Andy Serkis vs. Visual Effects Animators: The Wrong Fight for Both Sides

Andy Serkis vs. Visual F/X Animators:

As audiences discover “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a film where the performance-capture simians steal the show from the live-action humans, there’s sure to be another spate of talk about Andy Serkis as a contender for acting awards.

Let’s get this out of the way: Serkis is great in the role of Caesar, the ape leader, but it’s almost inconceivable the Academy or SAG will nominate him. The business isn’t there yet. Maybe critics and press awards will be more open-minded.

At the moment, too, the case for Serkis and his performance-capture cohorts in “Apes” is being hurt by a nasty spat between visual effects animators and Serkis himself. The issue is whether the actor alone creates a performance through the process, or whether the animators deserve credit.

At the risk of getting punched by both sides, I’m stepping into the middle of this fight. Here’s some advice for angry artists and Andy Serkis alike: Walk away. This is not the fight you want to be having. The argument itself is hurting you more than losing would.

For those joining this fight in the middle, here’s a summary of the action so far: Serkis gave an interview to a website in which he offered his take on the state of performance capture. He talked about the improvements in the process, saying, “It’s a given that they absolutely copy (the performance) to the letter, to the point in effect what they are doing is painting digital makeup onto actors’ performances.”

Serkis’s quote was picked up by an animation website that ran a story with the headline “Andy Serkis Does Everything, Animators Do Nothing, Says Andy Serkis.” Incendiary headline? Well, if so, it set exactly the fire it was meant to. Serkis became a pariah among many vfx artists and an object of ridicule on social media.

I’m going to tell everyone involved some things they don’t want to hear, but first let me first address vfx pros who are angry about this. (Disclosure: I was a theatre major with an acting and directing concentration, and started out as a stage director. I love actors and their work. So if you think that means I can’t be fair about the contribution of vfx animators, skip down and read the section where I address Andy Serkis. On the other hand, I have been covering visual effects for the better part of 15 years. I love what these people do. So if you think that means I can’t be fair about the contribution of actors, well…)

Look, I know you vfx pros are feeling disrespected. And you are disrespected. Probably no craft in Hollywood history has ever received so little for contributions so great. Your compensation has shrunk and your fringes have withered. You face many of the same problems as itinerant actors, but without the protections of a union or guild.

But in this argument, you are asking for a level of respect no craft gets.

Film actors have never been solo authors of their performance. They don’t choose the takes that make it into the film or what’s left on the cutting room floor. They don’t write their words or stage their scenes. That line that everybody still remembers? Written by some schmuck with an Underwood, er, Macbook. That shot that created a sex symbol? The d.p. hid the blemishes. That hilarious reaction shot? Could have been cut in from another scene. That tear rolling down their cheek? Might be digital.

But when it’s time to give out acting awards, it’s the actor at the podium. It’s customary and polite for the actor to thank the director, fellow actors, agent, manager and family, and maybe the writer if the music hasn’t come up, but not the editor, or the d.p. or any of the other crafts that burnished that actor’s performance. And nobody seriously argues they should.

Years ago I interviewed a film editor who lamented how bad the footage he gets often is. He told of a film where he was at wits’ end trying to piece together a performance from the leading lady, whose work he thought terrible. Punchline: She won the Oscar for the part.

Now, maybe that editor is right, and the footage was bad — or maybe not; editors love to say they’re the hero on every picture they cut — but even so, she has an Oscar on her mantle, and he has a story to tell bartenders and reporters.

It will always be so.

With performance capture, specifically, the involvement of animators is a bug, not a feature. It’s a necessary bug, because apes and N’avi and the like aren’t a neat match for the actors who play them, but the better and more precise the process gets, the more the actors will translated to the screen. Progress in the field is defined by steps that shift control from the animator to the actor.

Like picture editors, you will inevitably make profound contributions that can make or break a performance, but you’re never going to get credit for being the creator of the performance. If you want that kind of credit, stick to traditionally animated characters and avoid performance capture.

