viewed it through VR goggles.” The artists were then able to experience all the odd and unusual vantage points required for the shots in the film’s more extreme sequences. Space saga “Passengers” kept to a look inspired by the Stanley Kubrick classic “2001: A Space Odyssey,” with its cold, isolated interiors and steady movement. Visual-effects supervisor Erik Nordby thought that kind of motion would help the story. “We had to work hard to resist doing things like showing the ship moving fast against a point of reference,” says Nordby. “But we wanted that feeling that Kubrick created with the slower-looking movements, even though the ship is moving incredibly fast through space.” Nordby was more influenced by traditional cinematography, but can also see a future where gaming and VR have a bigger impact on what people want to see at the theater. “We’re reaching for something that Kubrick created, but those influences might not be the same for the generations that come next,” he says.


38 My First Time in Variety

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est-known as the music supervisor for Adam Sandler’s comedy hits over the past two decades, Brooks Arthur’s latest project, as producer of the acclaimed new music documentary, “Bang! The Bert Berns Story,” takes the Grammy winner back to the early days of his show business career, which began almost 60 years ago. Even before working with the songwriter-producer Berns as a recording engineer, Arthur had a label deal as singer-songwriter “Artie Blaine.” Arthur first caught Variety’s attention in 1959 when he was making the move to running his own label, Collegiate Records. STEVEN GAYDOS

Did you find the label executives receptive? No, I was learning how to order records from the pressing plants, how to produce album covers, how to service a hit record with the DJs, but I wanted to be a singer and they kept telling me, “Let’s find the right song,” but they never did.

Brooks Arthur Feb. 4, 1959

“I would have bet the store I would never become an engineer with hundreds of hits.”

And you were impatient? I took the money I was making at Coral Records and started my own label. I put together sessions with great

musicians like Kenny Burrell and cut four songs. I was on my way to being a great singer and nothing was going to stop me, but I didn’t know enough to hire a great record promotion man like Georgie Goldner, who was one of the greatest. It was right there in front of my eyes and I didn’t see it. Did you ever come close with these attempts to become a singing star? I really thought I had it in 1960 when I cut “The Birthday Card,” which I co-wrote with Artie Kaplan and Paul Kaufman. It was on Capitol and Andy Wiswell produced it at the Capitol studios on West 46th Street in New York. It started to make some noise, but then it disappeared. It broke my heart. But it opened the door to working with guys like Bert Berns, Don Kirshner, Neil Diamond, The McCoys, Van Morrison, Shadow Morton, Leiber and Stoller. It’s a long list. I wanted to be the next Eddie Fisher, then I started engineering demos for my friends and I would have bet the store I would never become an engineer with hundreds of hits. But I became the Eddie Fisher of audio engineers.

Variety, VOL. 334, NO. 9 (USPS 146-820, ISSN 0011-5509) is published weekly, except the first week in July, the fourth week in November, and the fourth and fifth weeks in December, with 40 special issues: Jan (8), Feb (8), June (7), Aug (6), Nov (5) and Dec (6) by Variety Media LLC, 11175 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, a division of Penske Business Media. Periodicals postage paid at Los Angeles, CA and at other mailing offices. Postmaster send address changes to: Variety, P.O. Box 15759, North Hollywood, CA 91615-5759. Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Publications Mail Agreement No. 40043404. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: RCS International Box 697 STN A, Windsor, Ontario N9A 6N4. Sales agreement No. 0607525. Annual subscription rates: USA, $329; Canada, $359 (includes GST); Europe, $399; rest of world, $599. Single copies are available for $8; back issues $11 U.S., $15 International. A reasonable fee shall be assessed to cover handling costs in the event of a cancellation of a subscription. Subscription customer service is available by phone: (800) 552-3632 or email: variety@pubservice.com. For content licensing, editorial re-use requests or custom ePrints or reprints, please email us at licensing@variety.com. Variety © 2016 by Variety Media, LLC. Variety and the Flying V logo are trademarks of Penske Business Media. Printed in the U.S.A.

SPIROS HALARIS

How did you make the move from record executive to artist? I started in the mail room at Decca Records. It was a summer high school job. It was all in the hopes I would be discovered as a singer, that I’d get noticed by some A&R man or record producer. It turned out to be one of the best jobs in the business because label guys like Milt Gabler and Bob Field let me attend recording sessions by Ella Fitzgerald, Al Hibbler, the McGuire Sisters. I got conversant with the recording engineers. And I had gotten a little Revere recording machine as a bar mitzvah gift, which I used to start recording music shows off the TV set at home.


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