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Cinesite gains respect

Company spotlight

For evidence that the threat of Hollywood’s strikes (since resolved) have created a boom in work for some f/x facilities, just take a look at Kodak-backed Cinesite.

The company’s Hollywood studio is busy creating visuals for 18 films, including high-profile projects such as Michael Mann’s “Ali,” “Changing Lanes,” “Clockstoppers,” “The Mothman Prophecies,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s 11,” Sam Mendes’ “Road to Perdition,” Tony Scott’s “Spy Game,” “13 Ghosts,” “Training Day” and John Woo’s “Windtalkers,” among others. It recently wrapped “Legally Blonde,” “Rat Race” and “Rush Hour 2.”

“We did more shows in the first six months than we did all of last year,” says Ruth Scovill, CEO of Cinesite Hollywood, which employs a staff of 225.

The company’s London studio has 157 f/x artists, who recently wrapped “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and are now concentrating on “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

The workload, while a coup for any f/x facility, is a sign that Cinesite is gaining respect among Hollywood’s film production community.

“We’re getting bigger movies,” Scovill says. “We are now almost always one of the three to five houses that are considered. That wasn’t always the case. There’s work we do now that clients hesitated giving us before. We’ve never been known for our blockbuster movies. We handle more seamless effects. That’s what we do.”

Things changed for the company roughly four months ago after a glut in production forced producers to seek out available f/x facilities to take on work.

While film mastering and scanning, as well as newer endeavors including DVD authoring and film restoration, generate much of Cinesite’s revenues, its f/x division has been helping bring in the clients and their dollars. Technical improvements, achievements in R&D as well as the hiring of senior level visual effects supervisors Mike Fink (“X-Men”) and Mike McAlister have helped raise the houses profile.

It also has built a rep for creating 3-D digital characters as seen in last year’s Warner Bros. sci-fi pic “Red Planet.”

“There’s a whole group of creatives out there who never would have thought of using us,” Scovill says. “They are now being brought to us because of word of mouth. The big trick is getting people in the door. We’re semi-unique that we have so many other businesses.

“When I walked in 75% of our business was effects. That’s now down to 53%, but we have twice as much effects work than what we were doing before. It takes forever to build yourself up. We’re now steadfast, moving down a straight line.”

Cinesite says that it is looking to boost its computer animation capabilities to the point where it can create a fully CG-animated pic, similar to DreamWorks/PDI and Pixar. But on the live-action side, it’s seeking films that can show off other abilities.

“We’re actively searching for who’s going to take us to the next level and improve our reel,” Scovill says. “We took ‘Orange County’ because it has a huge water scene in the film.”

Scovill anticipates work to hit a slow period beginning in October as studios take time to decide which films to greenlight. But, he says, a work drop-off would not be entirely unwelcome.

“I wanted a couple of months of slow time because we’ve been changing this place so much. I wanted to land the lane and tighten the bolts a little bit.”

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