Robert Zemeckis: Tokyo Tightrope Artist

Holding a press conference on the 47th floor of a Tokyo skyscraper, on October 21, 2015, it was unclear whether the setting was more appropriate for Robert Zemeckis to be selling “The Walk” or reviewing the predictions made in “Back To The Future.”

Officially, the “Forrest Gump” filmmaker was on duty to tub-thump “The Walk,” which is set as the opening film of the Tokyo International Film festival. But with Letterman-like looks and a quick-fire growl, Zemeckis appeared at ease in either role.

(Oct. 21, 2015 is the date that that Marty McFly and Dr Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown chose to travel forward in time to in “Back To The Future”.)

Zemeckis ruled out any future additions to “Back.” “It is a well-made trilogy, and will stay that way,” he said. But willing to play some things forward, he expressed optimism for the future of cinema.

“I’m very hopeful for the future of cinema, because it is a technical art-form, the visual technology becomes stronger, has more horsepower, which allows us to create images more effectively and more economically. The cost of films will start to go down and enable us make much more interesting films about, what I really care about, which are story and character.”

Zemeckis and producer Jack Rapke repeatedly referred to the twin towers of the World Trade Center as “characters in the movie” and as “the partner” of the film’s real life hero Philippe Petit. But having been destroyed in 2001 by terrorist attack, CGI was required to create them.

Similarly, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of “The Walk” genuinely learned some of the skills of wire-walking, multiple digital technologies were needed in order to merge studio takes into on-location shots, and to marry Gordon-Levitt’s footsteps and facial expressions with those of a stunt double.

Later the film was converted from 2D to 3D by Legend 3D, a process which Zemeckis says is superior to shooting with two cameras. “You can sculpt the depth to help the audience feel the particular emotion that the director intends – what human eyeballs do anyway, which is to filter information and create a modified version of reality.”

Zemeckis who has been no stranger to on-screen innovation – notably in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Cast Away” – continued his technology in the service of story riff.

“I enjoy using all the tools that are available. I embrace new technologies as they come along. I don’t think about a specific effect until it is time to create one to tell a story,” said Zemeckis. “And then I look for one that we have never seen before.”

The Tokyo festival gets under way Thursday (Oct. 22) and runs through to Oct. 31.

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