LA-based VFX house Rhythm & Hues Studios filed for bankruptcy last year and laid off hundreds just before the film it was most associated with, Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, won four Oscars — including for Visual Effects. Employee lawsuits and a bankruptcy auction ensued. The VFX community, meanwhile, rallied to the cause, holding demonstrations (including at the 2013 Academy Awards) and town halls to figure out how their artists can be more protected — in other words, says former R&H CG Supervisor Walt Jones in the trailer, “It jelled the entire VFX community — into being horrifically pissed off at how they were being treated.” Save for an organized protest outside DreamWorks Animation during a November visit by President Obama, there hasn’t been much movement on the organizing front of late, but maybe this trailer that just dropped will get the ball rolling again. Life After Pi was made by R&H employees who picked up cameras as the meltdown ensued and is part of a larger documentary film Hollywood Ending that’s pending, according to the film’s website. The R&H doc is being released online February 25.
Related: VES Awards: ‘Gravity’ Wins 6 Including Top Prize
EXCLUSIVE: Ang Lee, who won the Oscar for directing Life Of Pi, will next take his 3D camera technology in a new intriguing direction. I’ve learned that Lee has set up his next project at Universal Pictures, and it’s described to me as an epic look at the boxing world of the 1960s and 1970s, as seen through the prism of its biggest rivalries and greatest fights. That will include the showdown between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali that was called the Thrilla In Manila. Peter Morgan will write the script.
The movie will have a narrative that connects the 3D depiction of some of boxing’s great fights, and Lee will produce the film with his longtime producing partner James Schamus. Schamus, who is CEO of Universal-based Focus Features, has collaborated in a writing/producing capacity with Lee on films that range from Eat Drink Man Woman to Sense And Sensibility, The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk and Brokeback Mountain. No one was commenting, so it was difficult to discern the narrative structure behind the movie, but as a guy who grew up in this era, I think there is thrilling potential in watching Lee get his 3D cameras in the boxing ring, focused on the sport’s great fights from a heyday when everybody knew who was champ, when Ali, Frazer, George Foreman, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, … Read More »
Once rivals for Oscar in February and now fellow jurors in Cannes, Ang Lee called Steven Spielberg his “hero” as Spielberg praised Lee’s Life Of Pi, which won Best Director over Lincoln. This mutual lovefest took place as the jury for the 66th Cannes Film Festival was introduced to the world’s press this afternoon. Spielberg, who said he hasn’t served on any festival jury since 1974 (the beginning of his feature film career) is President and has been asked many times but said the timing was finally right. “I’ve been so consistently at work, especially in the spring months directing, that every time I’ve been approached to be on the jury I’ve been working so I suddenly found myself with an open year, and so that’s why this all came together this year. I am honored I was invited,” he said. Spielberg has been to Cannes many times before with films like E.T. and most recently, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.
Asked about being on the Cannes panel with Spielberg after defeating him for the Oscar almost three months ago Lee said, “Steven and I are good friends. I worship him. I don’t know how he looks at me, but I worship him. I don’t think any result would change how I feel about him or even myself. He’s my hero.” Spielberg responding seemed at a loss for words. “I don’t know how to answer that, except to say Ang and I have been friends for a long time and we’ve never ever been competitors, we’ve always been colleagues and that will just contiinue. And certainly I worship Life Of Pi and therefore I worship Ang Lee as well.” Read More »
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
Life Of Pi helmer Ang Lee caused controversy last month when he failed to thank the film’s VFX artists – including those at the troubled Rhythm & Hues – during his acceptance speech for the Best Director Oscar. Today, the director topped the bill at the opening of the 3D Creative Summit in London, appearing via satellite to discuss the visual work done on Pi.