Okay, now that I’ve pointed you vfx artists toward a neutral corner, let me turn to Andy Serkis.

Andy, when we talk, you don’t seem angry about this, or about your fellow actors’ reluctance to accept performance capture as simply the next evolution of their art. You seem mostly baffled that people don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

I get that you’re campaigning for respect for your craft, when from your point of view acting is acting, whether it’s done with period costumes or mo-cap suits. And in fact, you are probably not as respected or famous as you should be, given the quality of your acting in so many hit films.

You and I spoke recently about the flap over your “digital makeup” remarks. You could have defused it with a little groveling. But your answer wasn’t aimed at courting favor with angry animators.

First you dismissed that inflammatory headline: “I’ve been told that some guy wrote something like ‘Andy Serkis does everything, animators do nothing.’ Of course I never in a million years said that, wouldn’t ever say that. It’s not within my understanding of filmmaking to ever say anything like that.”

But you didn’t back down on “digital makeup.” You explained, “It is really meant to convey an understanding of the creation of a role on set with a director.” You said performance capture “enables actors to author a role so that every single emotional beat … is driven by the actor.”

You were careful not to disparage the animators who translate those emotional beats to the creatures and characters you’ve played. “It’s a marriage between actors and the (animation) experts,” you said, calling the animators artistry “incredible.” But you argued that it’s actors like you who create the timing and performance.

“Absolutely, animators do have a role, and it’s interpreting the actor’s performance. Obviously it’s a lot of work in rendering and texturing and following an honoring the performance of the actor. But it is exactly that: It’s honoring the actor’s performance on set with the director.”

Here’s why you need to drop this fight and join forces with the vfx people to gain full respect for your craft.

I don’t know whether you are aiming your talk about “digital makeup” and “authorship” at your peers, in hopes of getting more acceptance and recognition for this craft, or thinking that this may be the year awards voters see what you do as “real acting.” If so, forget it. Voiceover actors in animated features don’t get that kind of acceptance and recognition — at least, not at awards time — even when they’re big stars and everyone loves their movies. And their craft has been around since the Roosevelt administration.

You have said yourself that cinema isn’t an actor’s medium. That’s especially true of performance capture. Animators are as essential to performance capture as cinematographers and picture editors are to traditional live action. Arguing over “authorship” is counterproductive for both you and the animators who interpret your performance, because the argument itself distracts from the results, which are sometimes spectacular.

For now, don’t worry about authorship, worry about drawing attention to the excellence of the work. It will do the whole field a lot more good if people are talking about how great the apes are in your new movie, and not about who is sniping at whom.

And one more thing for vfx artists: You too should stop bickering over who is the author of the performance and work with Andy Serkis — or Zoe Saldana or Jamie Bell or Ray Winstone — to get awards, even if it’s a special achievement award made up for the occasion, for a performance capture role. Because people like winning awards, and helping an actor win an award will make you more desirable for the next film that puts a big actor in a performance capture suit.

So what if nobody says your name from the podium? At least you’ll have have a great story for bartenders and reporters.

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  1. Unapologetic Canadian says:

    The fundamental problem with the authorship argument is how ‘motion performance’ lobbying has provided a haven for media bigotry against an art form. It’s not the educated I’m worried about, it’s audiences. Circa Spider-Man 2, there was no question that animators provided the lion’s share of quality visual effects. At that time, a sizable audience refused to watch these films because ‘animation is for kids’. For many, just enjoying animation is a conceit and something to be embarrassed about.

    In the post-Gollum ‘motion performance’ world of visual effects, these people feel comforted knowing that animators have been put in their place. After all, the real thing they’re enjoying is the actor beneath the digital make-up right? For distributors and studios, this delusion increases audience turn-out. For animators, it reinforces the real world bias they’ve had to overcome in pursuit of their careers.

