Getting More Immersed with Indiewire


  The Penske Media purchase of Indiewire has resulted in an expansion of my role as crafts and awards season contributor.  Beginning this week, I begin Emmy coverage of below-the-line contenders along with my usual Oscar season crafts reporting, working closely

Immersed in Blu-ray: Hitchcock and Bogart


The WB Archive Collection gets Hitch and Bogie on Blu-ray and they've never looked better for home viewing. In Kent Jones' indispensable doc, Hitchcock/Truffaut, he reminds us that Truffaut was on a mission to correct misconceptions about Hitch as a lightweight

Immersed in Books: Farber on Film


For the first time, the complete writings of film critic Manny Farber is available from Library of America, edited by Robert Polito (Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson). Manny Farber (1917-2008) was the first modernist film critic to write like a modernist.

Events

Remembering Steve Jobs, VES Summit, Gaeta

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Festivals, Movies, Tech, VES, VFX, Videogames, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

In this week’s TOH indieWIRE column, I elaborate on my memorable encounter with Steve Jobs and recap last weekend’s VES Production Summit and my casual conversation with John Gaeta at the Palo Alto Film Fest. Somehow it all fits.

VES Production Summit Take Aways

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Blu-ray, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, performance capture, Tech, VES, VFX | Leave a comment

Here are some take aways from Saturday’s VES Production Summit at the beautiful Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills:

* The industry needs better educated stereographers: They should know camera as well as post/VFX. However, there’s a DP turf war going on between the cinematographer and the stereographer, so the cinematographer needs to embrace bringing the stereographer in on the trio with the director, and the stereographer needs to understand the needs of the cinematographer.

* The latest tax incentive wrinkle has high-end VFX artists being lured away to other countries as a result of better lifestyle opps. So the talent pool is definitely improving overseas.

* Former MPAA president Bob Pisano suggested that sequencing and pricing have to be rethought since time-based windows obviously don’t work in the era of social media.

* X-Men: First Class had a hectic four-week post schedule for VFX and the whole production was turned around in less than a year, but, because they pulled it off, there’s a concern that this will become the norm and not the exception.

* Rise of the Planet of the Apes was hailed as “Apeatar” in the way that it leveraged the Avatar performance capture system and was done quickly and efficiently. But the original version had James Franco dying but it didn’t test well, but you can be sure the alternate version will be touted on the upcoming Blu-ray.

* A lack of clarity and preparedness before you go into production is consequential — that is the systematic problem at the heart of so much abuse of VFX artists that the VES is currently trying to address in its Bill of Rights.

In the Works: Returning to Kurelek’s Maze

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Education, Events, Festivals, Movies, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Today’s TOH indieWIRE column is an interview with Nick and Zack Young about the fascinating restoration and expansion of their father Bob Young’s influential documentary about famed Canadian painter William Kurelek. The new version creatively incorporates animation to take us deeper into the darkly surreal and nakedly frank paintings. William Kurelek’s The Maze will premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival on Oct. 12 and Oct 15, and will also kick off a major exhibition of Kurelek’s work in Canada at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Oct. 13 and Nov. 26.

Deadline Approaches for Oscar Shorts

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Events, Movies, Oscar, Shorts, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

This coming Monday is the deadline to submit entries in the Live Action Short Film, Animated Short Film and Foreign Language Film categories to be considered for the 84th Academy Awards. Complete entries must arrive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by 5:00 p.m. PT that day.

In the short film categories, filmmakers must submit an entry form, one film print or copy in an approved digital format, and all other required materials by the deadline. Pixar’s La Luna by Enrico Casarosa is an exquisite animated entry. In the Foreign Language Film category, filmmakers must submit entry forms, one English-language subtitled film print or copy in an approved digital format, and all other required materials by the deadline. Only one motion picture will be accepted from each country.

