Thursday, October 23, 2014

Worth a mention - 10/23/14

Weta Digital: Peter Jackson’s VFX Company is About ‘Immersive Filmmaking’

(         Peter Jackson has five companies in Wellington, but Weta Digital is the best known, thanks to its visual-effects breakthrough creations such as Gollum, Caesar, Smaug and the Na’vis.

Joe Letteri, the company’s director and senior visual effects supervisor, says, “If we can shoot it live-action, great. If not, we’ll do it digitally.” (Letteri is in the above photo, flanked by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.)

The company’s executive producer David Conley adds that Weta Digital is unlike traditional visual-effects houses. “We try to give filmmakers a comfortable space to make their own movie. We don’t want them to feel trapped by the process. We don’t tell you how to shoot the movie; we help you get to where you want to go.”

The tools are constantly evolving. Techniques for creating Gollum got much more sophisticated between the 2001 “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” and the first “Hobbit” film. As a sign of the growth, the company created 24 digital characters for the first “Hobbit,” and about 60 for the second. The third film, still in progress, will be a quantum leap above that.

Though the tools are different, Letteri says that the team — including VFX supervisors Dan Lemmon, Eric Saindon and Guy Williams — uses the same process as 20 years ago: “We meet every day. We run this like a film set, with dailies, constantly revising stuff. Everything is reassembled in new ways, using new techniques, but it’s traditional: It’s story-driven, and it’s about characters.”

Weta Digital was founded by Jackson, Richard Taylor and Jamie Selkirk to create 14 effects for the 1994 “Heavenly Creatures.” Two years later, they created a then-astonishing 400 effects for “The Frighteners.”

In the past two decades, the company credits include the six Tolkien movies, “King Kong,” “Avatar,” and this year’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and the final “Hobbit.” The company, 75% owned by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, employs about 800-1,000 individuals, depending on the number of projects. It’s located in the Wellington suburb of Miramar, in seven reconverted buildings, including a former home for wayward girls, a one-time dairy and record-pressing studio. All of these buildings are connected to each other, and linked to Jackson’s other four companies via a private fiber loop.

One example of Weta’s work in character development is dragon Smaug’s wings in the first “Hobbit,” which became like hands for the second. Weta Digital and Jackson liked the idea of giving Smaug the ability to hold onto the platforms and pillars in Erebor.

One breakthrough was the invention of Massive software for the 2001 “LOTR.” Massive enabled crowd movement in which each person or creature has a “brain.” So 200 horses can gallop together, but each will have distinct movements, and that gave credibility to the epic battle scenes.

The motion-capture creation of Gollum was another turning point.

Human and creature faces were challenging since there are so many interconnected facial muscles, not to mention skin colors and textures.

The key came in designing King Kong for the 2005 film. Computer artists designed a gorilla’s skeleton, then added a muscle system, then fat and tissue, skin, skin color, then fur. The next target was to do the same with humans, which happened with the 2009 “Avatar.”

The Weta team are quick to dispel actors’ fear that they will be digitally replaced. Letteri says of Andy Serkis’ performances, “We took what he did and heightened it.”

To create the Na’vi version of Sam Worthington, the Weta team asked themselves, “Can we match the performance and get Sam’s eyes, expression, appearance and emotions?” The answer was yes, and there will be more breakthroughs on the next three “Avatar” films. And, on the creature side, Benedict Cumberbatch worked with them to create the physical and vocal characterization of Smaug.

Conley adds that Weta wants to enhance, not replace, the actual performances and below-the-line work (ranging from design to visual effects).

“We like to work with designers and have them build the costume, for example, so we can understand their intent and things like how the fabric moves. We never change their vision; we just give a digital interpretation of their vision.”
Though the digital world can be confusing to many, Weta Digital folks say it’s all about collaborating with filmmakers and giving them new tools.

Letteri dubs it “immersive filmmaking.”

These Insanely Detailed Star Wars Models Are Truly Works Of Art

(             As the next wave of leaks from the next Star Wars are oh-so-slow to trickle in, hopefully this will tide you over: A colossal collection of 140 photographs featuring Industrial Light & Magic’s model-building process from 1977 to 1983. It’s simply incredible.

These photos can tell you everything you need to know about great filmmaking. In some cases it’s only a tweak of the lighting that makes the models go from a hunk of grey-painted plastic you might have made in your basement to “OMG I can’t believe how real that looks.” Which makes sense: These ships were often built with pieces from commercial model kits, which explains the model aeroplane vibe. They still build them this way, although now ILM might be inserting familiar shapes as more of an inside joke: For example, we know that a Batmobile is embedded in the new Millennium Falcon being prepared for Episode VII.

While there have been plenty of peeks at the vehicles that ILM built for the films (in many cases, they built several versions of each ship), there are some shots in this collection that I’ve just never seen before — like the skin of a Star Destroyer that looks like some kind of mechanical tree bark:

Source with photos:


140 SW model image SUPERGALLERY:

California Should ‘Cut!’ Film Tax Credits

(               Gov. Jerry Brown last month agreed to a deal that would increase California’s film tax credits to $330 million per year, up from its previous $100 million.

This attempt to save the Golden State’s “crown-jewel industry” is a story fit for Hollywood, unless other state legislatures offer subsidies to have the story filmed in their home state.

Thirty-nine states have a film tax credit program or other subsidy to the film industry. The number of states with credits are up dramatically from 2000, when only a handful of states offered them. New York offers up to $420 million in some form of subsidy to film productions, with other states like New Mexico, North Carolina, Georgia and Michigan offering smaller subsidies.

