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.

VFX

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.

ADG Wants to Organize Previs Artists

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

Visual effects artists aren’t the only ones being courted by guilds and unions: The Art Directors Guild, Local 800 of the IATSE (ADG), wants to organize previs artists, and has launched an informational site called Artists for Direct Action.

“It’s a natural fit for previs talents to be represented by the Art Directors Guild,” said president Tom Walsh in a prepared statement.  “Our new site will let them know what they can do to claim for themselves the rights all other ADG members currently enjoy.”

ADG claims a long history of visualization synergy with previs artists through its existing crafts professionals: production designers and art directors; scenic and graphic artists; set designers and model makers, illustrators, storyboard, and matte artists.

ADG organizer Peter Koczera noted the guild’s new website will be regularly updated and that he personally is available 24/7 to guide previs artists through the procedures they may follow to assert their rights as artists in the workplace.

It just so happens that I have a prominent association with both the ADG and The Previsualization Society. In fact, I moderated a day-long previs session at the ADG back in January 2008 that directly led to the formation of the Society (see above photo). So I understand the craft of previs and its importance to the industry, and the tug-of-war that exists in a competitive but mutually respective turf war. Moreover, I also understand and appreciate the artistic importance of the crafts associated with the ADG, and how they are leading the way in a whole new digital paradigm.

Thus, in trying to be balanced, I reached out to the Society and got the following response:

“The Previsualization Society, a non-profit trade organization, was formed for a singular purpose — educating professionals who consume and practice previs in order to maximize the effectiveness of the process. A previs department collaborates with a wide range of disciplines and departments from one end of production to the other. Everyone involved needs to be working together toward a common purpose, and the Society has been tasked to focus on fostering the necessary understanding. The ADG was the original anchor and host of the ASC-ADG-VES Joint Technology Subcommittee on Previsualization. The first announcement of The Previs Societies existence was made at ADG headquarters. The Previs Society will continue to pursue our mission of education regardless of what actions the ADG takes in pursuit of its goals.

“The Society was formed to be a collaborative voice for the previs discipline. ADG seems to want to draw the Society into the debate over whether unionization  is right for employees and employers involved in previs. The Society is not the forum for this debate and should not be drawn into it.

I will definitely be exploring this further.

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.

Getting Immersed with John Gaeta at the Palo Alto Fest

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

As part of the inaugural Palo Alto International Film Festival this weekend, I will have a casual conversation with Oscar-winning visual effects designer John Gaeta (The Matrix movies, Speed Racer) about interfacing with media, the future of movies, and possibilities for more experiential storytelling. The event will take place Sunday at 3:00 at Talenthouse in downtown Palo Alto, and will be streamed live.

Additionally, there will be two screenings of Méliès’  A Trip to the Moon, with Technicolor’s Tom Burton discussing the celebrated digital restoration (Saturday at 2:00 and 4:00).

Here’s the complete speaker line-up:

Friday, September 30, 12-1p

2 – 3 p.m. Tim Draper: The Future of Media, http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/timdraper_paiff2011_paiff2011

3 – 4 p.m. Making the Startup Kids with Vala Halldorsdottir and Sesselja Vilhjalmsdottir; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/makingthestartupkids_paiff2011_paiff2011

4-5 p.m. How Much Is Your Idea Worth? with Saad Khan (CMEA CapitalFilm Angels) and Eric Edmeades (Kerner Group), moderated by Sunil Rajaraman (Scripped.com); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/isyourideaworthanything_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:30-6:30 p.m. Global Cinema Tomorrow with Alesia Weston (Sundance Institute), Santhosh Daniel (Global Film Initiative), Jasmina Bojic (United Nation Association Film Festival); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/globalcinematomorrow_paiff2011_paiff2011

7-8 p.m. Encyclopedia Pictura: Isaiah Saxon, Daren Rabinovitch, Sean Hellfritsch; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/encyclopediapicturaisaiahsaxondarenrabinovitchseanhellfritsch_paiff2011_paiff2011

Saturday, October 1, 11-12p

3:15-4 p.m. Paul Debevec: Achieving Photoreal Digital Actors; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/behindthesceneswpauldebevec_paiff2011_paiff2011

4:15-5 p.m. Steven Gaydos:  Writing “Road to Nowhere”; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/stevengaydos_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:15-5:30 p.m. Uwe Bergmann: Photographing Molecular Particles; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/uwebergmannphotographingmolecularparticles_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:30-6 p.m. Stuart Bowling: Advances in Cinema Image and Surround Sound; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/stuartbowlingadvancesincinemaimageandsurroundsound_paiff2011_paiff2011