Complete 84th Academy Awards rules are available at http://www.oscars.org/rules. Additional information may be obtained by contacting Awards Coordinator Torene Svitil via phone at (310) 247-3000, ext. 1116, by fax at (310) 247-2600, or by e-mail at tsvitil@oscars.org.

Geeking Out with Cameron at the 3D Summit

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Movies, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

I interviewed James Cameron for my Immersed in Movies column at indieWIRE’s  TOH. We spoke about 3-D for the Avatar sequels and just announced Disney theme park attraction, as well as the Titanic conversion. Cameron and tech partner Vince Pace spoke at the 3D Entertainment Summit this week in Hollywood, suggesting that the business model is working just fine despite some growing pains and speed bumps.

Meanwhile, Pace is continuing to improve the technology. He’s developing a smart rig (taking the focus puller and interocular guy out of the picture) while still working with manufacturers to create faster, lighter, and smarter digital cameras. He recently worked on Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, and came away refreshed at the emotional spectacle.

Sneaking Puss in Boots in 3-D

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

One of the highlights at this week’s 3D Entertainment Summit at the Hollywood & Highland Center was a sneak peek of the first 18 minutes of DreamWorks’ Puss in Boots (Nov. 4) as part of tribute to Jeffrey Katzenberg’s pioneering efforts. Not surprisingly, the film really pops in 3-D, thanks to the continual improvements in the stereoscopic aesthetic (kudos to Phil McNally).

Puss (Antonio Banderas) walks into town in search of a heist. First, he’s ridiculed in the saloon, but after demonstrating his notorious feline skills, he attempts to steal the magic beans from the villainous couple, Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris). Just then, a masked rival mucks things up and Puss seeks revenge, resulting in a wild kitty litter dance competition and sword fight. But the mysterious opponent turns out to be… Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). The screw turns when another old rival, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), saunters in to offer a heist proposition.

Puss in Boots looks smart, witty, naughty, and visually fun. Director Chris Miller (Shrek the Third) is definitely reaching beyond Shrek and has benefited enormously from exec producer Guillermo Del Toro.

VES Issues Bill of Rights

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Movies, Tech, VES, VFX | Leave a comment

The Visual Effects Society (VES) today issued a Bill of Rights that more forcefully addresses the downward spiral of working conditions and benefits for VFX artists and dwindling profit margins for facilities than its previous open letter. Indeed, it was approved unanimously by the VES board.

“In the VES Open Letter, we said it was time to step up as the voice of the visual effects industry by talking to all parties regarding their concerns,” said Eric Roth, VES exec director, in a prepared statement. “At this time we have engaged in a vigorous dialog with key stakeholders at all levels and believe our Bill of Rights lays out the vital concerns of each segment of the industry  Our next step is to focus on bringing all parties together to seek solutions.”

To address these concerns, the VES Bill of Rights states that visual effects artists and practitioners, facilities, and studios all have basic rights that need to be upheld in order to recognize the contributions of each group while improving the quality of life and work for artists, practitioners, facilities, and studios.

For artists and practitioners, the VES advocates “a clear understanding of the work he/she is being hired to perform, including knowing what they are being paid per hour, per week or per job, as well as the duration of the assignment, with strict adherence to all local labor laws and tax codes regarding overtime, sick time, vacation time, working conditions, safety, and other aspects of a professional work environment…”

Crucially, the VES calls for “quality health care coverage no matter where in the world he/she may be working.”

The VES suggests that facilities should be entitled to a “clear and reasonable deal memo with the artists and practitioners for hire delineating the scope of the work, the schedule from commencement to completion, and the agreed upon price; and retain ownership of their intellectual property and proprietary tools…”

Meanwhile, studios should be entitled to “a clear and reasonable contract delineating the scope of the work, the schedule from commencement to completion of the project, and the payment schedule based on the agreed upon price; be informed in a timely manner before incurring any excess charges, delays or problems with work for which it has contracted…”

The first opportunity to address the Bill of Rights will be at the third annual VES Production Summit (“Trending the Global Marketplace: You Are Here”) Oct. 1 at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The VES Bill of Rights can be accessed at:www.visualeffectssociety.com/visual-effects-industry-bill-of-rights.

