The Serkis Is Back In Town


Photo by AnimationMerc

Well it’s looking to be that time of the year again where Andy Serkis tries to make another failed run at garnering an Oscar nomination for motion capture performances in VFX films. The Brew nails it:

In an interview that Serkis did recently, he made one of his most preposterous statements yet: that he ‘authors’ his performances entirely himself, without the creative input of any other artist. According to Serkis, the only thing that the digital artists at Weta do is paint ‘digital makeup’ over his immaculate acting.

While the performances of Gollum and Caesar are great, it’s important to know they are the creation of a team of VFX craftspeople who painstakingly iterate and perfect every detail on the screen along with Andy Serkis. Unfortunately, in order for Mr. Serkis to garner an Oscar nomination, he and his publicists have engaged in a campaign of “VFX plagiarism” to discredit those artists for their work so he can convince the Academy that Caesar’s performance in Planet of the Apes was completely his. It’s absolutely unprofessional and a totally intentional lie.

Could you imagine what would happen if someone submitted a VFX demo reel exclusively taking credit for the work of others? How about actors, writers, and directors who engage in similar acts of plagiarism? They would be correctly chastised. Last time it was animator Tim Borelli who corrected Mr. Serkis and now the Oscar-winning Animation Supervisor from Lord of the Rings who worked with Andy Serkis is going on the record to correct the misinformation being put out by Andy Serkis.

There’s nothing more I need to add to this but one thing: This is costing us money.

When people like Andy Serkis and others up above in the studios and other departments misunderstand how VFX work is done it ends up costing more money for their productions in the long run. Things get shot incorrectly or someone was under an impression that there was a simple tool to do something complicated. It all ends up getting re-done with a lot of behind the scenes VFX labor to fix it and make it work.

One piece of advice that I learned in my VFX experience was that perfecting your craft is one thing, but learning intimately about the craft you are delivering assets to is just as valuable. If you’re a Character TD you should know how animators work to deliver high quality assets to them. The same goes for Animators to CFX and FX departments, CFX/FX to lighting, lighting to compositing, etc.

When that happens, you have more people knowing the pitfalls and not having an ill-conceived notion of how VFX works like Mr. Serkis. Also, it’s worth noting as I mentioned in my previous piece that we bare some responsibility for this by not respecting our craft the way others do in the industry.

Soldier On.


27 Responses to The Serkis Is Back In Town

  1. Stan Wellback says:

    Also, Mr Serkis aint the greatest actor..

  2. CGSteve says:

    For anyone interested, go back and check out the extended edition of LOTR – The Two Towers on DVD, you’ll find a segment in there where Andy Serkis is complaining that when he first turned up on set he wasn’t taken seriously, and the other actors didn’t give as much to their performances when they were acting opposite him etc. It’s lengthy and quite awkward to watch. It’s obvious the Mr Serkis feet very aggreived that he wasn’t given the respect and recognition for his on set performances that he felt he was due.

    How ironic it is that now, a decade later, he is desperate to minimize the contribution of a huge team of world class artists to the final performance of Ceasar. It’s unfortunate that he has such a short memory, and is clearly comfortable intentionally minimizing the hard work of others whilst complaining bitterly when this unintentionally happens to him.

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      I actually read his autobiography and in it he does lement his “non existence”. Why his takes with the actors were called “reference” takes.
      That he felt the Vfx artist “painted” out his existence when they removed him from the few plates pj chose where serkis was in it.

      On apes he succeeded he is in every shot and now gets painted out if every take!

  3. Dave Rand says:

    On the other hand, performance capture allows an actor to take on multiple characters in the same story. All criticisms of Robert Zumeckis performance capture movies aside, A Christmas Carol allowed Jim Carey to play himself at several different ages as well as the Ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. I imagine that increased his paycheck as well. Gary Oldman played both Bob Cratchet and his son Tiny Tim…a role that would be impossible without performance capture…AND a team.

    As Soldier stated. All of this would be impossible without a talented team of digital animators and technicians and professionals working together to deliver a beautiful collaboration.

    Keeping in mind the history of the Academy, it seems it’s original intent as a vehicle created by Mayer (MGM) to disrupt the organizing and ultimately the cooperation of talent, has once again arrived, however unintentionally, as a disruption.

    Mayer, a relatively uneducated product of the Russian Revolution, when asked why start the awards ceremony is quoted as saying “If you hand enough medals around their necks they’ll do whatever you want.”

    Perhaps they should just hang a medal around Andy’s neck so we can all get back to work.

    • Jackadullboy says:

      Agreed, organizing and doing something to fix a broken industry as a whole would seem a better focus for our energies/frustrations. The Andy thing is just a red herring.

      Proper recognition, though important in telegraphing our value, would seem to be the least of our worries..

