Mar 17 2009

Stephen Colbert, Greenscreens, ILM

[This is oooold, but I just discovered it in my drafts and realized I never published it…]

ILM compositors have never met a greenscreen they didn’t like. And when Stephen Colbert appeared in front of one while making tons of Star Wars references, a group of ILMers thought it would be fun to do something with that footage. So they roughed out some ideas, pitched them to the company and it was a go. Their effort paid off. Not only was their work featured on The Colbert Report, but those bastards friends of mine got to fly to New York and meet Stephen Colbert himself. They said he’s very tall and very, very loud. Needless to say I was ridiculously jealous.

Here’s the episode that got things started (btw, this is my home district and I absolutely adore Lynn Woolsey) (link to Comedy Central):
The Beginning

And here is ILM’s submission along with the guest appearance by George Lucas (links to Comedy Central):
The Finalists
The Winner
The Lightsaber Duel

Later and more recently (during the 2008 Presidential Election), Stephen issued another greenscreen challenge, this time asking viewers to use footage of McCain to make him More Exciting. While there were no official entries from ILM, one ILMer did submit two bits that made it onto the Colbert Report: John Knoll. (Yes, that John Knoll.)

Anyway, here are his McCain Challenge submissions (links to youtube):
Blue Suede Shoes
Oscar Acceptance Speech

I love that one of the comments about these vids on that youtube channel is: “you have some l33t chroma-key skills!” Yes… yes he does.


Mar 17 2009

Watchmen, The Phantom Menace and Iraq

Saw Watchmen last weekend. Really enjoyed it. It’s been years since I read the original graphic novel, but as a standalone film I thought it was on par with some of the other recent, excellent comic book films. Nice blend of action, drama, romance and comic book story. Big and cinematic, fun craftsmanship… Not a masterpiece, but definitely worth a watch on the big screen.

But I’m not here for Watchmen, I’m here for The Phantom Menace. In this Newsweek Watchmen review the author manages to compare TPM with Iraq. Well played, sir! And let me say for the record that I do in fact proudly applaud myself for immediately identifying TPM as the complete and udder disaster it was (design/vfx excepted). Here’s what the reviewer had to say:

Somebody had better appreciate the guts it takes to admit this: the first time I saw “The Phantom Menace,” I thought it was great. I remember heading straight to a bar after the movie with two pals, sifting through what we’d seen and grumbling that so many people were so oblivious to its towering awesomeness. Give them time, we said. Maybe it’s hard to believe now, but this wasn’t such a rare and ridiculous view in the days just after “The Phantom Menace” came out. Just as with the war in Iraq, a lot more people now applaud themselves for recognizing the disaster right away than actually did at the time. For those of us who grew up on “Star Wars,” there was a similar ache to believe, almost trancelike in its power. You just blocked out the bits that challenged your reality. That’s how I watched Jar Jar Binks, or that brat who played Anakin Skywalker, and said to myself, I am totally fine with this. For weeks after, a friend at NEWSWEEK taunted me with morsels of George Lucas’s brutal dialogue (“Patience, my blue friend”) and kept calling the kid Mannequin Skywalker. It was months before I could say aloud what most people instantly knew: the movie was a stinker. Oh, the things we do for love.


Mar 17 2009

Indy beginnings?

Interested in movie pre-pro, dev or the beginnings of a great film franchise? Or maybe a hoax?

Entertainment Weekly published this article about this blog posting about a 125-page transcript of an early story meeting with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg regarding Raiders of the Lost Ark. Who knows if it’s true or not, but EW points out when they approached Lucasfilm for a comment, the Lucas rep declined to give one,”but did point out that parts of the document previously appeared in the book The Complete Making of Indiana Jones“.

This is one of my favorite franchises (I’m ignoring the fourth installment) and I would love to learn more about its beginnings. I never followed all the Making Of lit for Indy the way I did for Star Wars, but I’ve always loved the candid, naked and sometimes boring discussions that go into creating anything new, so I find the transcript fascinating. I want to believe…


Nov 17 2008

Star Trek ends, Reality sets in…

It’s been a crazy few months! Here’s what’s been happening in my life…

Post election. It’s two weeks after the election now and I’m just beginning to recover from the emotional vicissitudes of having “won the country” but “lost my rights”. I understood from my junior high experience what it felt like to be bullied for being queer, but not until now have I had to deal so directly and so often with people who consider me immoral or disgusting, who hate who I am and don’t mind letting me know. And never before was I willing to admit that when people vote on issues like this, it’s a public referendum on me personally, on who I am and the outcome of these votes affects my life directly.

This experience (the election, volunteering for the No on 8 campaign) gave me a much broader perspective of the world I live in and a clearer viewer of the people around me and the work I have to do. The experience taught me I cannot let myself be invisible and I must find my voice and use it. I know we all have different parts to play and I played only a tiny role in this campaign, but I am inspired by the many faithful players around me and I can feel in my core that I’m just getting started.

But let me wind the story back a bit… Continue reading


Jun 29 2008

Cinefex Ego Search

Iron Man just topped a half-billion earnings worldwide. It’s times like this I wish ILM owned the content it helped produce. It would be nice to get some extra financial love. Pixar folks get bonuses when their pics make big money (do any Pixar films not make big money?). Anyhow, I’m happy to have been involved with one of my favorite superheroes and happy it’s received such favorable reviews. And speaking of good press…

Cinefex, an industry magazine, featured Iron Man in their latest issue #114. Whenever I receive a new issue, I quickly skim for any of my shots (ego search!). For three years, not one of my shots has appeared in Cinefex (or any other magazine I’ve seen for that matter). I’ve had lots of luck with trailer shots and even VES and Academy reels, but I’ve never had a shot appear in print… until now!

Cinefex’s Iron Man article includes one of my shots as filler. Woohoo! Okay, it’s not a featured shot and not a big deal really, but it was a nice surprise to see my work in a new format. That said, here it is, in all its crappy print-to-scan-to-monitor glory:


Apr 11 2008

Final Frontier…

Haven’t talked much about work, but here’s a quick recap…

Last few weeks of Iron Man were busy as expected. There was an occasion where the director and visual effects producer stopped in to say some very kinds words to the crew. That’s a rarity and I appreciated it a great deal. I can’t wait to see the finished film.

So my new gig is… Star Trek! That’s something I never thought I’d have a chance to work on and I’m kind of geeking out about it. The teaser trailer is out now to whet everyone’s appetite, but the actual release isn’t until Summer 09.
You know, I was thinking: Lightsabers, Optimus Prime, Iron Man and now, Star Trek! What other influential childhood franchises could I possible hope to be involved with…? Ooh! Maybe the next Muppet movie? If I could work on a scene with Animal singing “Fever” with Rita Moreno my life would be complete.


Mar 9 2008

Iron Man!

ironman2.jpg ironman.jpg

The new Iron Man trailer is out and I was thrilled to see two of my shots make the cut (pics above). It’s a great motivator during this last stretch of a project to see some of the team’s work cut together with big sound on the big screen!

I also have to say, while Summer 08 promises wall-to-wall event pics, I’m most eager to see Iron Man. I was 12 when I bought myself my first comic book: Iron Man#194 for 65 cents, selected from a bunch of choices off a circular wire rack at the local Hilltop grocers. The book’s mix of high tech and high drama were winners for me and I hope the movie captures some of that. I’ll be ecstatic if the film’s smart enough to satisfy my aging sensibilities, but if it’s nothing more than hot armor-on-armor action, repulsor blasts and soap opera drama… well, that should satisfy my inner-12-year-old at least.