BLOG: VES celebrates this year's VFX achievements
By Ben Campanaro
February 10, 2012

BLOG: VES celebrates this year's VFX achievements

BEVERLY HILLS — On February 7, the entertainment industry's most creative technical wizards gathered under the roof of the Beverly Hilton Hotel to honor the recipients of the 10th annual Visual Effects Society Awards.

An exciting montage of the year's nominated projects opened the black-tie event and visually conveyed a truth that was summarized by VES executive director Eric Roth, and continuously repeated throughout the evening: "Visual effects have become the center of the entertainment universe." VES chair Jeff Okun continued the argument, noting that nearly every blockbuster film released in the past year could not have existed without the creative freedom granted through visual effects, and that the Society is working to ensure the contributions of VFX artists and technicians receive their due recognition.

A surprise visit by legendary film director Martin Scorcese (below, with the Hugo VFX team) quickly diverted the evening's course from a discussion of the labor issues, and similar struggles in the industry today, to a reflection of where it all began. After a brief screening of footage from the newly-restored version of 1902's "Le Voyage Dans La Lune," Scorcese touched on how his inspiration from visual effects pioneer Georges Méliès led to his own "Hugo."

When the evening's host, actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, took the stage, he joked that the night was for VFX artists to celebrate their "release from solitary confinement." He also offered some much-ignored advice for recipients to "only have the most well-spoken person" in their group be the one to make the acceptance speech, instead of "the guy who will recite Rutger Hauer's 'tears in rain' speech from Blade Runner."

A quick successsion of awards presentations followed, with Industrial Light & Magic's large gathering of attendees given much to cheer about: "Rango" topped the night with four awards.

The assembly line of award recipients zig-zagging their way through the crowded venue toward the stage was broken up by the presentations for the night's special honors, first with the Georges Méliès Award to Douglas Trumbull (pictured below with Stan Lee). After a charming introduction by Peter Anderson and a mind-blowing clip reel featuring "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind " and "Back to the Future — The Ride," Trumbull accepted his award while making everyone aware that after more than 40 years in the business, he's just getting warmed up.

He continued the discussion of the lack of equality in Hollywood, where "it's the craftspeople who deliver the magic and are the real heart of the movie industry... but we don't get to participate in the profits." Trumbull then went on to tease the audience with descriptions of his latest project using the latest in image capture and projection technologies. Designed to bring back the days of theatrical event programming, he declared his new process will remind audiences that "an experience you can get in movie theaters is so spectacular, you couldn't possibly get it on an iPad."

Lou Ferrigno later came to the stage to offer anecdotes of working with Stan Lee, the recipient of this year's VES Lifetime Achievement Award. Lee's enthusiasm for the business, and his genuine appreciation for how visual effects have allowed him to fully realize his world of Marvel superheroes put a smile on every face in the audience. With no signs of retiring, Lee described the new comic world he's currently creating with Pow! Entertainment as his gift to VFX artists so they have projects to work on for another 50 years.

By the time actor Antonio Banderas presented the night's top feature film honors to "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Hugo," the crowds were already beginning to cut loose and celebrate at the tiki bar on the floor below. With a year full of such amazing effects work, it quickly became apparent that the true focus of the event was less about whose name was being read from each envelope, and much more about finding the common ground between the best VFX artists from around the globe.

The 10th Annual VES Awards will air on ReelZChannel, Sunday, February 19 at 10pm ET/7pm PT with encore presentations throughout February. For more information on the VES Awards and the Visual Effects Society please visit