The most notable example of these subsidies comes from Louisiana, nicknamed “the Hollywood of the South,” a state with an annual budget of $25 billion that issued $251 million in tax credits in 2013.

States offer these subsidies because they know that, in true Hollywood fashion, if you build it, they will come. What states ignore are the negligible economic benefits of these tax breaks at tremendous cost to states and municipalities.

Industry executives also know that they are in demand.

Linden Nelson, the founder of the Michigan Motion Picture Studio has said, “It’s a very competitive landscape … It’s an industry that’s fought after.”

Nelson isn’t the only one who knows how to play this game. In a letter to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, the production company in charge of House of Cards wrote in “the event sufficient incentives do not become available, we will have … set up in another state.” Frank Underwood would be proud.

Though film studios are rational to fight for incredibly lucrative subsidies, state and local governments are the ones left footing the massive bill.  According to a report by the LA Times, Louisiana’s program cost the state more than $170 million last year, or $12,000 per job created. Between 2006 and 2011, Massachusetts received only 13-cents back for every dollar spent on the subsidies, costing the state an average of $128,000 for each job created.

The limited benefits received from these programs do not even help the average people of the state. According to Eileen Norcross of the Mercatus Center, two-thirds of the $175 million in economic activity that came from the Massachusetts film subsidies went to out-of-state workers and $53 million of the wages generated went to those earning $1 million per year.

These expenses have very real consequences, especially in poorer localities and states drawn in by the prospect of jobs and new industries. Pontiac, Mich., home to the Michigan Motion Picture Studio, already faced a $7 million deficit before offering subsidies, which diverted public money from essential services like police and fire.

The only groups that seem to believe the tax credits are doing good for local economies are those that benefit from them the most, namely the Motion Picture Association of America.

The MPAA commissioned studies that tout the increases in employment and spending on local economies and can point to increases in spending that result from these programs. However, such arguments ignore the costs these programs burden taxpayers with, both in the form of higher taxes and opportunities for how the money could have better been spent.

While most of the argumentation for film tax credits is seriously flawed, supporters are correct in their claim that states that offer tax credits are seeing an increase in employment for film-related industries while California is seeing a decline.

According to the same LA Times report, California saw a 12-percent decline in film-related employment during the past 10 years, while Louisiana and New York have seen a 73-percent and 23-percent increase, respectively, though these relative gains are the result of a small initial workforce size in these states.

Producers know exactly what they’re doing when they lobby for more tax credits. They believe they can sell states on some limited economic benefits, or, if not, scare them into believing the jobs will go elsewhere if legislatures don’t cough up the tax credits.

Film tax credits are a waste of money that only benefit film production studios at the expense of taxpayers. If producers continue to scaremonger about what will happen if the film industry doesn’t receive its tax breaks, state legislatures need to be willing to resist temptation to respond, “Hey, that’s show business.”

IMAX Plans Biggest-Ever Theatrical Release For Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar'

(           Nevermind that all-digital theater owners aren't impressed with Christopher Nolan's Interstellar film initiative.

Imax is going all-out to release the upcoming Paramount and Warner Bros. release. "It's the largest release in the history of our company," Greg Foster, CEO of Imax Entertainment and executive vp of Imax Corp., told an analyst call Thursdaymorning following the release of his company's latest earnings.

Read more 'Interstellar's' Christopher Nolan, Stars Gather to Reveal Secrets of the Year's Most Mysterious Film

Imax plans 770 engagements worldwide for Interstellar, mostly in commercial theaters, as it repays Nolan's loyalty to the giant screen exhibitor. The space drama, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathway and Jessica Chastain, will hit Imax theaters on November 5, two days earlier than the domestic wide release on November 7.

The tentpole, to screen in 35mm, 70mm and in Imax 70mm, will then reach theaters in China a week later on November 14. The New York City premiere for Interstellar will be in an Imax theater, and a promotional launch planned for the British Film Institute in London will also be on an Imax screen, Foster noted.

The Toronto-based giant screen exhibitor has also held "taste-maker" screenings ocer the last week at its theaters in New York City and San Francisco and another on Wednesday night at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

"We're doing everything that we can possibly can. The movie represents most everything that Imax tries to uphold in terms of our brand and the responsibility of the filmmaker and the quality of the film itself," Foster added. Nolan, a fan of the Imax format, shot just over an hour of Interstellar using the company's proprietary cameras.

Imax on Thursday also reiterated its support for next year's release of the Weinstein Co. sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend by director Ang Lee. That's despite exhibitor opposition to the Aug. 28, 2015 debut on Netflix and in select Imax theaters around the world, bypassing traditional theaters.

Imax CEO Richard Gelfond told analysts he rang exhibitors to smooth out their differences. "They said, we get it. There's been no real fall-out between us and them. We're still really good friends. There's still lots of signings. So think of it as a dispute in the family," Gelfond said. He added Imax was looking to provide "alternative content" during a slow releasing period, and was waiting to see how the experiment will turn out.

"Despite the statements, there will be some exhibitors that play [the Crouching Tiger sequel]. We'll find out how it does. If it doesn't work, it won't be part of a trend. But if it does work out, then we'll probably offer the opportunity again," he said.

Interview with Feature Film Visual Effects Artist Billy Brooks

(              In this show ill be interviewing feature film visual effects artist Billy Brooks.

