Posted in Animation, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, tagged Asad, Brian Buckley, Buzkashi Boys, Curfew, Inocente, John Kahrs, Martin Roe, Paperman, Sam French, Shawn Christensen, Shawn Fine, Ward Kimball on March 30, 2013|
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This year’s Oscar winning live action short film, Curfew, has all the earmarks of 21st century media artistry: it was edited on a Macbook Pro by its director and star who is also the frontman for an indie band. Shawn Christensen also wrote its script; moreover, aspiring screenwriters are encouraged to check out this year’s highly lauded group of nominated shorts, which offer many lessons in screenwriting and directing, particularly Asad by Brian Buckley and Buzkashi Boys, directed by Sam French and written by Martin Roe.
In the documentary category, the winning movie, Inocente, directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign. It is a non-fiction portrait about a young girl’s powerful determination to continue to create art and never surrender to the intense challenges she faces in her life.
In the animated category, the winner was the Disney short Paperman, directed by John Kahrs and released along with Wreck-It Ralph. In this case, the most surprising aspect of the victory for this non-dialogue short created through a new in-house technology called Meander is that this is the first win for a Disney short in this category since 1969! That short was It’s Tough to be a Bird, directed by legendary animator Ward Kimball.
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Cengage, the publisher of Moving Images, is sponsoring a video challenge through their MindTap initiative that should greatly interest student moviemakers and media teachers. Cengage is offering scholarships to the winning projects that express compelling and provocative answers to this question: “What makes you a unique learner?” Check out the explanatory video and contest guidelines, and you will see that the contest is designed around an interesting premise that promotes a wide range of creative possibilities.
I should add that this could make for an excellent assignment for Chapter 5 of Moving Images. And the top prize is $2500 (applied to university tuition)!
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Posted in Chapter 8, Visual Effects, tagged Academy Award Visual Effects, Bill Westenhofer, Greg Butler, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows VFX, MPC, Prometheus, Rhythm & Hues, The Life of Pi VFX, VFX Crisis on March 8, 2013|
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This past December and January, a Media Literacy and Production class I teach was uniquely lucky to enjoy two visits with VFX supervisor Greg Butler, who currently works in an administrative position with MPC. Mr. Butler was nominated for an Oscar for his work on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, while his most recent vfx supervisory credit is for Jack and the Giant Slayer; his generosity in leading in-depth, enlightening discussions of the art and industry of contemporary vfx with our class is greatly appreciated. Here is an excellent Visual Effects Master Class interview with Greg Butler created at the time of his BAFTA Award for Harry Potter.
Visual Effects in The Life of Pi
During these visits, we were able to discuss many topics and observed in-depth CG process breakdowns from the movies mentioned above and other work by MPC, including Prometheus and The Life of Pi. Interestingly, one theme that Greg returned to many times during our talks was the balance between creative expression and business acumen that is necessary in motion picture fields. Early on in the discussion, he spoke to the students about the ways in which a variety of coursework can help greatly when working in motion picture fields and the need to take advantage of a wide range of studies, including “business, and economics, and the ‘boring’ stuff you think has nothing to do with filmmaking,” and he cited diverse examples from his work as an administrator in vfx fields. One specific case Greg described was how when he heads production teams, his company will often have to hire accountants for creating complex excel spreadsheets and other business-oriented work that is needed, and what will typically happen is that the accountants will quit after a short time because they have a hard time dealing with the chaotic, unpredictable needs of moviemaking.
Bill Westenhofer and colleagues on the Oscar stage
Greg Butler also spoke at length about current economic difficulties being felt throughout the world of visual effects and used examples from a variety of projects, including his most recent, Jack and the Giant Slayer. This topic hit major news coverage many weeks later when the Academy Awards ceremony experienced the rather ignominious moment of visual effects Oscar winner Bill Westenhofer being played off the stage (to the Jaws theme – is that supposed to be funny??) and then having his mic turned off when he started talking about visual effects house Rhythm & Hues, which was one of the companies that worked on The Life of Pi but has since gone bankrupt. Here is an excellent article that discusses the VFX crisis and can provide interesting perspectives on how the economics of the business of creating and selling moving images can be such a complex and daunting task, even for a field that one would think is at the heart of drawing viewers and making money these days in movies — visual effects.
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