Cats Dominate European Film Academy Animation Noms

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Events, Movies | Leave a comment

The European Film Academy has selected Le chat du rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat, France), directed by Antoine Delesvaux  & Joann Sfar; Chico & Rita (Spain/Isle of Man), directed by ono Errando, Javier Mariscal & Fernando Trueba; and Une vie de chat (A Cat in Paris, France/Belgium), directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli & Alain Gagnol.

Le chat du rabbin (adapted from Sfar’s comic and set in ’20s Algeria) concerns a rabbi’s cat that learns how to speak after swallowing the family parrot and wants to convert to Judaism; Chico & Rita follows the tradition of the heartbreaking bolero in which a young piano player and beautiful singer are thrown together; and in Une vie de chat a thrilling mystery unfurls in the alleys and on the rooftops of the French capital during one night.

Any or all of these could be late entry Oscar contenders if they qualify in time.

The nominating committee consisted of EFA board members Per Holst (producer, Denmark) and Antonio Saura (producer, Spain) as well as representatives of CARTOON, the European Assn. of Animation Film, Patrick Caradec (France), Heikki Jokinen (Finland), and Thilo Rothkirch (Germany).

The nominated films will now be submitted to the 2,500 EFA Members to elect the winner, which will be presented at the European Film Awards ceremony on Dec. 3, in Berlin.

Spielberg to Release Original Raiders, E.T. on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Blu-ray, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Steven Spielberg has always had one foot in analog and one in digital, and reaffirmed it Tuesday night after an L.A. Live digital screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark hosted by the Hero Complex’s Geoff Boucher. Spielberg proudly proclaimed that the audience was seeing the original theatrical version. He was then joined onstage for the 30th anniversary screening by Harrison Ford, who proclaimed that shooting the swordsman was his idea.

“This is the best I think it’s ever looked,” Spielberg said, “because, in preparation for the eventual release on Blu-ray, we had to correct the print again and get the original negative out of the salt mines, and then we had to do the separations, and basically the files, which are just amazing, with all the technology of today, without changing any of the movie materially, we haven’t removed anything, we haven’t added CGI, there’s no digital enhancements! It’s purely the movie some of you may remember from 1981.”

Meanwhile, Spielberg announced that the beloved Raiders trilogy and E.T. would be released on Blu-ray next year in their original theatrical versions, again, looking better than ever with only nominal digital cleanup. (He previously told Ain’t It Cool News that Jaws would go Blu in 2012). However, in sharp contrast to his good friend George Lucas, who enjoys improving his films as technology evolves, the celebrated director regrets digitally tampering with E.T. (Remember the guns being replaced by walkie-talkies and the CG enhanced extra-terrestrial?)

“…I was disappointed in myself. I got overly sensitive to E.T., and I thought if technology evolved… it was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T.

VES Announces Production Summit Schedule

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Movies, Tech, VES, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

The Visual Effects Society (VES) revealed its schedule for the third annual Production Summit (“Trending the Global Marketplace: You Are Here”) Oct. 1 at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. According to VES exec director Eric Roth, “This year’s Summit will feature ongoing interaction between an international group of key industry leaders whose mandate is to adapt to the global nature of the entertainment industry by staying current with ever changing technologies, and rethinking production schedules and distribution channels.  Attendees will be encouraged to think innovatively in order to find better solutions for their businesses.”

With Roth laying down the gauntlet in his open letter to help facilitate better healthcare benefits and working conditions for VFX artists, the VES, as an honorary society, has a multifaceted, global constituency. Nonetheless, the VES will address a host of technical and business trends and concerns.