Billy has done work on tons of blockbuster movies, many science fiction.

Some of the films he has worked on are Star Wars Episode I, and II, X2 United, Men In Black, and the new sci-fi film Space Station 76 to name a few. At Industrial Light and Magic he was responsible for making R2-D2 fly! Aside from working on films. Billy has also done work in the video game industry at Electronic Arts. He is also a talented composer of music.

Take a listen:

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics - but can they recapture the old magic?

Disney films have been a seminal part of childhood for decades. From The Jungle Book and Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast and Dumbo, these classic animated stories based on folklore and fairy tales capture young imaginations and teach profound life lessons. They should, some would argue, be left alone for ever. Now, thanks to Hollywood's refusal to take risks in its search for bankable products, the next trend that is set to take hold of multiplexes will see Disney dipping into its past and reimagining its back catalogue in live-action form.

The move has come about after two notable successes. The first was Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland – a Disney animated feature released in 1951 and based on Lewis Carroll's novel. Burton's Alice came out in 2010, starred Johnny Depp and, despite mixed reviews, grossed a massive $1.02bn worldwide. A sequel, directed by James Bobin (The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted), is due out in 2016.

Next came an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty (1959), Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie and released earlier this year. Maleficent, which tells the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of its antagonist, also garnered a mixed critical response – but to date has made $756m at the box office; the second-highest grossing film of 2014 so far.

Inspired by the huge audiences these films have attracted, Disney is gearing up to release a spate of similar films – plucking characters from the comfort of colourful, innovative, hand-drawn worlds and placing them in a new, altogether unfamiliar reality. It should be noted that live-action remakes of Disney's classic cartoons aren't entirely new. The first examples of such films were 1996's 101 Dalmatians, starring Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson and a whole load of dogs, and its sequel, from 2000, 102 Dalmatians, both of which were respectable box-office fare.

The avalanche is still to come. Set for release in March next year, Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) is directing a reimagining of Cinderella (1950) – a project that Disney, inspired by the success of Alice in Wonderland, first began developing in 2010. Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo, Never Let Me Go) was originally slated to direct but quit due to creative differences, while the role of Cinderella was initially offered to Emma Watson. She declined, and Downton Abbey's Lily James will lead the show instead, with other notable cast members including Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother.

Lily James from Downton Abbey will play Cinderella in Disney's remake (Rex Features/Disney)
There are also two planned remakes of The Jungle Book (1967), based on Rudyard Kipling's collection of short stories. One is being produced by Disney, the other by Warner Bros. Set for an October 2015 release, the Disney version is being directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) and will combine live action with CGI animals. The animals will be voiced by a cast that includes Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa and Christopher Walken as King Louie.

The Warner Bros film – for some reason called Jungle Book: Origins – will be released just over a year later. It will be Andy Serkis' directorial debut, blending live action and, to create the animals, the performance capture techniques championed by Serkis in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and recent Planet of the Apes films. He will juggle directing duties and the role of Baloo. Benedict Cumberbatch will play Shere Khan, Christian Bale Bagheera and Cate Blanchett Kaa. King Louie – who did not feature in Kipling's book (Disney added the fire-hungry orang-utan to the animated film) – will not make an appearance.

Disney and Warner Bros are both in the process of developing live-action Beauty and the Beast (1991) remakes as well. Bill Condon (Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and Part 2, Dreamgirls) has just signed up to direct Disney's effort, while Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, Hellboy) has just left Warner Bros' version, to which Emma Watson is currently attached.

Emma Watson has been lined up for Warner Bros' remake of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (Getty Images/Disney)
Also in the pipeline for Disney is Cruella. Similar to Maleficent, this is expected to be a villain-centric story based on the fur-obsessed Cruella de Vil from 1961 animation 101 Dalmatians and subsequent live-action remake and sequel. Not much is known about the project, although Glenn Close, who plays De Vil in those films, is on board as an executive producer. There have also been reports of Dumbo, Disney's 1941 animation about a baby circus elephant who can fly, getting the live action treatment.

Other studios and production companies have shown signs of jumping on the bandwagon. Since Disney films are mostly adapted from other sources, the subject material is fair game. In 2012 two Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) remakes were released within months of each other: Mirror Mirror going up against Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman.

Disney classics set for similar transitions include Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale and 1989 animation The Little Mermaid – being developed by Sofia Coppola for Universa
l, while Tim Burton is rumoured to be getting back in on the act with a Warner Bros version of Pinocchio (1940) – a project Robert Downey Jr has long been circling.

Remakes get a bad rep – for a reason. They rarely live up to the original. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. The Coen brothers' True Grit, Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven and Martin Scorsese's The Departed are all noteworthy remakes. In order to be artistically worthwhile, a remake needs to offer a fresh take, a different perspective on an old tale. In getting the green light, the general hope is they'll recapture the magic that made the original a success. Throw in a couple of big stars and, commercially speaking, you're on to a winner. It's telling, however, that neither Alice in Wonderland nor Maleficient were lavished with praise.

It wouldn't be fair to completely write off this Disney phenomenon at such an early stage – the prospect of introducing these stories to new generations of cinema-goers isn't necessarily a bad thing, while the switch from animation to live action leaves room for new vision and invention. Revisiting films that have formed an important part of so many childhoods is dangerous, if probably wildly lucrative, ground.

Digital Artist Uses Photoshop To Breathe New Life Into Old Disney Movie Scenes

(The Huffington Post)     A digital artist has injected new life into scenes from classic Disney films in a way that yesteryear's animators could only have dreamed.

