Q&A Backstage at the Oscars
February 25, 2013

Q&A Backstage at the Oscars

The movie industry celebrated well into the early hours following the 85th annual Academy Awards—winners were thrilled and runner-ups were gracious. (See “OSCARS: ‘Argo,’ ‘Pi,’ ‘Lincoln’ Take Top Honors” in the news section.)

Some of the acceptance speeches onstage were lengthy, others short and sweet. Backstage, the winners were able to continue their thoughts after the thrill of the moment. Yet, many of the winners were clearly on cloud nine as the significance of the win began to sink in. Here are excerpts from some of the Q&As backstage.

Best Picture

Interview with Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney, producers—Argo.

Ben, obviously you put a lot of work in the film as you were making it, but then after it's taken on this life of its own in your story, it's been so tied to your personal journey. 

(Ben Affleck)  I was excited about making the movie. These guys had a script, I really liked it, I called them up, [inaudible] will you put me on the movie? I was willing to let the chips kind of fall where they may, as long as we thought we did something we were interested in.

Being left off the Best Director docket and through that, how has that changed with all of the recognition that you've received and where are you with that now?

(Ben Affleck) Naturally I was disappointed. But when I look at the directors who were people who weren't nominated as well—Paul Thomas Anderson and Kathryn Bigelow, just amazing, Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino—these are all directors who I admire enormously. So, it was a very tough year.

Visual Effects

Interview with Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott— Life of Pi

In light of what's happened with Rhythm & Hues, are you hopeful that whatever happens that you'll be able to keep the same culture? 

(Bill Westenhofer) It was a place that really catered to the artist and supported them really well. We're hopeful that we can pull through the bankruptcy, but it's a concern in all of our minds that the culture is preserved. As long as the key people are maintained in that environment, I think it will carry on.  

And for the other visual effects supervisors, talk about what this means for you being able to work on a project where the visual effects are very much a part of the aesthetic of the movie.  

(Guillaume Rocheron) Well, I think Life of Pi is a perfect example of visual effects contributing to the look of a film. And I think with everything we're talking about now is it really shows that visual effects is part of filmmaking. [We] really try to be integrated in the filmmaking process as early as possible to give as much as we can to the director and try to make sure he can have his vision on screen. Its a turning point where we're not only supplying a service, we're here to actually tell stories and put them on screen.

(Bill Westenhofer) If you look at the nominees that we shared the award with, we got to the point where you can almost do anything in visual effects. And now going forward, it's not going to be a question of what you've done do. It's how you use the tools to make something special. Just like any facet of filmmaking that's matured, visual effects, it's got to the point where it's really about the artistry going forward.

I don't know whether you guys have smartphones and have been checking Twitter, but when they played you off to the theme of Jaws and Bonanza, I had a visual effects artist tweeting, ‘I'm signing a registration card for my union right now.’ I'm wondering if you had any reaction to how you were treated on stage.  

(Bill Westenhofer) There were some things that I did want to say that got cut off. I mentioned them right here, the visual effects are definitely in a challenging position right now, and we've got to figure out how to make this business model work, because there are artists that are struggling right now. 

Animated Feature Film

Interview with Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman— Brave

Could you talk about your creative process and how long it took to create Brave?  

(Brenda Chapman) Well, the firm took actually eight years from begin to end. I was a year in a room all by myself writing and coming up with the basic story plot, but then you start bringing on the people who start looking at the look of the picture and help with the story, and you keep working and re-working the story. 

(Mark Andrews) So once everything's kind of built you put it all together, and you start shooting it. It's this huge organic process. And it's a fragile, delicate process on every step of the way. And there's a lot of plates to spin, and by the end if you just stick with it and you're passionate about it, hopefully, you have something that's really special, and I think in Brave's case we managed to pull that off.  

Animated Short Film

Interview with John Kars— Paperman

You have an opportunity to continue what you started with embracing the legacy and extending it further with the hybrid approach. 

Bill is an animation guy, so he's talking about what we did is we took the kind of old 2D animation and the newer CG animation and put them together in a way that I think hasn't been seen before. What we did is take the drawn line and the expressiveness and the hand of the artist and bring it into the 21st century.  I do believe that there are different ways that animation can look, and this is one of those ways.

You talked in your speech about working for Disney and how that company has been revitalized. 

What they're doing there is great, and they're really pushing for depth and stories that are going to last generations, you know, films for families that are going to last the test of time.  

Why did you incorporate older animation in Paperman?

I'm a computer animation guy, I'm actually not very good at 2D animation. I can't really draw that well. But when I was working with Glen Keane on Tangled, I think I was really transfixed by the drawings he was doing every day and it felt like such a shame to leave those drawings behind when we go to the final image when that line has a history of being so expressive, and I think there's something universal about the hand drawn line being a way still a relevant way of telling stories. So I thought, can't there be a way that we can bring these two things together again but in a 21st century way that uses new technology.

Best Director

Interview with Ang Lee— Life of Pi

This movie had a lot of visual effects and it was done in 3D. Would you like to take on the experience once again of working with these types of mediums?

Well, visual effects for sure. I think it's a great, great visual art. I refuse to think those are technicians that work, hundreds of them work by the computers. We create something that's visual art. The bad news, [visual effects are] too expensive. It's very hard. And 3D, absolutely. I think it's a very new cinematic language. Once it gets cheaper and easier, more filmmakers are going to dive into that and create something more and more interesting. And that language will establish the audience in the future. I see there's a quite brilliant future and I will try it again if I can afford it.