    While the actor may feel the bias at award shows and galla viewings, the animator struggles in the intimate surrounds of his family- having to justify their career and self-worth to groups that matter more than ‘a jury of your peers’.

    And when you consider that most believe that Rocket Racoon and Groot are ‘motion performances’ when they are completely 100% animated, you see that the bias extends beyond those performances where the distinction matters. It’s a bias that discredits 100s more than it serves, in ways and places more intimate than where it’s meant to gain traction, and it doesn’t serve progress but provides a haven for the misinformed.

    • sabretruthtiger says:

      Agreed. Having been one of the artists that hand-animated Rocket Raccoon in London it really irks me when critics and bloggers call it mo-capped. I guess it speaks to the quality of the animation that people assume it’s motion capture, so in a way it’s complimentary.
      The misguided notion that the computer does it all and that it’s a purely technical endeavour still persists in the public eye however.
      In reality it’s still an art and the computer merely a tool. Motion capture is still a tool in the kitset and it takes artistic talent and skill to realise the final product.
      Hollywood and the studios love nothing more than to paint it as a technical endeavour so they can justify the low wages of VFX artists as representative of mere operators and technicians rather than artists who’ve invested years of training and experience to achieve the level of competence and artistic skill necessary to produce the best art in the world.

      • Hope says:

        I read before they started production that it would be mocap. I believe that`s where it started – for bloggers and critics. I was surprised myself to read later that it wasn`t. So, somebody got it right I guess in the beginning. But hey, the work was amazing! Rocket did look fantastic!

    • Hope says:

      Never thought about it from the audience point of view actually. Didn`t think that people wouldn`t go watch Lord of the Rings if they knew Gollum was totally a cartoon. Afterall Gollum is not the only thing that makes the story great.

  2. MMXC says:

    I’m sure this has been blown out of proportion by the media. Rarely does anyone ever actually “feud” with anyone else, or hold long-term resentment, unless you do something really tacky or tasteless or actively sabotage someone else. There are probably some VFX animators who feel slighted by this, and I’m sure Serkis feels slighted by a lack of recognition for what he does, but neither case is a big nasty feud and I’m sure nobody’s tanking a production to get back at one or the other. It’s sensationalism and nothing more. Rather, I interpret it as Serkis wanting more credit as an actor alongside his fellow actors, since he speaks the lines, facially emotes, and moves about the set (albeit in a silly costume covered in dots, but I digress). We’re getting to the point in technology where a fully CGI character is taken directly from an actor’s movements, dialogue, and facial expressions on a real set, and that’s more or less what screen acting is, so of course he wants to be recognized alongside other actors who do the same thing. That’s not a fault of VFX artists, it’s a fault of people not yet accepting that what he does is real and not just artist slapping a rendered character into footage.

    • Of course they are not fighting per se! Nor sabotage productions! But Andy`s acting still goes through human filter to be placed onto CG character. And those artists clean the data up and correct errors and therefore no one knows for sure if they don`t fiddle with it further to enhance his performance – that`s where the Academy`s concern is. There is no guarantee that the original performance is not enhanced by animators. I believe that`s the only reason for Andy (and others) not being fully credited for the characters he creates. I suggest to recognise them as a team.

  3. Hi!
    I`ve been following this “conflict” for quite some time now, since I`m covering VFX industry in my country. And there is one thing I didn`t understand straight away and still do not understand. Why the people who jointly create a character on screen do have a “war”? Why every side tries to push the blanket and say we are most important in that creation? Let`s face it both actor and VFX artists have a hand in creating a motion capture animated character on screen. And their impact on the image is probably equal.
    Why not fight for the new academy award category jointly? Name it “For creating the best motion capture CHARACTER” – since there will be more and more of those on screen (look at the Disney The Jungle Book thing!). And award it the actor AND the VFX artists involved AS A TEAM????? So the actor gets it for the acting and the VFX team – for their work on the same image respectively.
    I felt that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes lost their VFX Oscar not because they weren`t the best that year at all, because they were de facto. But because the Academy is afraid of that controversy. They are afraid to be blamed for recognition of VFX artists a priority here and acting as only subsidiary force.
    But when it is a team category nobody would get offended.
    I believe by joining the forces the guys involved can achieve it faster than by fighting each other.
    Let`s face it, Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes has a stronger charisma than Gary Oldman`s character, it was weird to witness. Kudos to Andy Serkis and the WETA team involved!

