Well, the second to last tour stop brings the filmmakers to Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks. A screening, a lunch with studio execs and a tour make for a full day.
Well, the second to last tour stop brings the filmmakers to Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks. For Emud, it was a return to his workplace where he is on the Disney live-action/CG flick, "G-Force." He was thankful that Sony gave him ten days off to tour both in San Francisco and L.A.
We arrived and were greeted by a dapper looking Don Levy, marketing master for Sony, who had to leave us early to hand out an award at the publicist's awards that afternoon. For each stop of the L.A. leg, Ron invited a different member of the Academy board. At Sony, the filmmakers had the pleasure of meeting Bill Kroyer. FX was particularly impressed with meeting someone who worked on "Tron." Bill shared a story of "Ice Age" director Chris Wedge entering x-sheet data into the computer on the film. Bill said he was glad that Chris stuck with computers after the job. Before lunch the filmmakers joined top execs from the studio for a screening of the shorts. The filmmakers had a chance to meet with Bob Osher, the president of Sony Pictures Digital Prods. and COO of Columbia Pictures; Hannah Minghella, president of production at SPA; Debbie Denise, evp of production and exec producer of Imageworks; and Barry Weiss, svp of animation production.
After the screening, the filmmakers sat down with the top brass for lunch in their newly renovated office space. Bob Osher paid the "Oktapodi" directors a big compliment, saying their film should be shown to all students, so they could learn how to tell tight narratives with universal stories. Osher chatted with Quentin, Emud and Olivier about the hectic schedules during Oscar season while he was at Miramax. He said with night after night of parties one became close to a select group of people that he saw day in and day out. Sounds kind of like the Oscar Tour. Whether it was actors or other nominees, they shared a good deal of time together in a short period of time. This intense experience brought them together then when the awards were over, you didn't see them again. He said it was a strange experience. Afterward, everyone always needed a vacation, he added.
In talking with Eric, Osher revealed that he was recently in London to meet with the filmmakers at Aardman. Originally it was supposed to be a visit to Bristol, but snow prevented that from happening. Osher said that their new relationship with the "Wallace and Gromit" makers is fantastic. This story was spurred by Emud relating his tale of driving down the California coast with the other "Oktapodi" directors during the recent heavy rains. They had planned to go to Big Sur, but had to turn around due to mudslides. A possibility he did not tell the others before leaving, so they could enjoy the rainy ride without worry. During their trip, the French directors had a chance to have their first root beer float, which was an American treat they described as drinking medicine.
After the lunch, while the screening for the artist was taking place, the tour took a quick spin through the facilities. The filmmakers checked out concept art from "Surf's Up" in the studio lobby then we swung into the production space to check out storyboards and concept art for Sony's next projects "Cloudly with Chance of Meatballs" and "Hotel Transylvania." FX particularly liked the environment designs for "Hotel,' which had a dark, but illuminated color palette. The next stop on the tour was the layout department where the filmmakers had a chance to see Sony's preparatory camera system, which allows the artists to use a real camera to layout shots for animated productions. Because the program of shorts was an hour shorter than last year, the filmmakers didn't have a chance to play the camera this time around. The last stop of the tour was Emud's cubicle. The entire tour crammed into his workspace so he could get a picture of them all.
Many of the Q&A questions were the same from previous screenings. However, one person did ask about funding. For the "Oktapodi" directors, it was part of their tuition at Gobelins. However, music was up to the filmmakers. At first they had made a deal with a professional composer, who said he'd do the work for free, however, they would have had to pay for the instrumentalists. Because they couldn't afford it, a second option had to be used. Emud contacted a music student from his days at UCLA named Kenny Wood, and he agreed to do the music for free. For Konstantin, funding came from the Russian government. Kunio received funding from his studio Robot, which usually produces commercials. His film was their third short.
Another new question was what was the biggest challenge on the projects. On "Oktapodi," animating the octopi was a tough task, and decisions needed to be made on the number of legs and suction cups in order to get the short done in time. Konstantin joked that his toughest challenge was convincing his producer to make what was originally supposed to be a colorful film in black & white.
In answering the common question of why his film has a French title, Kunio from Japan promised that he'd never name another film of his in French again, so it would save confusion.
After the tour, the filmmakers went their separate ways to rest up before the AWN/Acme Filmworks party at Ron Diamond's abode. Before heading off, Ron gave some help to Taki and Kunio with the Academy on seating logistics at the Oscar ceremony, just in case Kunio wins and needs his interpreter to accompany him on stage. Ron also helped Konstantin contact the Academy about getting better seats for some of his crewmembers who are currently sitting in the balcony.
Kunio asked Olivier if the "Oktapodi" crew had worked on any other projects at school together. At Gobelins, which is three-year program, the students work on individual animation exercises for the first two years. Then in the third year, around December, they are split into groups and must work out how they as a group will make decisions together.
FX and Quentin had a chance to have their portfolios reviewed by Sony recruiting then Emud took his fellow "Oktapodi" directors to see some of the work he had been doing on "G-Force." Bill Kroyer met up with a friend to sneak off and see CG tests for the "Smurfs" film. Instead of shlepping back to Encino from Culver City, Konstantin was happy to join Ron on his shopping stops for the party.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.