Tyson Murphy, a character artist at video game company Blizzard Entertainment, used Photoshop to bring more movement and richer detail into original frames from the 1961 animated classic "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," as well as other Disney flicks, giving them a gloriously 3D feel.

Take a look:

IMAX CEO Explains Why 2015 Will Be Insanely Big For Movies

(             Millions of fans and anyone invested in Hollywood are excited for all of the big movies coming out next year.

Last month on an earnings call, IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster explained just how big it could be for his company:

The movies are spaced incredibly well. So instead of movies being on top of each other, they’re spaced with two or three weeks in between and we haven’t seen that in a long time. For whatever reason, we seem to be also particularly well-spaced. So when you look at starting, let’s say, in early April with "Fast and Furious 7," and then going to "Avengers," and then going to "Tomorrowland," and then going to "Jurassic World," and then going to "Terminator," and then going to — there are two movies that are on each other right now. That will be interesting which is [screened]: Pan, the Peter Pan movie, and Ant-Man, the Marvel title.

And then you go to "Point Break," you go to “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and there are many that I am missing in between that just we’re not doing. But for us, that spacing is incredible and then you get to "James Bond 24," which is in the very beginning of November. There is another ["Hunger Games"] in November, end of November. And then you have "Star Wars" on December 18. And, again, there are other titles that are in there that are also going to be quite successful.

But when you have an Avengers, a Star Wars, a Bond, another Marvel Title and "Ant-Man," "Pan," "Terminator," "Fast & Furious 7" in one year, that’s unbelievable. And it starts – summer starts this year the first week in April, which is also exceptional. So that spacing is great. The titles are great. The word coming out on some of them is already great.

IMAX is a controversial investment, with perpetually high short interest and volatile stock movements ending in a flat finish for the past 12 months. Obviously, it does well when blockbuster movies do well — especially when directors like Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams tout the IMAX versions of their films. The company is pushing hard to expand globally and recently announced a simultaneous release deal with Netflix that made traditional exhibitors furious.

Practical Effects Galore in New Return of the Jedi Behind the Scenes Photos

(              You might be getting excited for the return of Star Wars with J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII, however there's still plenty of goodies to glean from the original trilogy.

Take for example the fifty Return of the Jedi behind the scenes photos which recently made their way onto Imgur. Many of them certainly show the extreme lengths Lucas and others went to in order to make a tangible, practical Star Wars universe.

Not a digital paintbrush in sight.

Take a look:,manual

Verne Signs Effects Firm With “Gravity” Credits for Iceland Data Center

(              RVX, a visual effects rendering company, is using Verne Global in Iceland for its data-intensive work. RVX took part in effects work for the Oscar-winning film “Gravity” and will use the Verne data center campus for some of Hollywood’s highest-profile film projects, such as “Everest,” set to be released in 2015.

The movie industry relies heavily on High Performance Computing for post-production needs. Verne puts a green spin on its pitch to HPC users, touting the use of 100 percent renewable energy (a combination of hydroelectric and thermal) by its Iceland data center. Iceland is very friendly when it comes to renewable energy.

“We are always being asked to push the envelope to create more visually stunning, hyper-realistic special effects in the projects we develop,” said Dadi Einarsson, co-founder and creative director for RVX. “The graphics requirement of each film is ten times more complex than the film before it. The last thing we want is for the skill and talent of our artists to be constrained by the technical infrastructure and computing power needed to create those graphics.”

Iceland has a far lower carbon footprint than the popular film industry hubs of London, New York, Amsterdam and Paris, according to Verne.

“The film and digital media industry, like other compute intensive sectors, relies heavily on the power and infrastructure a data center provides,” said Jeff Monroe, CEO of Verne. “By hosting their HPC render farm at Verne Global’s campus, RVX now has maximum flexibility in their business operations and can focus solely on creating stunning visual effects for some of Hollywood’s biggest movies.”

Other recent HPC customers at Verne Global include BMW, managed hosting provider Datapipe, CCP Games, GreenQloud and Opin Kerfi.

Where Are The Women In VFX?

(              Marvel’s Vice President of Post Production Victoria Alonso was a speaker at this week’s VES Summit where she asked “where are the girls?” and called for more women to work in VFX.

In Variety’s report, she spoke about how lowering the gender gap would help bring balance to the industry. She also pointed out obstacles that make it more difficult for women to make it in VFX:

Subsidy-induced cycles of global displacement.
Long 16 hour work days.
Maternity leave dampens the ability to get back to work.

While I agree with her on the problems that cause a gender gap, I can’t help but ask the same question Scott Ross asked:

Why would anyone want to encourage anybody, woman or man, to join the tumultuous VFX industry as it currently is?

I can understand the calls for more women at successful tech industry companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook but visual effects? It’s like a tobacco executive wanting to close the gender gap by encouraging more women to smoke. Perhaps there’s a gender gap because more women aren’t as foolish as the majority of men who choose to jump in the shark tank that is the VFX industry?

Ms. Alonso’s call has been warmly received in the media but it raises an eyebrow for many of us in the VFX industry and this isn’t the first time. You know I never agree with John Textor but I couldn’t help see his point when Alonso publicly called for studios to be more supportive of bankrupt VFX vendors like Digital Domain while internally slamming those same vendors with incredibly low bids:

When Victoria puts out the word to other studios that they should step up and support DD (or the next guy), ask her to do the same. She shoved a 14% gross margin down the throat of DD on IM-3 that is not enough to even cover the light bill…and she has the gumption to challenge other studios to step-up and help.

