Serkis says performance capture IS acting

Thesp holds virtual master class at Whistler Film Fest

Beneath pristine peaks at the ski resort town of Whistler, British Columbia, Variety saluted two of its award winners at the 11th annual Whistler Film Festival.

Andy Serkis, honored as Variety’s Tech Pioneer of the Year for his work in performance capture acting, was shooting aerial footage in New Zealand for “The Hobbit” – he’s the pic’s second-unit director – but interrupted his morning to “jump commando style” out of a helicopter and Skype in to a master class at the Whistler Fest.

Serkis has already finished performance capture on his reprise of the role of Gollum in Peter Jackson’s latest fantasy pics. Meanwhile he is getting an Oscar push for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and appearing in Steven Spielberg’s performance capture feature “The Adventures of Tintin.”

He told the Whistler aud “I feel very lucky to be at the point where (perfornace capture) is just beginning to be charted and used properly.” He said “It’s opening up a whole new convergence of performance in films, in games, and I’m very interested in performance capture for live theater and projecting avatars on screens whilst actors are acting.” But did have a complaint about the way his work is described — and credited.

Said Serkis: “I’ve got a list of the ways my work has been talked about. ‘Andy Serkis has lent his voice to,’ or ‘Andy Serkis has lent his movments to,’ or ‘Andy Serkis has lifted the character up,’ or ‘provided the emotional backbone for.’ There are all these elliptical ways of describing it. In actual fact, it’s acting. Even in ‘Tintin’ it will still say ‘voices by.’ It won’t say ‘played by.'”

Jay Baruchel, the longtime thesp who has turned scribe for the upcoming hockey comedy “Goon,” accepted kudos as one of Variety’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch” for 2011 in an onstage conversation with Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos. Montreal native Baruchel, an unabashedly patriotic Canadian, said his passions are “movies, Canada and hockey, so to make a Canadian hockey movie was the ultimate.” Baruchel expects to keep writing and making movies in Canada, he said: “I want to do for Montreal what (David) Cronenberg did for Toronto,” noting Cronenberg began drawing top talent to shoot in Ontario before it was a common practice to make movies there.

Baruchel admitted as a thesp working with A-listers like Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman et al, he’s still terrified “every day, including now. But he offered advice for anyone feeling nervous as they persue their movie careers: The fear is healthy, but no matter how terrified you get, never forget you want to make movies.”