  4. Debbie says:

    Now who’s throwing a tantrum? I’m neither an FX person nor an actor but I can tell you that I’m not an actor because just “moving around” in front of camera or on stage is far more difficult than it seems. It’s also rather petulant of fx folk to accuse him of being bratty and egotistical when, if you take what he said in context AND compare that to other interviews, it’s quite clear he’s trying to encourage actors to NOT be afraid of mo-cap. It’s the FX artists that have their knickers in a twist for no reason.

    • Mike says:

      When, as an animator, your job is to go over the mocap and clean up, improve, or replace parts of it with your own key-framed animation, you don’t appreciate being told you had no part in the performance. Mocap isn’t perfect, and the mocapped actor’s performance isn’t perfect. It takes the acting ability of both sides to deliver a great performance. It’s disrespectful for Andy Serkis to claim he was the only person contributing to the performance. He seems to only understand the “digital painting” aspect of CG. He doesn’t seem to know what an animator does or how they contribute.

  5. Andrew Findlay says:

    Films with Mocap in them where made a long time before andy surkis arrived on the scene, so all of this boils down to Andy stamping his feet like a litte kid having a tantrum because he didnt get an award for his work, if you flip this whole thing on its head why shouldnt the VFX artists get the award over Andy, after all its the men and women who sit in front of there computer for days and hours on end after andy had gone into the mocap lab in a fraction and completed his acting and by the time it reaches the men and women hes hes sat a home with his feet up. After ANdy has done his acting how the hell does he think his performance ends up on screen? does he do the motion capture data clean up that takes hours, does he do the model rigging? does he do the modelling? does he do the texturing? does he do the lighting? does he do the render testing?……… the list goes on and on. so my point being weather its andy in a mocap suit or an unnamed guy/gal from down the street the end result is still the same but only after the VFX artists have done there job. At the end of the day all Andy does is move around and allow people to capture data anyone can do that? I come from a computer games background which uses alot of motion capture, and do the actors get awards after a huge success of a game? …………. no they get credited like eveyone else who has involvement and the award is accepted as a team/company not one individual who tries to glory hog and make a bigger name for themselves. The bottom line is films will still be made with motion capture tomorrow if Andy decided never to do it again and no one would batter an eye lid because someone can easily jump into that blue funky suit and do the same job. However without the VFX artists none of that movement in the suit could account for anything,

  6. How does arguing hurt artists? It calls attention to yet another aspect of our work that gets ignored. I can see how it might hurt Andy Serkis, but us artists have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It is exactly that attitude of being weak and easily dismissed that has made VFX hidden in the background since the 80’s.

    If we want to be taken seriously as the contributors we are we need to be loud, strong and not back down in order to placate one actor. We need to fight until VFX get’s the proper portion of a project’s budget and a proper percentage of the profits. We are an industry on verge of bankruptcy yet we are the driving force behind the highest grossing films. Does that make any sense?

    Regardless of who is right in this argument, artists stand only to gain. It’s weak, placating attitudes like the one in this article that has left us in the position we are in. Let’s change the tune. Your advice is terrible David S. Cohen.

  7. Here is what it really boils down to: Andy is great at motion capture performance, but the Caesar character he portrays is not him. Someone else could put on the so-called “digital makeup”. A sequel could be made with a completely different actor playing Caesar, and as long as he got the voice and ape mannerisms down, no one would know the difference.

