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Backstage at the Oscars

February 27, 2012
Backstage at the Oscars Behind the scenes at the Oscars: Interview snippets with some of the winners.
Excerpts from interviews provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Visual Effects: “Hugo” (see article)
Interview with: Rob Legato, Joss Williams (absent), Ben Grossmann and Alex Henning
In the category that was filled with a lot of really great computer animation and motion capture, how does it feel to have this tribute to Georges Melies, to have used some of his actual techniques and to have won an Oscar for a blend of practical and computerized visual effects? 
On every occasion we could, we used techniques that might have been used by Georges Melies himself, and some to great effect and, hopefully, with a degree of art. We are very proud of the fact that we got recognized for the art of it as much as the technology of it.

You won for visual effects and the marriage of visual effects and stereo. Talk about that marriage, and how this movie has helped to change that.  
[Legato] What we are trying to do with the 3D is to basically extend the art form of cinema by using the depth that you get, and every shot was designed to take advantage of the depth that we would enhance the model of the story. So, every shot was literally made to be in 3D and designed to give you some depth or emotional response from it. they had to perfect the 3D in a very complicated way. 
[Grossmann] There's a lot of science behind it, but we try to take the science and distill it down to something that is so simple that it doesn't interfere with your instinctive creativity, so you can hear Marty or Dante or Bob and say what they feel the shot should emote. And then [we] have the technology and the skills down to a simple direction, so that we can move in that direction effortlessly, without encumbering ourselves with 10 pages of science and research, although, it's all still there. 
[Henning] I think it's just about keeping it to be a storytelling device. I think that's what Marty really set out to do, and what his whole crew was after and, by extension, us.  

So, you are up against these gigantic visual effects extravaganzas like TRANSFORMERS and even APES. And you guys won.  What you think this means about the state of visual effects and the appreciation of visual effects at least by the Academy?  
[Grossmann] Those films are really amazing. All the other nominees in our category were stunning films that we would never expect to even be up against or stand a chance to compete against. 

Animated Feature Film: “Rango”
Interview with: Gore Verbinski (see article)
What is the takeaway for you as a filmmaker having done this and gone back and forth now between live action and animation? 
They're two completely different hats. I suppose underneath all of it it's just finding a story you want to tell in the same way you would as you were if you were sitting around a campfire or something. But completely different. There are no gifts in animation. We have to fabricate everything, including the anomalies. Every aspect of it is so different.  

If you ever allowed yourself to dream of winning an Oscar, did you hope that it was going to be for a live action or for animation? 
I don't know. I feel like I'm dreaming right now, so I think it matters. It's in my hand. It feels good.  

Short Film (Animated): "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
Interview with: William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg 
What this now means for Moonbot and Louisiana? 
[Oldenburg] Our short was to serve two purposes. One, to tell a great story; two, to serve as a calling card for our company, Moonbot Studios. And the whole point was to just try to get the world to recognize what we're capable of in Shreveport, Louisiana. We want to do more shorts. We want to do more apps.  We want to do more games. We want to do more books.
[Joyce] We want to do some movies.  

Film Editing: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Interview with: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall 
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a completely different movie from “The Social Network.” What were some of the challenges in cutting this kind of movie? 
[Wall] The screenplay was much, much longer.  

I was just wondering, Best Picture and Best Editing seems to go hand in hand over the past probably 30 years. Why are they so intertwined, traditionally, and why this year the exception? 
[Baxter] They're one and the same thing, and that's the end result you're looking for is the final outcome of the film. What you're working towards in the editing. 

Of the footage that you had to cut, was there anything that you particularly were sorry about or was just gorgeous but you had to cut it?  
[Baxter] No. We were very happy with the end result of the movie.  There was nothing we wish that was in there that we cut out. It stopped when it was at its best. 

Cinematography: “Hugo”
Interview with: Robert Richardson
So, what was it like for you DP'ing on Scorsese film that's every bit as much rendering greenscreen as it is actually staged?  
There was not as much greenscreen as there was on the production side. It was a great deal of practical. The sets were phenomenal.

This is not the first 3D film to win, but it's unusual to get recognized with 3D.  
You're right.  I think the odds of winning are extraordinarily small. I know it's very difficult to choose 3D, and I'm surprised by it as well. And I think it's not just 3D.  It's a digital aspect versus a film aspect.  
Where do we go now, dramatically, with 3D now that you've paved the way?  
That's a huge question, but I don't think there's any limits for it. 3D is a very solid step. I believe it's 15, 20 percent, give an arbitrary percentage. The advantage is a tool towards what filmmakers can use, if used, as just that, as a tool, not as a gimmick..  

Can you talk about shooting digital versus shooting film? 
I'm shooting currently on film. I'm with Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained.” I don't think it's an issue of film versus digital. I'm hoping that film can survive for as long as possible. Virtually every film is digitized in one way or another. 



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