6-6:30 p.m. Jim Helman: Hollywood in a Digital Worldhttp://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/jimhelmanhollywoodinadigitalworld_paiff2011_paiff2011

6:30-7 p.m. Jens Peter Wittenburg: Beyond 3D; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/jenspeterwittenburgtheimpactof3donstorytelling_paiff2011_paiff2011

Sunday, October 2, 2-3p

10:30-11:30 a.m. Digital Filmmaking & Distribution: Whose Tail is Wagging the Dog? with Michael Murphy (EVP, Gravitas Ventures), Dale Djerassi (President of Djerassi Films, Jaman Networks Advisory Board), John McCrea (GM, Tunerfish), and Danae Ringelmann (Indiegogo.com).  Moderated by Britt Bensen (Editor-in-Chief and Co-founder at On Demand Weekly); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/amovieinsearchofanaudience_paiff2011_paiff2011

12-12:30 p.m. Nickhil Jakatdar: The Future of Mobile and Movies; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/nickhiljakatdar_paiff2011_paiff2011

12:30-1 p.m. Brett Crockett: Delivering Cinema Sound to Mobile Devices; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/brettcrockettdeliveringcinemasoundtomobiledevices_paiff2011_paiff2011

3-4 p.m. Interfacing with Media: A Conversation with John Gaeta.  Moderated by Bill Desowitz (indieWire); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/breakingthefourthwallaconversationwithjohngaeta_paiff2011_paiff2011

4-5 p.m. Ditching the Divide – Merging Technology to Manufacture Cinema with Matthew Meschery (Director of Digital Initiatives, Independent Television Service (ITVS)) 
Katie Gillum (Associate Director, Disposable Film Festival) 
Hannah Eaves (Vice President/Digital & Engagement, LinkTV) 
Michella Rivera-Gravage (Director of Digital and Interactive Media, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)) 
Tanya Marie Vlach (Eye-Camera/Eye, Tanya).  Moderated by Santhosh Daniel (The Global Film Initiative); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/ditchingthedivide_paiff2011_paiff2011

The complete festival lineup is available at: http://paiff.slated.com/2011/schedule/week

Spielberg’s War Horse Poster Unveiled

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Books, Movies, Oscar, Production Design, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

EW got the first look yesterday at the poster for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (Dec. 28). Anthony Breznican notes how similar it is to the cover of the young adult book by Michael Morpurgo. The World War I drama concerns British farm boy Albert (Jeremy Irvine) being separated by his horse, Joey, when it’s sold to help on the front lines. Albert is called to the front line himself and goes on an odyssey to reunite with his pal.

Production Designer Rick Carter revealed to me via email that War Horse represents the latest film he’s worked on post 9/11 about “the nature of conscience and the Goya-esque disasters of war.” War of the Worlds, Munich, Avatar, and the upcoming Lincoln are the others. Since Spielberg directs four of the five, it’s apparent that he’s on a similar nature of conscience journey.

The new War Horse trailer will be unveiled next week with the release of Real Steel.

Photo Blogging with Pixar’s Unkrich

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

In a Pixar first, director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) has started a new photo-a-day blog on Tumblr that’s intended to give us a teasingly abstract look into the development process of his next feature.

“Today is day one on my next project,” Unkrich revealed yesterday on his Twitter account (@leeunkrich), which has more than 100,000 followers. “Every day I’ll post a new photo chronicling the journey.”

The next post simply said, “The starting line,” and offered a link to the project on the site. The initial photo is of a Mac keyboard. Today’s post, “My standard lunch,” was accompanied by a bowl of broccoli and a sandwich. Unkrich subsequently Twittered, “…don’t expect revealing clues. This is a personal project detailing my experience in an abstract way.”

Unkrich then followed with a bunch of tacks (to pin up storyboards?)…

…And an another apple allusion…

What a fun way to keep in touch with Unkrich and enjoy his creative process. He has my curiosity piqued.

Shotgun Blasts into Blue Sky

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

Blue Sky Studios (Rio) has chosen the Shotgun web-based production management system from Shotgun Software. The studio is integrating Shotgun into its pipeline as the central platform for studio-wide collaboration among all of its 400 employees, as well as directors and producers working on productions at Blue Sky. The studio’s next release is Leaf Men, directed by Chris Wedge and set for a May 17, 2013 release.