Presentation speakers will include:

A Keynote Address by Bob Pisano, president and COO, Motion Picture Association of America and feature presentations by Autodesk Fellow, Tom Wujec, and leading entertainment industry analyst with Janey Montgomery Scott, Tony Wible.

Panelists and Roundtable Moderators confirmed as of this date include:

  • Rob Bredow – CTO and Visual Effects Supervisor, Sony Pictures Imageworks
  • Annie Chang – VP of Post-Production Technology for The Walt Disney Studios Digital Production Technology
  • Richard Chuang – CEO Cloudpic Global Inc
  • Bob Coleman – President, Digital Artists Agency Inc (DAA)
  • Chris deFaria – EVP, Production Digital Production for Warner Bros.
  • Warren Franklin – CEO, Rainmaker Ent.
  • Ted Gagliano – President Feature Post Production, Twentieth Century Fox Studios
  • Dan Glass – Sr. VFX Supervisor, EVP and General Manager, Method Studios
  • Uday Kumar – Vice President US Operations Reliance Media Works
  • Thilo Kuther – CEO & Managing Director, Pixomondo
  • Amy Lemisch – Executive Director, California Film Commission
  • Steve Papazian – President, Worldwide Physical Production, Warner Bros.
  • Christian Roberton – Managing Director, MPC Film
  • Andy Romanoff – Industry Relations / Business Development, AbelCine
  • Carl Rosendahl – Faculty, Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center
  • Scott Squires – Visual Effects Producer
  • Randy Starr – Visual Effects Producer
  • Stephan Trojansky – VFX Supervisor / Co-Founder of Scanline VFX

The Sessions will include:

The Studios’ POV: Adapting to Innovation in a 24-Hour World

What do you need to know in order to keep up with the latest technology and keep your business on track?  Innovative digital technology has radically changed the post and distribution channels of the studios which in turn affects the filmmakers and services providers within their sphere.  Meeting these new needs requires extraordinary operational coordination and responsiveness across the studios’ global digital efforts. This reality creates a need for cooperation and conflict resolution mechanisms within and across all functions, as well as budget procedures that allow for flexibility and rapid direction changes.  The very things that push creativity and efficiency can provide new obstacles. This panel examines how studios determine a clear approach for monitoring, sharing and adapting within this globally interconnected network and the best ways to work together and maintain reasonable margins.

Success Around the Globe

Visual effects companies have expanded to multiple sites and have a true global footprint and workforce.  Multi-cultural and multi-national interfacing, altered technology and pipeline shifts, social media management, IP development and partnerships are increasingly important; yet creativity, quality, service and professionalism remain the most important elements. Additionally, as companies add an IP component, they need creative employees who can develop timely, relevant, and compelling content across a variety of media.  This panel of top executives will take a look at successful visual effects business models and crossover models from around the globe — organic growth, partnerships, acquisitions, creator-driven, niche-driven — to examine and reveal how their companies have evolved and strategized to stay relevant and successful in the current environment.  Hear from these experts on where they and the industry are headed in the near and distant future.

Continental Breakfast Roundtables

To jump start the morning of the Summit, the event is introducing Breakfast Roundtable discussions.  This hour long aspect of the Summit will be for those attendees who want to discuss and share information on a particular subject with their fellow attendees.  Each table will have a moderator who is an expert in their topic. The objective is for everyone to join in on the discussion and glean new information.  A time for attendees to do the talking.

  • Animation Trending
  • The Challenges of 3-D stereo
  • The Challenges of 48-60fps
  • The Challenges of Digital Color
  • 2-D to 3-D conversion
  • Chasing and Taking Advantage of Tax Incentives
  • Moving to 4K: Impact on VFX Schedules, Budgets
  • Finding Financial Investors for Original IP
  • Open Source Development/Trends
  • Niche Market: How Best to Focus My Company
  • How to Build and Maintain Creative Staff
  • Canada: The Next Soho
  • Partnering with International Companies

For more info, go to www.visualeffectssociety.com/production-summit-2011.