|STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKERTHE RISE OF SKYWALKERRISE OF SKYWALKEREXTRAORDINARYJ.J. ABRAMSSKYWALKERSTAR WARS|
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...
France’s Warner TV has acquired NBC’s drama Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist from Lionsgate. Starring Jane Levy, the show will premiere in France on May 19 after launching in the U.S. earlier this year. It was created by Austin Winsberg and centers on a San Francisco coder who starts to hear other people’s thoughts through popular songs. “This new Lionsgate property is a truly innovative idea brought by a world-class creative team. Musically adventurous, heartfelt and intriguing, the show has everything to entertain Warner TV fans,” said Julien Borde, head of kids and general entertainment channels at WarnerMedia France and Africa. Channel 4 has previously picked up Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist in the UK.
HBO Europe’s first Spanish original drama Patria is to debut in the U.S. and 61 countries across Europe and Latin America on May 17. Set in Spanish Basque Country and taking place over thirty years during the separatist terrorism of ETA, Patria tells a story through the eyes of two families divided by the violent conflict. It is written by Aitor Gabilondo El Príncipe and directed by Venice-winning Pablo Trapero The Clan and Goya-winning Félix Viscarret Four Seasons In Havana.
Toronto-based production company Media Headquarters has exited the collapsed Kew Media Group after CEO Robert Cohen completed a management buyout. Cohen will continue to lead Media Headquarters, while the company's executive team, production staff and slate of projects are unaffected. Media Headquarters is best known for making the Smartest Person franchise for CBC and was originally acquired by Kew in 2017. “This deal represents the next stage for Media Headquarters and a new opportunity for further growth,” Cohen said.
UK sales company Jinga Films has sold Flavio Pedota's virus horror Infection to Dark Sky Films who have scheduled a U.S. VOD and DVD release for April 14, 2020. The film follows a doctor’s search for his son amid an outbreak of a new strand of the rabies virus which turns the population of Venezuela into bloodthirsty cannibals. The film has also been picked up by Tema Spain, Cinema Novo Portugal, New Select Japan, MovieCloud Taiwan and First Wave Vietnam. The pic has played at Guadalajara Film Festival, Sitges Spain, Fantasporto Portugal, Utopiales France, Popcorn Frights U.S., Fantaspoa Brasil, Morbido Mexico, Raindance UK and Festival Of Fear in Canada where it won best film.
Quarantined viewers tuned into Saturday’s all-day, virtual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Summit were treated to a special surprise in the evening when filmmaker and TV titan J.J. Abrams crashed the party as the surprise special guest. He arrived just after his fellow “Star Wars” scribe Tony Gilroy “Rogue One” and the upcoming Cassian Andor series finished his conversation about the craft of screenwriting.
Abrams’ Q&A touched on a range of topics, from the origins of 2015’s “The Force Awakens” to scaling “the mountain,” as he called it, of writing a screenplay, and to the Golden Age of television happening now. It’s an era Abrams helped to launch with his ABC mystery series “Lost.” “I know my role in that. I’m not talking as if I had nothing to do with this,” he said.
“It’s the Golden Age of television, as they call it, even though I don’t know what television really is anymore,” Abrams said. “That’s because huge chances are being taken. Talent that might not have gotten the chance otherwise suddenly have the opportunity. For me, when I watch a show like ‘Atlanta,’ which takes the most spectacular risks in point of view, in genre, structure, and character […] every story has been told, it’s kind of all been done before,” remarking that the FX series tells its stories in unique ways.
Abrams also praised the Emmy-winning Prime Video series “Fleabag,” created by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
“You see ‘Fleabag’ and you’re like, well, yes, the fourth wall has been broken [before], but not like that,” he said, referring to the protagonist’s tendency to face the camera and address the audience. “Yes, there have been amazing love stories, and stories of family, but not like that. What I love is the thing that makes you feel like, ‘Oh my god, this is so amazingly specific.'”
Abrams pivoted to discussing Hollywood’s place in a moment dominated by streaming content with originality that far exceeds what’s being reproduced on the big screen. “Hollywood used to be a place where something would happen, there’d be a movie where people would see it and think ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. Here’s my answer to that,’ or ‘here’s my version,'” he said.
“Hollywood has become a place where, for the most part, studios say, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. Let’s do that literally again.’ And that’s OK, and I think that will continue, but I really hope that all the writers who are here and others in the guild are as excited as I am about this new opportunity with streaming platforms. How many different stories are going to be...