The film’s VFX consultant David Conley presented the audience with a breakdown of the visual effects wizardry featured in two extended Pi sequences, as it pertained to the film’s use of 3D. But Lee, who praised the detail of Conley’s presentation, stuck to discussing the third dimension alone. Speaking of the cost of visual effects, he said he had feared that the economic reality of Pi would not match the artistic demands of realizing it. “It would be like the number Pi: it keeps on going and makes no sense.” 3D, then, was a way to keep the budget manageable. It added a level of authenticity that allowed him to downplay the VFX. “It gives volume. It picks up so much information and gives realism.” He added that the film’s most famous creation, the CG tiger Richard Parker, was rendered more believable because it was presented in 3D. Read More »
Two weeks after its U.S. parent filed for Chapter 11 reorganization, a new Rhythm & Hues facility is on course to open in Taiwan, according to Rhythm & Hues Studios Taiwan Co. manager Mike Yang. The exec told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that the new outpost will open in Kaohsiung by the end of March. A 2,640-square-meter facility is in the final stage of construction and is expected to provide space to over 200 local and foreign artists and instructors over the next five years. “Actually, all the studios, including in Los Angeles and at four other locations, are operating,” Yang said, adding that more than 10 parties have expressed interest in a merger or an acquisition of the group. Yang also told the news agency that R&H is looking to expand its business in Canada and Southeast Asia. “I’m sure we can get through the difficulties, as we are still one of the tops in this industry,” he said. On Sunday, Taiwan-born Ang Lee won the Best Director Academy Award for Life Of Pi, on which Rhythm & Hues collaborated.
WINS BY PICTURE
Life Of Pi 4
Les Miserables 3
Django Unchained 2
Silver Linings Playbook 1
Searching For Sugar Man 1
Zero Dark Thirty 1
Anna Karenina 1
Related: Nikki Finke’s Oscar Live-Snark
Dominic Patten contributed to this report
4TH UPDATE, THURSDAY 11:00 AM The court has given Legendary the go-ahead to infuse Rhythm & Hues with another $4.9M to finish Seventh Son. Law firm Venable LLP repped the studio, which sought the court’s approval to pump additional payments into the ailing effects house after receiving only 25% of their commissioned 225 VFX shots last December.
3RD UPDATE, WEDNESDAY AM: Legendary Pictures has officially filed a motion to be allowed to give Rhythm & Hues an additional $4,961,751 to complete VFX work on their October release Seventh Son, according to a change order filed yesterday (read it here).
2ND UPDATE, FRIDAY PM: In a preliminary ruling, Judge Neil Bason has approved $11 million of the loan. A first disbursement of $6 million is expected immediately, with $5 million to follow on February 19. On March 12, Bason will offer final judgement on the loan and, pending no legal hurdles or objections, allow the remaining $5.5 million to be given to Rhythm & Hues.
UPDATE, 12:40 PM: Legendary Pictures has asked the court if it can write a check to Rhythm & Hues outside the DIP loan being offered by Universal and Fox. The production company said if the “change order” is not approved it could mean a $9 million hit, and that even though it’s already paid for the work it’s willing to “pay twice” to get its movie finished. That could be a reference to Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, which already has set a July 12 release date via Warner Bros. (UPDATE: Nope. Legendary lawyers say it’s the Jeff Bridges-starrer Seventh Son, which has an October 18 release date via Warner Bros. A hearing date has been set for February 21.) Read More »
Chris Terrio | Argo
Chris Terrio had a trove of primary and secondary material to consult in writing the screenplay for Argo, most notably the memoir Master of Disguise, by former CIA agent Tony Mendez, and Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 article in Wired magazine based on declassified documents about the remarkable clandestine Iran hostage-rescue caper.
But this hardly gave Terrio a blueprint for a screenplay that deftly blends Hollywood satire with a historical international crisis. Terrio says his biggest fear was that the Hollywood scenes of the Argo screenplay would slide the movie too far into show-business farce.
