The 2016 VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy promises once again, as it does each year, an inspirational week spent watching the best work from animation, VFX and game industry greats.
It’s late October, which means two things. First, my mom’s month-end birthday gift will leave me scratching my head (the very thought of that miserable terrycloth bath skirt she gave me after I hinted for weeks about that new baseball mitt I had to have still makes me seethe with childish anger – but then again, it’s only been 35 years) and second, I’m heading to the Roman ruin-studded, prosciutto and wool scarf clad city of Turin for the VIEW Conference. My trek to the Northeastern corner of Italy is an annual endurance test of sorts, pitting my ability to stay attentive, focused and productive against the city’s evil plan to ply me with robust charcuterie, delicate pastas and creamy risottos sublimely prepared, beautifully presented and sneakily filling, all working in unison to lull me into a daily food coma by early afternoon.
In its 17th year, led by the ever-smiling perpetual motion machine we know as festival director Dr. Maria Elena Gutierrez, the VIEW Conference forever remains the “little event that could,” a shining example of what one determined woman can achieve, working within a tough Italian economy hard pressed to allocate diminishing public resources even to the most worthwhile events, each year putting together a sensational roster of talented professionals who, for 5 straight days, speak, teach and exchange valuable ideas with the best and brightest of Italy’s animation, VFX and game industries – friendships are ignited, collaborations are forged and if for only for a short while, westerners looks fantastic in black and grey.
VIEW always pulls out the big guns when it comes to feature film production and this year is no different – top shelf luminaries from the world of animated features and live-action/VFX will be on hand, including two-time Oscar-winning (Hugo, Titanic) VFX supervisor Rob Legato presenting Jungle Book, ILM’s four-time Oscar nominee VFX supervisor Roger Guyett presenting Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney director Byron Howard presenting Zootopia, DreamWorks director Mike Mitchell and co-director Walt Dohrn presenting Trolls, Annapurna/Columbia’s director Conrad Vernon presenting Sausage Party, Warner Bros.’ producer Brad Lewis presenting Storks, ILM’s three-time Oscar nominee (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Star Trek, Transformers) VFX supervisor Russell Earl presenting Captain America: Civil War, and Atomic Fiction VFX supervisor Ryan Tudhope presenting Deadpool.
It’s always a treat snuggling into one of the cozy Torinoincontra conference center seats and watching, in amazement, the spectacular work of some of the world’s greatest visual storytellers. Away from the constraints of their studio PR machines (well, for the most part), skillfully watered and fed at any number of local eating establishments each serving meals more spectacular than the next, VIEW Conference speakers always bring their “A” game, sharing seldom heard stories and rare production footage very few studio outsiders ever have a chance to see. For those of us in the industry, these presentations are truly spellbinding, inspiring and reaffirming, never failing to dust away any cobwebs dotting the corners of our creative mindset. Aptly stated, though a tad cliché, these are our industry’s “rock stars.” And VIEW puts on one stellar concert.
Director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda, The Little Prince), a two-time conference presenter, describing the event’s importance and personal impact, notes, “VIEW is the perfect event…I’m meeting great people… watching inspiring talks…getting together with other directors is something that happens rarely for me, so it’s incredible…always great to swap war stories. It’s important for young students and young filmmakers to hear those stories and understand…this business, it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of mistakes and hearing all that stuff is really important.”
Past VIEW Conference talks by the likes of John Knoll, Alvy Ray Smith, Christopher Townsend, Glen Keane and Jorge Gutierrez, to name a few, are some of the most meaningful and enjoyable sessions I’ve ever attended in over 20 years of event-hopping from one international conference to the next. As one of last year’s keynote speakers, The Book of Life director Jorge Gutierrez explains, “[At VIEW] There’s such a wonderful cross-pollination of talent from around the world. Lots of ideas, lots of energy, but even more than that, I’m really inspired by some of the stuff I’m seeing.”
Special notice must be paid to Marvel EVP, physical production, Victoria Alonso, whose scheduled talk next week, “The Marvel Method: A look inside Marvel Studios” is a must-see. Over the years, I’ve had a number of chances to sit and talk with Ms. Alonso, whose rise from temp assistant at Digital Domain, filling in for an employee on maternity leave, to the head of physical production across all Marvel films, is a more modern but no less inspiring version of the mailroom clerk one day running the studio. Under her team’s watch, Disney and Marvel have produced arguably the most successful and compelling set of live-action/VFX driven action adventure films in history, narrative, visual and box office behemoths based on sacred Marvel comics that have entertained millions for over half a century.
This year’s program seems more packed and broader in scope than years past, in part due to the comprehensive set of seven VR presentations elbowing their way into the proceedings. Led by VIEW veteran Rob Bredow, ILM’s CTO, and Google’s Brian Pullen, the VR session set includes presentations on VR technology in entertainment and scientific imaging, and includes storytelling insights in short form VR projects like Google Spotlight Stories Rain or Shine and Pearl, Baoba Studio’s Invasion!, as well as Thee One Zero’s first person adventure ADRIFT.
The game studio block of Zynga, 343 Industries, Akili, Moonbot Studios, Mixed Bag, Fireproof Studios, State of Play and T-Union will hit a wide range of topics, including how to pitch games, how to develop and publish games in VR and using the new virtual movie production tool suite within Unreal Engine 4, among others. There’s also a multi-day Games Bootcamp, VIEW Workshop on Unreal Engine 4 and panel on The Future of Games.
You can find the complete program of industry speakers, workshops, panel discussions and exhibitions on the VIEW Conference website.
AWN’s set of VIEW 2015 Conference video interviews can be seen here. Additionally, you can watch AWN’s entire 2014 VIEW Conference interview series, including fantastic recorded talks with Glen Keane, Rob Coleman, Alvy Ray Smith and Scott Farrar, on AWN's VIEW 2014 Conference series playlist.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.