No Oscar Nom For Andy Serkis

Well our long international nightmare is over: Andy Serkis was not nominated for an Oscar after trying to take credit for the work of countless VFX animators, artists, and TDs who worked on Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

I found the whole debate silly as it was a diversion from the real issues effecting the VFX industry. What’s sad is that as Andy continued his campaign for an Oscar, he started doubling-down on his persistent ability to show how little he knows about the process.

He kept referring to the work as “digital make-up”, as if the Caesar model was just wrap-deformed onto his motion capture performance. Animator and blogger Tim Borelli who started a rebuttal to Serkis’s campaign with an open letter to him, recently found a smoking gun that pretty much puts this debate to rest:

Look at these 2 “Andy Serkis/Caesar Morphs” that Andy has been promoting on his Facebook page:

Now look at this animation demo reel:

This very talented animator’s shot breakdown notes that in Caesars’s Goodbye (link 1 above), “Everything (from 0:00 to 0:17) was keyframe animated, except for the character’s spine where mocap data was used & polished.” Also, at 0:44, he notes that the very same shot from link 2 above was animated entirely by hand.

I’ve posted Apes animator Jeffrey Engel’s reel above and the evidence is pretty compelling. Some of the most important shots that Andy Serkis used in his Oscar campaign and claimed to be just “digital makeup” were actually almost all keyframe animated.

The irony for me in watching Mr. Engel’s reel is this:

Here is a VFX animator who must be meticulous and honest about the work he did on Apes so he could get his next job.

And here is Andy Serkis who was dishonest about the work he did on Apes so he could get an Oscar.

Soldier On.


14 Responses to No Oscar Nom For Andy Serkis

  1. vfxguy says:

    Good to see some actual information in this debate finally, thanks for the link.

    You wonder how much Serkis actually knows about the process and how much he just assumes that because he wore the gimp suit every day, that what he did must be what’s on screen.

  2. Ronn Brown says:

    Serkis is talented but really? Mocap is a collaborative artform and not a singular acting performance.

  3. To be fair, his performance was almost certainly extensively used as reference. It’s not as though the animator is going to immediately chuck out everything but the spine and not look at the live footage as a guide. So it’s not fair to say Serkis didn’t contribute. But on the other hand that makes him a reference actor… a very involved one, but reference actors don’t get the kind of credit he’s been looking for either… even less than animators (although it usually is the animator).

    It has been a frustrating issue to watch, but I realize Serkis is coming from the perspective of an actor he’s just trying to gain recognition from what he considers are his peers, i.e. the acting community. It’s just a shame that it’s exposed the inequality the animation community gets relative to actors in a very provable way.

    I watched the Golden Globes the other night, and there was one category that included animation in the entire night, and yet it’s supposed to be about Film and TV… there’s inequality for you.

  4. Tyler says:

    The real solution is we need some new awards. The current categories were mostly created in the 30s and 40s and are out of date. We have two categories for music (song and score), two for sound (edit and mix), two for writing (original and adapted), three for production art (costumes, design, makeup). But only one for VFX? When the number of creatives involved with VFX will probably outnumber the number of all those categories combined, multiplied several times.

    For this situation specifically, though, I’d suggest a “Best Animated Performance” or similar, which would be an award shared by the actor performing the character and the leads of the animation. It would be nice to see the next Andy Sirkus and the artists behind realizing it on screen on stage together at the Oscars, congratulating each other, and the actor sharing some lime light with the artists to give them some recognition. I think this is constructive.

    But besides that, there are other roles that deserve awards as much as the existing ones. We should have a Best Color Grading award, considering how much an impact color has become on the looks of the films, and it’s storytelling role being just as impactful (and the time needed to do it about the same) as Sound Mixing, for instance (and remember Sound Editing is a whole other category).

    I don’t think it’s realistic to turn the Oscars into a VFX ceremony, but there should be a few more awards. I also realize they might not play much part in the TV show, given that they already fight to make it shorter. But maybe they do them quickly in one montage or something.

    Hopefully, some year soon, VFX will be organized enough and respected commensurately with its value to make things like this become a reality.