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However, a passage in Mendez’s book gave him license to go there in one case. “In Tony’s book”, Terrio says, “there’s a passage in it where Tony’s describing being with (makeup artist) John Chambers and figuring out that they’re going to call the fake movie Argo. And then it describes how that title both comes from a joke—which literally was a joke that Chambers and Tony used to make, which is the ‘Ah, go fuck yourself’ joke—but also that it has these mythological connotations to it, which Chambers and Mendez were aware of and chose. I feel that somewhere in that passage is the root of the tone of the film, which in some sense was a harder thing to … Read More »
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor
Leaving artistic issues aside, you could—at first glance—say that the competition for best original score isn’t a fair fight this year. Three of the nominees—Mychael Danna (Life Of Pi), Alexandre Desplat (Argo), and Thomas Newman (Skyfall)—have never won an Oscar, and one of them (Danna) is enjoying his first nomination. Dario Marianelli won once before, but his nom for Anna Karenina is only his third. So who’s the heavyweight in the ring? None other than John Williams (Lincoln), who has won five Oscars for original score, as well as one for adapted score.
Williams is basking in his 39th nomination for original score. His first was for The Reivers (1969), starring Steve McQueen. His closest competitor within this group is Newman, who is savoring his ninth nom since 1994, when he earned two—for Little Women and The Shawshank Redemption. Desplat is suiting up for his fifth round since 2006, when The Queen first brought him close to Oscar gold. Read More »
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor
This year’s nominees show how visual effects have spread from summer blockbusters to genres as diverse as superheroes, different flavors of fantasy, more traditional sci-fi territory, and even the art-house film. For each nominee, there’s a moment that makes it worthy of an Oscar nomination. Here, the visual-effects supervisors on the nominated films break down the key challenges and talk about the sequence that clinched the nomination.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The nominees: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White
No. of visual-effects shots: 2,176
Tech breakthrough: The complexity and number of techniques used to create the digital creatures. “It’s a combination of lots of things to get a creature to that point”, says Letteri. “It’s muscles, it’s skin, it’s facial capture, it’s performance capture”. All those things had to come together to bring to convincing life six leading digital characters with dialogue. Read More »
Okay Academy members, this is your last chance to vote.
And by all indications from my own admittedly unscientific survey over the weekend there are many who are choosing to wait, despite the Academy’s emails encouraging them to vote early in this final round. Part of the reason seems to be a desire to catch up on the Documentary Feature, Live Action and Animation Shorts which have been sent to the entire Academy membership for the first time, instead of requiring voters to attend special screenings. One voter told me he received his late and was trying to watch them all before submitting his ballot.
With today being a holiday, those voters who opted for paper ballots and still haven’t mailed them are out of luck if they hope to do that and still have it reach the downtown Los Angeles offices of the Academy’s accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, or the Academy lobby at its Beverly Hills headquarters in time before Tuesday’s 5 PM deadline. If you are a paper voter, not electronic, the best you can do at this point is have the ballot delivered in person to one of those locations before 5 PM tomorrow. And every year there are usually many that do just that. It has even numbered up into the hundreds in past years. But with the new, sometimes awkward, transition to online voting this year, that number will probably be significantly decreased.
Read More »
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor
The film editing race is both diverse and expected. All five nominated films are also up for best picture, and the individual editors range from three-time Oscar winner Michael Kahn to several first-time nominees and one nominee, William Goldenberg, nominated for work on two separate films. We talked with the nominated editors and asked them to run through a key scene from their films—one that was crucial to making the picture work, either from a tone perspective or a more technical one. The results were as diverse as the nominated films themselves.
WILLIAM GOLDENBERG | ARGO
Goldenberg says Argo’s incongruous quality was epitomized in an often bizarre sequence that cuts from the elaborate table-read of the fake screenplay at the Beverly Hills Hotel to the houseguests trying to entertain themselves in their long isolation to Iranian forces frightening hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran with a mock execution.