Like an oil executive dubiously encouraging everyone else to do more about global warming, Victoria Alonso is one of the few key executive decision makers in the VFX industry that is unfortunately objecting to a byproduct of her own making: Studios like Marvel and executives like Alonso have made the decisions that create an environment that she acknowledges is extremely difficult for women to participate in.

Anyone can preach platitudes but it takes real leadership to propose a policy that implements those goals and executes it. What’s amazing is the answer for Marvel and Alonso is right down the street in Burbank, California at Walt Disney Animation Studios. They continue to make great movies with huge profits while offering their work force union wages with overtime, paid maternity leave, and other benefits. Oh and they do this without subsidy-induced displacement of their workers.

If that model could be applied to the larger ecosystem for the VFX workforce you would see a closing of the gender gap as conditions get better. Marvel should be able to take some of those policies and make it a standard for VFX vendors:

Mitigate the use of subsidies which constantly displace VFX families.
Initiate a limit on long work hours by making overtime pay a standard across the industry globally.
Mandate vendors provide proper maternity leave, childcare, and healthcare to VFX professionals.

Some would cry that this would put a dent in Marvels immense profits but if WDAS can do it so should Marvel. Unlike Disney, Marvel doesn’t have to continue bankrolling VFX vendors and their army of VFX professionals after their work is completed on a project. Disney carries a huge staff costs and is still able to succeed.

Ms. Alonso could actually be the first female superhero by initiating an across the board change of the VFX industry, but simply paying lip service to the issues while in a position of power will simply lead to nothing but a super zero.

Fire Alarm Causes Chaos on Star War Set

(               The set of the new Star Wars movie was evacuated on Saturday due to a fire alarm.

The highly-anticipated blockbuster, Star Wars: Episode VII, is being filmed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England, but the shoot was disrupted over the weekend when a TV chef working on a neighbouring set triggered smoke detectors.

Editors at Britain's Sunday Mirror report the cook, Tom Kitchin, triggered the alert as he was working on a dish for a TV show, causing chaos for the cast and crew on the nearby Star Wars set.

A source tells the newspaper, "It was complete bedlam as the fire alarms in the studio went off but we didn't realize they would automatically set off the alarm system throughout the entire building where other people were filming too. The whole Pinewood complex was shut down until security had isolated the cause of the problem. Everyone had to go outside and wait until we got clearance to continue filming. Star Wars is in one of the other studios at the moment so they must have wondered what was happening."

The movie, starring original castmembers Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, is due to finish filming at the end of the year ahead of a planned 2015 release.

-H          "George Lucas got ILM started and they developed all the computer technology we use.  He has used his money on things that benefit every filmmaker who gets films produced. I respect that a lot."     -Peter Jackson

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Worth a mention - 10/22/14

Disney's Rights to John Carter Revert Back to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

(Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc)            After the monumental failure of 2012's John Carter, which led to huge losses and the ouster of Walt Disney Studios head Rich Ross, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. has announced that the movie, television and merchandise rights have reverted back to their company, with plans to entice a new studio to adapt the author's "Mars" cycle.

This is odd news, especially given that the rights to many of Burroughs' earliest works, including "A Princess of Mars" and "Warlord of Mars," are in the public domain in the US, though not in certain countries. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. previously tried to sue Dynamite Comics over their publication of John Carter comic books in countries where the trademark still stands, though it was settled earlier this year. There is nothing to prevent direct-to-DVD knockoffs of John Carter, as low-rent studio The Asylum made in 2009 with Princess of Mars, starring Antonio Sabato Jr. and Traci Lords.

Hence, there is nothing to stop ANY studio from making a John Carter movie--even one with star Taylor Kitsch if they were feeling particularly kamikaze--yet having Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.'s approval will give any production entity worldwide coverage. If there is any demand for a reboot of the property--which did gross over $284-million worldwide--it will likely be on a reduced budget and without the 2012 film's director, Andrew Stanton. The company has faith that there are still many fans around the globe who want to see Carter ride his eight-legged thoat into the sun in cinematic triumph

"'John Carter of Mars' was the creative stimulus behind such movie classics as 'Superman,' 'Star Wars' and 'Avatar,'" said ERB President James Sullos. "Edgar Rice Burroughs was the Master of Adventure and his literary works continue to enjoy a world-wide following. We will be seeking a new partner to help develop new adventures on film as chronicled in the eleven 'Mars' novels Burroughs wrote. This adventure never stops. Along with a new 'Tarzan' film in development by Warner Bros., we hope to have 'John Carter of Mars' become another major franchise to entertain world-wide audiences of all ages."

Guillermo del Toro Updates Pacific Rim 2 Schedule

(              When we caught up with Guillermo del Toro for his producing effort with The Book of Life, we had to ask about the latest with his highly anticipated sequel to Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim 2. His next film -- that he told us about in our Crimson Peak exclusive interview -- has completed shooting and now he’s just working on effects.

Does that mean that Pacific Rim 2 is next?

“No, I actually start with the Strain (his TV show) in November -- and I’m going to be shooting Creature Unit and Action Unit and I’ll be shooting the Mexican black and white footage that appears in the movie, the series,” del Toro said.

"Then I shoot a little movie. I start prepping Pac Rim immediately in May and we start production at end of November, early December.”