    • Debbie Valenta says:

      Here’s a great video that compares the raw footage to the final product of the first film. A lot of dots for grabbing those facial expressions. But y’all can come to your own conclusion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM9Pvfq1KhE

      • Mike says:

        And you can clearly see the polish from the animators. Eye direction, blinks, subtlety in the facial performance, all those are added by animators. And they’re not showing the mocap that needs a lot of clean up and polish, which is most of it.

  8. Tiffany says:

    I am neither an actor or an FX pro, I’m a writer. So I’m looking at all this from the inside-out. But I have witnessed first-hand the evolution of computer technology from the late 1980s until today, and as a result, have seen films – both for better and worse – change right before my eyes.
    Like I’ve said, I’ve really only scratched the surface of this debate, but I see it as part of a wider discussion about the future of films. As a consumer and someone who loves film, I’ve seen that we’ve lost something in our push for greater and bigger effects; the storytelling and human elements. Actors have feared technology since the 2000s, when Richard Harris was digitally replaced on “Gladiator” (if this isn’t the first occurrence, please correct me). They fear their craft will become obsolete with the increase of digital technology, an understandable one. This is the impression I’ve received from the Serkis conversations I’ve encountered thus far, a cry saying, “this technology is great, but don’t forget the person behind the performance.”
    This being said, I also appreciate the work of the FX team. We wouldn’t be near where we are today without them. Few people realize today how amazing, and really what a huge risk, films like “Jurassic Park” where at the time they were made.
    This might be heresy to mention given the revelations of recent days, but I must recount my experience watching “Toy Story” for the first time in theaters in November 1995. I was eleven, still in elementary school, and, thanks to some very real encouragement from a student teacher assigned to my classroom, was really able to see a future for myself as a writer.
    It’s difficult today, given the leaps in CGI and FX technology, to really describe what a revelation this film really was. I had never seen anything like it. I recall vividly how toward the end, during the sequence were Woody and Buzz are desperately trying to beat Scud to the moving van, how I had to remind myself every few seconds that I was watching an animated film, not a live-action one. This is something I never did while watching traditional animation, because in spite of the film’s quality, traditional animation always looks like, well, traditional animation.
    About one-third of the film’s quality, to me, was the technology. There was simply nothing like it anywhere in existence, at least that I was aware of. Further, the ability to tell a story was now only limited by your imagination. That is what FX means to me, freeing your mind to heights never before dreamed possible.
    The rest, I will have to admit, is the story. This is really the part that has stood the test of time. I’ve seen countless toys-come-to-life plots. Some, better than others. But none ever touched on the idea of a toy replaced, or the rather adult concept of the Alpha Toy. This is what made the twist at the end, where Woody and Buzz have no choice *but* to work together, and in the process, become best friends, unique.
    I think this is what’s being lost in the entire actor-versus-technology fight, one that really predates Andy Serkis and FX. From what I can see, both are fearful of loosing out to the other guy, and fear makes us do and say stupid things. And I think, has played a part in creating the depressed movie market we see in America today.
    The other part, is an over-reliance on technology. When done right, with that perfect balance between story, performance, music, and technology; a film is simply amazing. But we’ve gone too far toward technology (and have lost the human element, in more ways than one). Films over the past few years have been about bigger explosions, greater effects, and more and more CGI. None of this is inherently negative, but we’ve also lost our connection with real people, real struggles, and a real story. In the end, people don’t consume stories, even animated ones, to be amazed by the technology, but to root for the story’s protagonist.
    Most people have gravitated toward television, which too relies heavily on FX, in large part, because of the stories they tell. Even A-list actors are increasingly attracted to the allure of the small screen.
    In the end, it takes both great actors AND great FX teams to make a great film. You simply can’t have one without the other. And both can show each other a level of respect for the work they do. An maybe, a union for FX teams isn’t such a bad idea.
    I think we do need to meet in the middle, and realize that in the end, audiences are looking for that character they can believe in, even for just an hour and a half. After all, that’s why we spend $20 per ticket to watch them on the big screen in the first place.