“When I read the script, I thought this was a scene where if we can make this work tonally, the movie will work”, says Goldenberg. “Because it’s all these different tones colliding together, and if all these expositions can work as a scene, then I think what we’re trying to do with the movie will be successful”. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Whatever happens in the Best Picture Oscar race, where Argo has emerged as a strong frontrunner thanks to an unbroken string of victories in all the key precursor awards, the race for the Best Director Oscar is turning out to be a nail-biter. Since Argo’s Ben Affleck was famously snubbed by the directors branch and won’t be competing (he most likely would have won), all eyes are turning to the five directors who actually were nominated, Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Michael Haneke (Amour), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts Of The Southern Wild) and Ang Lee (Life Of Pi).
Because Affleck won the DGA award, usually the most reliable indicator of success for the Oscar-winning director, all bets are off. Spielberg and Lee, both past winners and icons, also have the benefit of films with the most nominations with 12 for Lincoln and 11 for Life Of Pi. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook also is very strong, particularly with the all-important and very large Academy actors branch, where it became the first film in 31 years to win nominations in all four acting categories (Lincoln was close behind with noms in three acting categories — no actor in a Spielberg film has ever won an Oscar for that film, but that’s likely to change this year).
But without a single acting nomination for his film, could Lee still possibly emerge the winner? Yes. The … Read More »
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor
Few categories offer as much confusion in Oscar pools as best sound editing and best sound mixing. Unlike the more esoteric categories where few have seen the nominated films, most of the nominees for these categories often overlap and have worked on blockbuster movies.
But while everyone knows the movies and knows what sound is, the difference between the categories remains elusive even to well-informed voters and those working in the fields themselves.
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The short description of the differences goes like this: Sound editors assemble all the sound elements except music and edit it into a soundtrack that is synchronized to the images on screen. That includes assembling everything from dialogue tracks recorded on location to sound effects, Foley and ADR, or additional dialogue recording. The mixer then takes the elements of the edited soundtrack and the music and adjusts the volume levels and 3D placement in the theatrical environment.
The longer description is much more complicated.
“There is a lot more of a overlap of duties as it were for the two jobs, but it’s totally a collaboration from beginning to end”, says Philip Stockton, nominated along with Eugene Gearty for the best sound-editing Oscar for Life Of Pi.
RELATED: OSCARS: Nommed Costume Designers Talk About Challenges
Asking some of this … Read More »
As the industry kicks into full awards mode, with one guild after another handing out trophies to whomever they consider the year’s best in any given field, it’s become increasingly clear this is a year like we have not seen in a while. Certainly every season we go through this ritual of watching the crème de la crème of the industry line up to get awards, but rarely have we seen as dense a field of top contenders, and especially deserving ones, as we have this year. The common denominator among most, if not all, of the contenders in Oscar’s 24 categories is how difficult it was in the first place to get any of these films made in a sequel-happy, franchise-loving, play-it-safe motion picture industry.
RELATED: OSCARS: Best Picture Contenders Part 1
For example, Steven Spielberg began talking about Lincoln with Doris Kearns Goodwin before she started writing the book and struggled for well over a decade to bring it to the screen, getting turned down by three studios in the process. And first-time feature filmmaker Benh Zeitlin went against all industry norms to make the unique and hard-to-define Beasts Of The Southern Wild come to life. But no matter who the filmmaker is, the most often-heard mantra is stick to your core beliefs and vision and somehow an Oscar-worthy film can be willed into being. Even James Bond ran into trouble when MGM went bankrupt and a normal 2½-year process turned into twice that for Skyfall, which went on to win five Oscar nominations. It also got recognition as one of the year’s best pictures from the Producers Guild, as well it should, considering what its veteran producers went through to just to make it. Read More »
Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine.