Del Toro tells us that Charlie Hunnam will be in Pacific Rim 2, reprising his role from the first film. Hunnam is also in Crimson Peak. Del Toro compares Hunnam to another actor del Toro works with a lot, Ron Perlman.

“I work with him the way I work with Ron. He’s part of the family. It’s a great, effortless collaboration. Love him,” del Toro said.

“The cast experience doing Crimson Peak has been unique in my career honestly. I think that other than Pan’s Labyrinth, I haven’t enjoyed the entire cast as much as I did on Crimson. Those are the two movies where everybody delivered.”

Del Toro then explained why he would be making a small independent film instead of jumping right into Pacific Rim 2.

“I dress like (expletive). I don’t drive a Porsche. I live in the Valley. I don’t want to live in Beverly Hills. The goal is to make the movies that I want to make and support the people I want to support. That’s it,” del Toro admitted.

“I managed to have as many rubber monsters as I need. That’s enough for me. Making small movies means you love the effort. When you make big movies the effort is fighting for freedom. When you make small movies it’s about making the day, making the budget. When you get all the money and all the freedom, rarely you get the movie you want out of it.”

Digital Domain to Produce 3D Holograms of Pop Legend Teresa Teng

(             Playa Vista, CA -- Digital Domain 3.0 parent company Digital Domain Holdings Limited has entered into a 10-year agreement with TNT Production Limited to produce 3D virtual performance holograms of pop legend Teresa Teng for concerts, movies and all manner of media.

Teng, who passed away in 1995, is generally considered to be one of the all-time greatest Asian singing stars with generations of adoring fans. Building on the overwhelming success of the virtual performance in Jay Chou’s 2013 Taiwan and Hong Kong concerts, this partnership with the industry leading artists at Digital Domain 3.0 and the legacy of Teng looks to break new ground in the world of virtual performances.      

“It is truly and honor for us to preserve and promote the legacy of Miss Teng,” said Digital Domain 3.0 and Digital Domain Holdings Limited CEO Daniel Seah. “The dedicated team at Digital Domain 3.0 worked closely with her foundation to bring her personality and spirit to her performances in 2013.   We look to continue that close partnership and find ways for her enduring fans, as well as a whole new generation, to experience her talent for many years to come.”  

In 2012, a stunned audience at the Coachella Valley Music Festival witnessed the first-of-its-kind 3D holographic performance when the legendary artist Tupac Shakur took the stage with rap star Dr. Dre. The artists at Digital Domain 3.0 combined 3D holographic projection technology with their virtual human rendering that was so lifelike some refused to believe he wasn’t actually there.

The show quickly became news around the world and caught the eye of pop sensation Jay Chou. Joining up with Digital Domain 3.0 and with the blessing of the Teresa Teng Foundation, the audience for Chou’s “Opus Jay 2013 World Tour” show in Taipei were treated to a surprise three song set from Teng. With additional shows in Hong Kong, the pop star’s virtual performance was seen by over 100,000 people and firmly demonstrated the huge appeal of this kind of performance. It was a touching tribute to her enduring talent and popularity, bringing joy to her longtime fans and introducing her to a new generation.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Becomes Marvel Studios Third Highest-Grossing Movie Ever At The Worldwide Box Office

(             There might be nothing left to say about Guardians of the Galaxy’s box office than just “wow” at this point. Despite some reports of poorly translated subtitles, it seems the Chinese love Guardians of the Galaxy just as much as the rest of the world.

Just in its second weekend at the Chinese box office, Guardians of the Galaxy has reached a total gross of $69 million in China. In fact, China is now the highest grossing country outside of the United States for Guardians of the Galaxy.

With the large Chinese box office take, Guardians of the Galaxy moved past Captain America: The Winter Solider to become the third highest-grossing Marvel Studios film ever at the worldwide box office. Guardians of the Galaxy has now grossed $732.6 million at the worldwide box office. Guardians of the Galaxy also moved into fourth place in total worldwide gross for any film released in 2014.

Weta Co-founder Talk VR Startup - Investors Sink $542 Million Into Mystery Tech

(          Search giant Google, along with several other interests, just invested more than half a billion dollars in a mysterious venture called Magic Leap, a company that, based on various reports, is working on technology focused on the virtual reality and augmented reality space.

So far, the company has kept a tight lid on what exactly it has to offer in terms of technical specifics but, whatever it is, Google and several other major players believe it's worth the $542 million in investment dollars announced on Tuesday.

See also: 5 Roadblocks to Virtual Reality Becoming Mainstream

Also included in the investment round are Silicon Valley heavyweight venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, private equity firm KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, film studio Legendary Entertainment and telecom company Qualcomm.

The mega-investment round follows early buzz last week that Google was preparing to sink cash into the company, which calls what is does "cinematic reality," a term the company has trademarked.

What that term means is still unclear, as the technology hasn't been publicly demonstrated, but when Legendary Entertainment CEO Thomas Tull got a first-hand look at the technology, he reportedly said, "It's one of the few things I've ever experienced in my life where I came out and said, 'This changes everything. This is a marker of the future.'"

Earlier this year, the company came close to describing its project in a statement on its website, which claimed that it was working to "develop and commercialize what we believe will be the most natural and human-friendly wearable computing interface in the world."

In the same statement, Richard Taylor, co-founder of the digital effects house Weta Workshop, best known for its works on the Lord of the Rings films, gushed about Magic Leap's technology.

