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Introductions (or Adventures with Phil Tippett)

The tired filmmakers who have flown in from all corners of the globe took the opportunity to rest before Ron whisked them away in the whirlwind that is the Oscar Showcase tour.

I Met the Walrus illustrator James Braithwaite greets Even Pigeons Go to Heaven director Samuel Tourneux at ILM. © 2008 AWN Inc.

I Met the Walrus illustrator James Braithwaite greets Even Pigeons Go to Heaven director Samuel Tourneux at ILM. © 2008 AWN Inc.

The tour has begun. And what a way to begin – a screening at ILM. As Ron Diamond, host of the tour and publisher of AWN, and I pulled up to Sofitel hotel, I Met the Walrus director Josh Raskin, Walrus illustrator James Braithwaite and Madame Tutli-Putli director Maciek Szczerbowski were standing outside. Having toured with the Animation Show of Shows, all three enthusiastically greeted Ron, like a reunion of old friends. As we made our way into the hotel to check-in, we were greeted by Oscar tour veteran Marcy Page, who traveled around with us last year for the Oscar-winning film The Danish Poet. This time I was able to engage in an “old friend” reunion myself. Last year’s event was such a wonderful bonding experience that I feel so excited to share with the others about the things we have in store.

The tired filmmakers who have flown in from all corners of the globe took the opportunity to rest before Ron whisked them away in the whirlwind that is the Oscar Showcase tour. After their brief break to reenergize, they slowly trickled down to the hotel restaurant to join us for a bite to eat. Marcy was the first to arrive. As Ron and Marcy caught up on projects they are working on, Marcy revealed that the new film from Michèle Cournoyer, the creator of 2000’s The Hat, will be a controversial one, due to its critique of the burkas worn by Muslim women. Currently, the film is tentatively titled Dress for War.

Soon we were joined by Maciek, whose playful and passionate personality has already ignited the tour with a wonderful spark. Not long after his co-director Chris Lavis appeared. He’s the kind of person whose confidence comes across the moment you meet him. Maciek and Chris told us that they heard about the announcement of their Oscar nomination while at Sundance where they had developed a close bond with Luis Cook, the director of the short-listed animated film The Pearce Sisters. Both Maciek and Chris expressed feeling guilty upon receiving a nod while their new friend was left off the final list of five.

Earlier this year in L.A. for a visit to Tippett Studios, Maciek and Chris had a chance to visit with legendary creature creator and special effect wizard Phil Tippett. Following the event, Phil invited the Madame Tutli-Putli duo back to his house and even picked up some beers on the way. Maciek, the lively storyteller, had the entire table smiling with his tale of hanging with the effect legend and witnessing Phil’s collection of personal art. Maciek described it poignantly as peering at the history of iconic sci-fi creatures alongside the pop culture history that could have been if an executive or artistic decision would have gone differently. He described one of Tippett’s phantasmagoric pieces, which was created from two condoms, concrete, rusting treatments and a blow torch. Maciek also told us about Tippett’s moving work of art created by using magnets to control piles of metal fillings, which form shapes that crawl and morph into one another with the move of the effects wizard’s hand. Both Maciek and Chris fond the experience invigorating, connecting with a veteran artist who is still experimenting and in the process challenging himself to expand.

As 4 pm approached, Peter and the Wolf director Suzie Templeton and Peter producer Alan Dewhurst joined us at the front of the hotel. Suzie, who is a bit camera shy, was very tired from her flight in from Amsterdam. Alan utilized his time before our ILM excursion by getting some work done before colleagues in the U.K. called it a night. On the van ride over to the studio, I sat next to James, who told me that he and Josh had been friends since high school and have wanted to work on a film together for some time. When Josh met Jerry Levitan and heard about the tape Jerry made of John Lennon when he was 14, Josh knew they had found their project. At first Jerry wanted to make a feature documentary, but that scared the hell out of Josh and James, so they pared down the audio footage into five minutes and worked from that. Along the way, James chatted with Chris about doing freelance illustration work, and both lamented about projects that blew up in their faces when client demands became artistically stifling. While en route, Ron tried to help Josh get extra Oscar tickets for Walrus designer Alex Kurina and Yoko Ono, who recently saw their film and has given her full support. No legal battles are a very good thing.

Upon arrival at ILM, Even Pigeons Go to Heaven director Samuel Tourneux; his girlfriend Lucie Bloze, a post producer at BUF; and Hugh Welchman, the producer of Peter and the Wolf joined the group. After a round of handshakes and pictures in front of the Yoda fountain, the group headed in for the first event on the tour.

Yoda greets Josh (l to right), James, Marciek, Chris and Marcy at ILM. © 2008 AWN Inc.

Yoda greets Josh (l to right), James, Marciek, Chris and Marcy at ILM. © 2008 AWN Inc.

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