“Data tracking is a key component of every production,” said Blue Sky Studios VP of finance Jason Wasserman. “As we have grown, we now regularly have two or three features in production at the same time. As we share resources across all of those projects, it became critical to have an efficient, robust framework to manage all of the data. Shotgun has a number of attractive features we need right out of the box. It’s a cost-effective option to investing in building and maintaining a proprietary tracking system, so we can focus our R&D and engineering efforts on developing the core artistic tools that are our expertise.”

Designed specifically for studios working on visual effects, CG feature animation, and video games, Shotgun enables all parties involved in a project with instant access to critical data, messaging and real-time project progress. It is also highly flexible, with an API that enables studios to easily write their own tools and integrate Shotgun with other pipeline tools and creative software applications.

Blue Sky’s decision to choose Shotgun came after an extensive grassroots evaluation among a small group of managers, artists, and TDs who took the system through its paces and gradually exposed it more broadly throughout the studio.

“Blue Sky has a reputation for developing amazing in-house tools, so it means a lot to us for them to embrace Shotgun,” said Don Parker, Shotgun CEO. “We’re very pleased to have their expertise in the Shotgun family and look forward to building the next generation of Shotgun tools with their input.”

Star Wars Goes Into Orbit on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Clips, Movies, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

So much for the backlash: The Complete Star Wars Saga (Fox Home Ent.) bowed as the all-time catalog Blu-ray title last week, selling 1 million units for $84 million. Are we surprised. That should give Blu-ray a big boost, with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T., and the Raiders of the Lost Ark trilogy.

Ironically, the first time I ever heard of Blu-ray was when George Lucas touted the HD format back in ’95, two years before the launch of DVD. And, not surprisingly, the Saga looks and sounds terrific in HD. Sure, the prequels look superior because of digital improvements, but the original trilogy, despite some blemishes, dazzles as well. You can see such sharpness and detail (including the wear and tear on R2). And it’s fun comparing the wondrous Yoda puppet with the CG version (introduced now in Phantom Menace). Yes, there are the notoriously new revisions, but they’re minor and actually work in the overall scheme of things.

Interestingly, a few years ago I asked Lucas what order I should introduce to my boys, and he unhesitatingly replied chronologically instead of the order they were made. Well, it didn’t work out that way — until now. The boys insisted on watching the prequels first, which are their favorites, and I joined them. I must confess that it was a fascinating way to go. Surprise was sacrificed for suspense, obviously, but they took delight in pointing out the echoes that reverberated: Anakin saying, “I have a bad feeling about this,” which wraps around to Han in Episode IV, even though the trope originated with Han.

I haven’t had a chance to dip into the bonus features yet. I’m still reveling in the movies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bZ0OLfNlN4

Elton Launches Rocketman Biopic

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

Imagine Robert Downey Jr. as Captain Fantastic. That would be divine casting, indeed, considering the friendship that has developed since Elton John encouraged Downey to get clean and sober and turn his life around. Regardless, the Rocketman musical/fantasy biopic was announced this week by Deadline.com. Rocket Pictures partners Sir Elton John and David Furnish will launch the surreal story of John’s legendary career from child piano prodigy to ’70s glam superstar to drug addict to redemptive humanitarian (with Furnish and Steve Hamilton Shaw serving as producers). Billy Elliot scribe and playwright Lee Hall will write the script, which Shaw described as “hyper-real” and “non-linear.” Perhaps Ken Russell’s wild film adaptation of The Who’s Tommy (in which John played The Pinball Wizard) will serve as creative inspiration, as Rocketman will incorporate choreographed musical sequences to trace John’s musical career.

This follows on the heels of Rockets successful debut feature this past spring, the animated Gnomeo & Juliet, which also weaved some of John’s hit singles into the Shakespeare ode. In fact, director Kelly Asbury has been tapped to write and helm the live-action/CG hybrid, Will Gallows and the Snake Bellied Troll, also in development, based on Derek Keilty’s book series, about a young cowboy involved in a Wild West fantasy. John will exec produce both films.

“Elton has written such an extensive amount of music that has touched so many people’s lives,” Furnish told me. “There’s a lot of emotional wealth in those melodies. They take you to places right away, even on a subconscious level… they are just chock full of good associations and memories for people and a huge likability factor… As Elton always says — and I think it’s one of the reasons he endures today — ‘Life is about building bridges, not walls.’”

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.