"What [Magic Leap CEO] Rony [Abovitz] and the Magic Leap team have created is nothing short of remarkable and will forever change the way we interact with images and information," said Taylor, who is now on Magic Leap's board of directors.

"We are now at the threshold of giving people a dynamic image interface that harmonizes with their senses in a completely natural way..."

In the days leading up to the investment announcement, Abovitz, teased the technology further with a blog post.

"Technology should serve us," wrote Abovitz. "Computing should match human experience, it should respect human physiology. Computing can feel like everyday magic, and it can feel much more human, much more like our world. Our mission is to deliver on this dream..."

The optimistic language in that post is actually the tame version of Abovitz, who, based on his TEDx talk last year, is a fan of theatrical unveilings. During that event, no actual technology was revealed, but Abovitz, clad in an astronaut suit and flanked by two people in ape costumes (a la 2001: A Space Odyssey), did begin his brief speech with a mention of Magic Leap.

What we know so far, based on reports, is that the company uses "dynamic digitized light field" technology to accomplish the supposedly unique display dynamic, and it may involve glasses of some sort.

Despite the company's secrecy, all signs point toward Magic Leap being launched as a platform rather than as a distinct commercial product.

"I want Magic Leap to become a creative hub," wrote Abovitz, "for gamers, game designers, writers, coders, musicians, filmmakers, and artists."

But until we actually get a look at it, we can only rely on the enthusiasm represented by the new investment, which values the company at around $2 billion, as an indicator that Magic Leap may, indeed, live up to its name.

Watch Benedict Cumberbatch Wriggling Around for The Hobbit Motion Capture

(             Behind-the-scenes footage of Benedict Cumberbatch wriggling on the floor and threatening an unseen Bilbo Baggins gives Tolkien fans a unique insight into how the star played Smaug the dragon for The Hobbit.

The Sherlock star, 38, slithered around in a hi-tech sensor suit and helmet to create his motion capture performance – with the visual effects team even capturing his facial expressions for the role.

"You kind of have to imagine yourself into a vast creature in a huge space when you're really crawling about on a grey bit of carpet," he admitted.

Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and Caesar in The Planet of the Apes under similar CGI circumstances, told Benedict to "treat it like playing the role and go in there physically" instead of just providing the voice.

And he certainly does that...

Take a look:

Keep Lucas Off The Lake

(                   George Lucas' proposed lakefront museum is a bad idea. A really bad idea. And not because it may be illegal, as some lakefront preservationists argue.

That is, even if the museum is perfectly legal, it is perfectly misplaced and ill-conceived.

To begin, which of these does not belong with the other: the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium or the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art?

Let's pause there: the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art? The name tells us little and stinks. After all, isn't all art, by definition, "narrative" in some form?

Timeline: 'Star Wars' on the lakefrontRead the story

Its name aside, the bigger problem is what will go in the museum. Nobody — not even Lucas — seems to say just what it will house. His reticence to discuss specifics does not portend well.

Lucas only says that it will have three focus areas with the first being something called — wait for it — narrative art. There's that word again.

Next is the movie section, which makes sense given Lucas' background as a brilliant moviemaker, while the final category is something called "digital art." Whatever that means, I presume it too is narrative.

The fact that the museum is so ill, or vaguely, defined is a problem. Really, there is no unifying theme here, other than stuff that won't fit in billionaire Lucas' attic.

Plus, each category is already represented at existing museums.

lRelated BusinessGeorge Lucas lays out vision for his museumSee all related

For instance, the Art Institute of Chicago is known to already have some good narrative art. Similarly, as for a place to showcase and discuss films, the Gene Siskel Film Center – nice as it is — is hardly a hotbed of visitors.

Why not at least first display the contents at existing museums, or at least put the contents online, so the city sees what it may be selling its soul for.

Think about it: Lucas spends more time talking about the proposed architecture of the museum than its contents. He boasts that "it's going to be organic architecture."

Organic architecture?

Whatever that means, it makes me wonder whether the goal is to build a beautiful building or a meaningful museum? There is a difference, or should be.

Plus, not to be morbid, but what happens when Lucas dies? Its endowment aside, any museum that is essentially dependent on one person is troubled, if not doomed.

Full article:

Studio Ghibli Quietly Enters Oscar Animation Race with 'Princess Kaguya'

(                Director Isao Takahata may not have the Oscar pedigree of Studio Ghibli's is-he-or-isn't-he-retired figurehead Hayao Miyazaki. But Takahata is a revered animated filmmaker whose latest, "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," has been unassumingly picking up festival awards and buzz and critical acclaim, and could prove a stealthy contender for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
Here's why: In his latest TOH! arthouse box office report, Tom Brueggemann writes:

Enterprising GKids has managed to break into the Oscar Animated Feature race with several foreign-made films, and this Studio Ghibli production (not from master director Hayao Miyazaki) is positioned to continue that trend. This is the best-reviewed animated film of the year (by a large margin). Its opening numbers are quite strong, particularly with the modest ad buy. This isn't at the level of the also Ghibli-made "From Up on Poppy Hill" (from Miyazaki's son) which last year did $57,000 its first weekend in two theaters in a less competitive time frame. But this is still a good start and positions the film well for awards ahead.

'Princess Kaguya'

However, Isao Takahata's delicately hand-drawn retelling of a Japanese coming-of-age folktale — now well-voiced in English by Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Lucy Liu and Beau Bridges — has animated juggernaut "The Lego Movie" to contend with. Along with Disney's "Big Hero 6" and Focus Features' "The Boxtrolls," all of which are reaching (or will reach) much broader audiences.