This year’s crop of contenders—a doc tune, a musical melody, a jazz ditty, and an Indian lullaby—are similar to the genres that the category has recognized in recent years. Pop-radio songs, which arguably have been sparse over the last 10 years with the exception of the Beyoncé-performed Dreamgirls song “Listen” and Eminem’s Oscar winner “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile, marked their return this year with Adele’s James Bond ballad “Skyfall”. A glance at this year’s best song nominees:
“Before My Time” | Chasing Ice
Music and lyrics by J. Ralph
Where it’s heard in the film: End credits
Backstory: Looking to bring emotion to glacial meltdown, J. Ralph, who scored the Oscar-winning docs The Cove and Man on Wire, enlisted the breathy vocals of Scarlett Johansson and the touching high notes of violinist Joshua Bell. “As the song plays over the final sequence of the film”, Ralph says, “I wanted to create a transportive, hypnotic experience where the audience could absorb all they had seen, as if Scarlett is singing to each person individually. The song explores the dialogue between mankind and nature and the perception of time. In the end, no one is bigger than Mother Nature”.
Odds: Given the Academy’s penchant for songs that earnestly jibe with a film’s sensibility, don’t count out “Before My Time” just because it’s tagged to the end … Read More »
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor
It was, in the words of production designer David Gropman, “a very large endeavor for a very short moment”. For Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, designers created a faithful reproduction of the real-life Piscine Molitor in Paris in the 1950s. The set did not get much screen time, but Gropman says Lee insisted that the pool be fully rendered as an important key to the story. Pi was named after the swimming pool (full name Piscine Molitor Patel). Besides explaining Pi’s odd moniker, Gropman says Lee wanted to explain Pi’s ability to master the water and his alarming companion at sea, an adult Bengal tiger. Pi’s father survived polio as a young boy so he could not swim, but “he was happy to see his son be able to, not realizing it would one day save his life”, Gropman says. 1) The scene begins with a closeup of the Piscine Molitor sign. As a youth, Pi adopts the nickname to avoid having fellow students call him “Pissing” instead of Piscine. Read More »
UPDATE, 1:38 PM: Rhythm & Hues confirms Deadline’s original reporting that it will be filing for Chapter 11 tonight. Here’s the statement just released by President of Film Division Lee Berger:
“Tonight R&H is filing for Chapter 11 reorganization in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and hope to be in front of a Bankruptcy judge in the next couple days. In the meantime, all of our offices remain open, our clients are aware of the process; we have obtained commitments for financing to complete projects in house at the quality level the studios have come to expect. Following the filing, R+H will be seeking to secure financing for future growth. I believe that we are going to come out of this situation stronger, more efficient, and as prolific as we are now.”
PREVIOUSLY, SUNDAY PM: Oscar-nominated, VES-winning and Annie Award-winning animation studio Rhythm & Hues will be formally filing for bankruptcy Monday morning, Deadline has learned. Within hours of winning the BAFTA for Special Visual Effects for Life Of Pi, the financially troubled company informed employees around 9 PM Sunday of the upcoming Chapter 11 filing, insiders say. Many Rhythm & Hues employees were also told by management not to show up to work Monday. On Friday, the company, headquartered in El Segundo, preceded its bankruptcy filing news by announcing to workers that paychecks would be delayed indefinitely. Read More »
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor
In a year filled with remarkable imagery, the work of the Oscar-nominated cinematographers stands out as integral to the success of the movies they shot.
The nominees bring broad experience to their films. Seamus McGarvey, nominated for shooting Anna Karenina with director Joe Wright, came to the project off the summer blockbuster Avengers; Robert Richardson shot his fourth film with Quentin Tarantino with Django Unchained; Claudio Miranda went both digital and 3D to lens Life of Pi for Ang Lee; Janusz Kaminski made his 13th film with Steven Spielberg in shooting Lincoln; and Roger Deakins ventured into the world of James Bond with Skyfall.
AwardsLine asked the five nominees for Oscar’s Best Achievement in Cinematography to pick a key scene and break it down in detail. The choices, like the nominated films themselves, speak to the challenges inherent in the craft and its essential importance to making a movie.
The Scene: In a single sweeping, shot Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) leads Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) on the dance floor at a high-society ball, with their electricity igniting movement from the other dancers. They connect in a moment of silence, and, for a moment, the auditorium is empty before the dancers return, bringing the star-struck couple back to reality.
Behind the Scene: “(Director) Joe (Wright) worked very closely with Sidi Larbi … Read More »