  9. My nieces and nephews, and soon my little boy as well, can jump around acting like a monkey too. Can they get awards?

    No, cuz their not very good at it. And you cant take someone who draws stick men to animate an ape, avatar, or any other creature.

    So I am in complete agreement, all who decide to continue their fight for their side alone is only hurting their industry more. I have been animating for more then 15 years and I will continue to do so. To these animators that talk about how their pay is always getting cut, if you make yourself great and prove you are better then the outsourced country, guess what happens, you will get the work. If you are in this industry for the money, or the prestige, you’re gonna have a bad time.

    You want acknowledgment, its there, when the credits roll.

  10. Mark Kochinski says:

    We’re not trying to take credit from Serkis at all. It was Serkis that started all this. We’re trying to make our contribution clear.

    If you know anything about performance capture, you know that it’s maybe 80% of the performance. It ain’t digital makeup. We don’t just slap the data on to the model and walk away. Sometimes the ANIMATORS re-animate the ENTIRE performance.

    In a world where our jobs are being shipped off to whatever country will subsidize them the most, where our pay is being cut, and cut again, where our Oscar winners are played off the stage and the Oscar winning director fails to thank the FX team that created 80% of his film (and 100% of the animal performance) – well, yeah – we’re a little sensitive.

  11. Dave Andrews says:

    Sorry VFX guys, but you’re not actors. Serkis is doing the acting. You’re doing digital makeup. That’s it. You did a wonderful, amazing job, but don’t take anything away from the actor. During the original Planet of the Apes, they used prosthetic makeup. It was wonderful too, but Roddy McDowall did the acting, just as Andy Serkis does the acting for Ceasar and Zoe Saldana did the acting for Neytiri.

    You certainly deserve all the accolades available for your incredible artwork, but Please don’t try to take away from Serkis’ acting job.

    • JD says:

      I’m only commenting to correct the record for the layman reading your comment and nodding their head in agreement.

      “Digital makeup” is an uneducated, gross over-simplification of what goes on for digital characters in a movie like Apes. Aside from being frankly quite insulting and degrading, it’s nowhere near accurate. If you don’t like an actors performance, can you later re-animate the make-up without the actor? And for the record, it’s extremely common for animators (we’re talking about one department in the 10 or so departments responsible for a digital character) to study acting and receive professional training which they apply to their performances. Don’t insult them by saying they’re not actors.

      “Digital-Makeup” is someone with Nuke airbrushing blemishes from Mila Kunis or turning someone’s skin blue. What we do is art, engineering, mechanics, and often-times acting. The actor drives a significant portion of the performance of our very sophisticated digital creature, but that is one piece of a very complex puzzle that is much, much larger than any one portion.

      While I believe that Andy deserves all the credit of an actor and deserves to be considered by the academy and others alongside live-action actors for his performance: I also believe that any award given for a digital performance should be shared with the Visual Effects facility responsible for that character.

      Whether that means adding the VFX team to the nomination “Andy Serkis and Weta Digital as Gollum”, or creating a separate category for digital performances, this is something that needs dramatic rethinking by the various award shows.

    • minoton says:

      Wow, you really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?

      Enjoy ‘Frozen’? How about ‘Brave’?

      • Debbie Valenta says:

        I think @DaveAndrews comment is extreme, but you can’t compare motion capture for something like Apes or LOTR and compare that to Frozen and Brave. Apes and LOTR are not animated movies, they’re computer enhanced.

    • Josh says:

      He grunted, made a few faces, and walked like an ape for a few hours. Replace him with any decent physical actor and you would have gotten the same or close end result.

      Take away Weta and their artists and you would have gotten nowhere near the same end result. Their end contributions to the film are not on the same level.

  12. Debbie says:

    And Andy Serkis isn’t a Kiwi. He’s British.