But "Kaguya" is picking up steam among GoldDerby pundits, who've listed the film, now at sixth place in the race, just below the Guillermo Del Toro-produced Mexican animated feature "Book of Life." "Kaguya" reviews are much stronger than that ode to Dia de Los Muertos. But it was a competitive week for animated films, as both features opened on Friday.

2003's "Spirited Away" remains the first and only Ghibli film to win the animated Oscar, though Miyazaki's followups "Howl's Moving Castle" and "The Wind Rises" were nominated. Miyazaki is set to receive the Honorary Oscar at the 2015 Academy Awards, a career-honoring tribute that should afford Ghibli, and "Princess Kaguya," ample attention.

New Ghibli films from Miyazaki will be missed, but Takahata, who directed 1988's "Grave of the Fireflies," carries the animation studio's torch with mastery.

'Dungeons & Dragons' Sequel: Will Warner Bros. Or Universal Take Movie Rights From Hasbro?

(                Litigation is preventing another "Dungeons & Dragons" movie from being made.

The courts are caught in the crossfire between production company Sweetpea Entertainment and toy giant Hasbro as they argue over who actually owns sequel rights to the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game.

The trial has heated up, becoming a bidding war between Warner Bros. and Universal as both studios compete for the next Dungeons & Dragons movie.

D&D has been recognized as the pioneer of modern role-playing games in the gaming industry. As the referee, the Dungeon Master watches as fantastical characters embark on imaginary adventures. Your experience points grow as your characters engage in battles and collect treasure and knowledge.

According to Deadline, the seven-day trial will not end quietly. Sweatpea, which has a deal with Warner Bros., claims it should be the one to make the D&D reboot.

Attorney Patricia Glaser, who represents Sweatpea and owner Courtney Solomon, said, "Only Sweetpea, not Hasbro, has the right to make a movie with Dungeons & Dragons as its primary title."

Solomon directed the 2000 feature film adaptation, starring Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans and Thora Birch. Unfortunately, the flick received a negative reception, which resulted in low box-office numbers. If Universal gets the rights, it is taking over the franchise from the filmmaker who made it into a flop.

Lawyer Jeremy Goldman, who represents the toy giant, said, "Mr. Solomon had his shot with Dungeons & Dragons — he held on to the rights for over 20 years."

The courts have to decide who will end up with the rights to Dungeons & Dragons.

'The Lego Movie 2' Pushed Back To 2018 To Give Way To 'Lego Batman Movie'

(       "The Lego Movie 2" was originally slated for a 2017 release.  But new reports suggest that the second movie will be pushed back to a later date because of another awesome Lego Movie.

Hero Complex reported that the "Lego Batman Movie" will take the original 2017 launch of "The Lego Movie 2." That means, the sequel (or prequel, more details later) will be given a 2018 premiere.

Like Us on Facebook

In addition to the Lego movies in the works, Warner Bros. is definitely working on more Lego video games.  After "Lego Batman," "Lego Star Wars" and "Lego Hobbit" made than more than $2B, the company thought it would be a good decision to keep doing more of these video games in the future.

Meanwhile, "The Lego Movie 2" news reveal that the sequel has been already considered way before the first film came out.  According to Cinema Blend, "This sequel, Lego Movie 2 was planned even before the first film was released, so sure was Warner Bros. of its success. As it turns out, they were right. The original Lego Movie was a massive critical and financial success, making The Lego Movie 2 an easy commitment."

The report went on to reveal that the first movie's directors, Phil Lord and Chis Miller, will not be coming back to direct.  Instead, they've hired animation co-director Chris McKay to helm the sequel.

Cast members from the first film are expected to reprise their roles according to some "The Lego Movie 2" rumors.  In an interview with Metro, "The Lego Movie" star Chris Pratt shared his thoughts about returning for the sequel.

"I don't know anything. I hope I'm back. I loved working with Chris and Phil and I hope Emmett is crucial to the story," he said.

"It could be about a different character, it's not like other cartoons in that way. I hope that Emmett isn't disposable, he was such a great big part of that movie."

Stay tuned for more "The Lego Movie 2" updates here!

FX Milestone James Bond’s Lotus Esprit S1 Submarine Car Is Being Sold on eBay

(               James Bond had many gadgets, but his cars have always been among the most admired and sought-after equipment in his spy arsenal. 007 has been played by numerous actors, but his signature vehicle is arguably his Aston Martin, particularly the DB5 that first appeared in "Goldfinger," and five later films in the franchise.

Like Us on Facebook

Behind the Aston, the strangest and most memorable Bond vehicle is perhaps the amphibious Lotus Esprit S1 from 1977 film "The Spy Who Loved Me," starring Roger Moore. Lotus delivered two drivable vehicles to the set of the film, to be used in chase scenes. The British manufacturer also provided six Esprit bodyshells, one of which was sealed for underwater scenes. These latter cars were just shells and did not contain any motor.

One of the three remaining bodyshells is up for auction on eBay million dollars. According to the vehicle description: "The owner is selling this car for the same price that Dr. Evil charged to spare the world in the first "Austin Powers" movie.

Place your bid today:

-H             -Industry lore suggests that films with "Mars" in the title tend to under perform financially, so Disney's "John Carter of Mars" was changed to just "John Carter".