    • fizz says:

      Grading – digital or otherwise – is considered to be under the control of the cinematographer/director of photography. The DI colorist works for the DP, sometimes it even is the DP. The Academy’s category for Best Cinematography recognises this.

      Regarding the montage idea: the Acad’s sci/tech awards regularly feature VFX achievements which appear in a montage during the telecast.

      And then there’s the VES awards, which recognise pretty much everything else in VFX one way or another.

  5. Michael Scott says:

    Ugh. Andy Serkis never attempted to take all the credit away from the VFX team, only to argue that he contributed substantially to the character as well.

    The fact that shots of Caesar were key frame animated is immaterial to the question of whether what ended up on the screen was fundamentally based on his performance, and if therefore he conceivably deserves recognition — alongside the VFX team, not in their place.

    If you’re going to accuse him of dishonesty, you probably shouldn’t represent his position so dishonestly while doing it.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I’m representing his position pretty honestly: He believes it was all his performance.

      Check the 1 minute mark. He acknowledges Weta’s technology but implies it was his performance.

      “There was my perfomance, all the emotion all the eye movements the gestures all cloaked in this digital chimpanzee skin.”

      Look at the videos Tim Borelli posted, they show some pretty stark differences.

  6. Paul says:

    “There was my perfomance, all the emotion all the eye movements the gestures all cloaked in this digital chimpanzee skin.”

    Lol talk about over inflated egos…jesus these “actors”…like grimacing or looking like a dead fish in front of a camera requires talent omg…I just cannot believe the amount of bullshit movie stars [more like black holes] try to sell the audience! Not only do they get the most cash but they also want every bit of recognition…vampires!

    • spajadigit says:

      I’m sorry Paul. As much as I dislike what Serkis has done, I have to respectfully disagree with you. People who can act are pretty amazing. I’ve shot a couple of films and tried my hand at it and the folks who do it for a living can just turn on a performance.

      But so can animators. It’s just a different path to get it.

      • Paul says:

        Is that really acting in this particular case?! And how much cash did he take home for grimacing maybe 5 hours total as oppose to an animator seating 10h/day for weeks?! I’m not judging actors in general but then again I could…but won’t.

  7. jez says:

    “I found the whole debate silly as it was a diversion from the real issues effecting the VFX industry”

    Then why post? This issue is silly, is very distracting. It’s based on “film” propaganda; which has always existed, and became pretty standard when hollywood began to dominate around the 1930/40’s. (so it’s nothing new)

    This debate I personal feel doesn’t distract from the very talented people that help create Caeser (it’s in the running for an oscar with regards to vfx), but in a bizarre way creates an assumption that vfx is the be all and end all of a film.

    It shuts down the fact that making a film with vfx is a collaborative process. We (vfx) are in a sense backroom people (magicians assistants.) Same as stunt people, special effects, make up artists etc. You do not read so many complaints from these specialist areas, demanding that they should be recognised if an actor takes the credit and mentions nothing of their efforts……..and you have to ask yourself why?

    This is what we need to look at, not chasing fame and respect from the public; but respect with regards to the studios.

    If the issue is about vfx being stars (name in lights etc.) then it is heading to the bottom faster than people think, and some navel gazing needs to happen before it can move on.

    As Scott Ross said “Don’t believe your own hype”, but this discussion is helping some people to fall into that trap, and really doesn’t help at all.

  8. Dear Vfxsoldier,
    Thanks you for your post, It has at last started the eagerly predicted Tintin movies which are the collaboration of two giants of Hollywood route Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg has commenced filming. The 1st Tintin movie is simply being directed by motion director extraordinaire James Cameron who is identified for films these types of as Speed and is apparently at the avatar phase. James Cameron is thought to be filming the initially Tintin motion picture at the same time Jackson and Spielberg are now known to be directing 1 Tintin movie each to complete a trilogy of Tintin movies. The Tintin films are becoming filmed back to back for expediency and economical costing.

  9. […] can’t help but wonder what Michael Bay would’ve done if Andy Serkis tried to take credit for the work of his VFX artists like he tried to do on Apes. We all know […]

  10. […] No Oscar Nom For Andy Serkis […]

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