  13. Stick to practical fx and the actors might end up being able to stake more of a claim and the films will be more watchable. Rick Baker never had problems with recognition (that I know of) from an fx point of view. He is a genius. And yes, VFX should be so lucky to be compared to make-up. Also I never heard Peter Elliot complaining about his roles. He would have outdone Serkis by a mile.

    If only the vfx lot would go practical and everyone would be happier. :) We are bored of pixel f**king.

  14. With all due respect, VFX animators sometimes make acting choices, in addition to the actor’s choices, and sometimes those acting choices are preferred by the director. Sometimes, they are requested by the director. It varies from shot to shot.

  15. Serkis got critics awards noms for Rise; it’s time the actors stopped this fear of being replaced and nominated people who deserve it, and Serkis usually does.

  16. Tony says:

    “Overworked and underpaid” The tagline of VFX industry. That’s one thing they should teach them in school before they dive into an industry with next to no recognition or appreciation of their talents. Andy’s work is great, don’t get me wrong, but if it looked like Saturday morning Disney animations, I probably could not have taken it seriously. Every movie money machine has VFX in it. Those comic book movies we all love and all of those crazy out of this world fantasy movies that have been translated from books or dreams. Without VFX I don’t think those movies would have been possible at all. In saying that I have seen what this industry does to people. They are used up and chucked out. Most of them burn themselves out just trying to make a living and it really would hurt to have your hard work being washed over and overlooked. It still surprises me with movies like Iron Man or The Avengers with the Hulk where the digital character spends more time on screen and the actor gets paid millions and the rest of the VFX crowd crawl around for the crumbs, then SLJ gets up and dismisses them completely. Passion can only go so far. I wish these VFX companies would start creating their own IP and really forget about Hollywood. You would be far better off.

  17. Josh says:

    Take away Serkis and put in any other random actor who can grunt, make faces, and walk like an ape and you’d get the same result.

    Take away Weta and the animators/artists there and you wouldn’t get anywhere near what the results were.

    Their contributions to the final impact of the film are not equal.

  18. manm says:

    I object to actors like Serkis trying to grab credit when the real reason people see these films is the visual effects. How many people saw Death of a Superhero? Burke & Hare? If his performance was mocapped onto a poorly rigged, textured & furred model it would be much worse than any of the work I’ve seen from my animator colleagues, who video their own performance as reference and never use mocap (which at every studio besides Weta requires a ton of clean-up from animators.) Performers who rely that heavily on vfx (it’s an insult to vfx artists to compare it to makeup) to get people to see their films can be replaced by any no name actor of equal talent who can wear the green suit (Or by good video reference–see Rango.) Serkis needs to stop pretending that he is the reason these films succeed.

    • manm says:

      Same fight. This kind of thing happens because actors like Andy Serkis and directors like Ang Lee publicly devalue our work even as it draws people to see their films. And I’m sure it comes into A-List talent’s salary negotiations when they work on a film that has to squeeze their asking price for the VFX budget. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we’re seeing this kind of pushback from performers and directors. Too bad. The big egos need to realize that their films aren’t going to be blockbusters without the VFX,

      • Debbie says:

        My original comment was that Serkis wasn’t “devaluing” vfx artists, but regardless–it seems like the author is right about at least one-thing: vfx artists are demanding a recognition that simply no one else below-the-line gets. And maybe stuff like the Pixar wage-fixing debacle are the real reason why more respect isn’t given. For every Serkis (or Saldana), there seems to be an army of people behind the mo-cap effects, so of course those people won’t get shout-outs. Rick Baker is famous because he wasn’t part of a vast credit crawl of digital artists. Does that diminish the respect for their talent? It shouldn’t. But unfortunately, the audience and many in the industry view digital fx artists as a legion of guys sitting at computer screens pushing around a mouse or a stylus. Serkis gave these guys an great complement and I think they’re too butthurt over their rape by the industry to recognize it.

  19. Debbie says:

    The fact that the author had to really reach (IMO unsuccessfully) to give Serkis equal blame is proof that 1.) Serkis has been right all along and 2.) vfx artists, in their frustration over the state of their industry, are choosing an easy target over the real culprit–the studios. Three of the last major films with significant CGI that I saw in the theatre had teams comprised mostly of cheaper, Indian fx resources. Instead of bashing Mr Serkis, they would do well to bury that particular hatchet and join forces with Mr. Serkis to try to bring the industry back home.

    • Josh says:

      What are you talking about? What reaching? Serkis said the stupid things he said…then he was dismissive about it when it was brought to his attention.

      The state of the industry is partially the way it is because it doesn’t get enough credit/recognition. Studios aren’t headliners. How many VFX studios can the average movie goer name?
      Recognition is a factor in any person/industries strength.

      What major films are you alluding to?

      And I don’t know what you mean when you say “join forces with Serkis to try and bring the industry home” Home to where? Serkis and Weta are in the middle of nowhere New Zealand…and they’re there because of subsidies.

      • Josh says:

        Look up some of peter jacksons previous comments…he has said that without the support of the local film subsidies its doubtful they’d continue to get the work they do. Trust me…if New Zealand didn’t have the subsidies they wouldn’t have been awarded the films they received. They’ve continually been blackmailed by the film industry for increased subsidies and then changes to labor laws.

        First with Lord of the Rings then with Avatar sequals.

      • Ella says:

        Weta aren’t in New Zealand because of subsidies. They’re there because they were founded by Peter Jackson, who is a New Zealander, and he wanted a VFX house.

  20. Local 700 Pro says:

    Actors never thank the editor???…. Once again, David is on drugs. Even this year, Lupita Nyong’o who won supporting actress for Twelve Years a Slave very clearly thanked Joe Walker.

    • Josh says:

      Look up some of peter jacksons previous comments…he has said that without the support of the local film subsidies its doubtful they’d continue to get the work they do. Trust me…if New Zealand didn’t have the subsidies they wouldn’t have been awarded the films they received. They’ve continually been blackmailed by the film industry for increased subsidies and then changes to labor laws.

      First with Lord of the Rings then with Avatar sequals.

  21. Josh says:

    Your last paragraph makes no sense. Every time VFX artists get dissed or have their roles diminished it becomes that much harder for us to climb out of the quagmire, that you well know and alluded to, the state the VFX industry is in.

    Andy when you confronted him with his “diss” of artists pretty much brushed it off. If a person with as much first hand knowledge/experience with VFX would be as dismissive about the offence what makes you think the average person, in the industry or not, is gonna give a second thought to the people behind the scenes.

    The VFX industry and striving and loosing to prove its worth and proper status in the film industry. And we’re losing.

    • Lex Walker says:

      I didn’t read that as “brushing off” his “diss”, I read it as him correctly confirming that he never made that supposed “diss” in the first place. This entire issue seems to have stemmed from a blogger desperate for traffic to the point that he intentionally misconstrued comments in an interview to stir up controversy. Serkis did all he could do: deny that that was ever his intention, and his past track record discussing the subject backs that up. I think the author of the article made a valid point: he’s put so much effort into the motion-capture acting and yet neither his industry nor his peers accept it as a part of their craft deserving consideration come reward time.

      Can you guess the best way to gain that acceptance? Convince other famous actors that it’s exactly the same as acting just with digital make up instead of real make up. That may seem like a trivialization of a vfx artist’s role, unless you understand he’s simplifying what they do to make it more palatable to other actors who will then take a chance on the art form and then help it gain acceptance – which is better for motion-capture actors and motion-capture vfx designers both.

      This whole issue is absurd, and I think the majority of vfx artists and Serkis know that. As per usual on the internet, the loudest voices in an argument are often those with the least amount to say but the most in need of attention to boost their egos.

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