  4. minoton says:

    It’s funny that the concept of digital make up only comes up with Mr. Serkis in relation to his roles as Gollum and Caesar, his characters in live action movies. I don’t recall Serkis being so forward with those claims for his role as Captain Haddock, in The Adventures of Tin Tin, largely considered an animated feature. We all know the technology under the hood is all the same. I guess pointing out that the same technology is used in ‘animated’ features would be an inconvenient truth towards Mr. Serkis’ goals.

  5. Mark H-B says:

    Bit pathetic, isn’t it? He’s obviously a thoroughly competent actor, but his take-away from the LotR experience seems to be “You’ve got to bash others down to raise yourself up”. This doesn’t just demean us – it demeans him, as well. You can’t sling mud and keep your hands clean.

    Everything to be said about him and his silliness has been said before. It’s horribly sad. It would be awesome if we – as VFX artists – had the ability to say “Actually, no – I’m not going to work on Jungle Book. You all have good fun with that” and blackballed the movie.

    Of course, we’d need a union or something to do that. Oh, well.

    Guess he’ll just keep getting away with it, and we’ll keep paying the price for his hubris.

  6. jonavark says:

    The photo cracks me up a little because it isn’t the same shot.
    Serkis knows that as an actor he really isn’t good enough to win anything. As a stand-in for CG creatures .. mocap… that’s probably his only remote chance.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      would not be immediately clear how many of the Culver City staffers will choose to consider relocation…..
      chose to? wtf? also not all dupes they mentioned will stay with Sony…
      this is pathetic. its been coming a long time but still..

      • jonavark says:

        Not really pathetic. Smart. There isn’t any reason for any company to stay in Los Angeles any more. Vancouver is a far more beautiful place and they can make more money there. That, after all, is the purpose of having a corporation in the first place.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Why don’t you make your posts on a Vancouver board if it’s do much prettier? Some people love rain…

      • vfxmafia says:


        Whats the head count now in LA? Seems like its just Dreamworks and Disney left in LA.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Mafia: that’s not true. I’m working on a feature in LA but the golden times are over. DD has work, lots of tv and commercials but not much features anymore.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Indeed, it would be good to get a clearer picture of exactly what the industry contraction has been like there, and what people are adopting as a plan B as that happens.

        I can imagine the competition for the remaining positions is fierce, and not in a great way 😦

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Actually it’s hard finding good people as most have left to rainier vancity fields. Rates have gone down and most shifted from
        Feature to tv and commercial work.

      • minoton says:

        Seems we’re off topic about Serkis, but . . . .

        This move only adds to the evidence of having a damaging economic impact against a fellow WTO nation and strengthens the case for a CVD. I’m wondering what’ll happen with these companies when it’s no longer “economically favorable” for studios to send work out of the country?

        Right now the US$ is about .92 to the Cad$. Bringing money back to the US, you’re going to take a hit. Artists considering going, plan accordingly and up your rates so you don’t lose out sending or bringing it back to the states. If the company balks, just remind them BC is paying for it!

      • Embracing Global VFX says:

        It will never be “economically favorable” again. Sorry, don’t believe it if they promise that. It will always be cheaper outside of California, subsidies or not. Technology is disruptive, and everyone around the globe wants to be in show biz.

      • minoton says:

        By “economically favorable”, I meant while subsidies are still in effect, hence the quotations. But you’re right, California is going to have to do a lot against their traditional political mindset to make the state more business (and filmmaking) friendly.

  7. vfxmafia says:


    My bad I forgot to count Method…to the list of companies still left in the LA with Dreamworks and Disney….

    We can finally say Imageworks is on the list of dead companies……(I wouldn’t call the Vancouver production of Smurfs 3 anything near what SI once was). RH is doing nothing ….and what is DD 3.0 working on now that Malevolence is done?

    Very curious to see what companies are stepping up to grab all that extra work?

    ILM Vancouver is busy as shit up here…..seeing a ton of old faces from LA as the migration continues…..

    Do we have a head count of how many workers are where in the industry yet?

    • cough cough says:

      R&H has nothing? they did just do some work on Xmen that was good to see. It was very happy to see that credit

      DD did just finish Maleficent, which is also great considering they have had some hard times with money.

      ILM is packed everywhere. They have filled just about every building they have. Which is awesome.

      I think we as a community should start talking possitive about these situations instead of always putting them down. I’m not happy Sony is going to Van, but I am happy to see some of the great VFX houses we thought we lost still trying and putting up a good fight to keep working.

      Not sure what this means yet, not sure if its good or bad. But some work might come back to Cali.

      • vfxmafia says:

        @cough cough

        Be positive??!!

        Are you f*kcing serious? Excuse me but I spent 6 months being positive dipping into my life savings hoping the Los Angeles VFX drought would end……now i have moved everything to Vancouver…..

        If anything we need to be brutally honest in the assessment of this industry…..

        DD used to be a company that had 5-6 movies in production per year…..and now your saying I should be cheery because they did some shots on Malevolcent? Did they pay back the money they owe to some artists still? Oh hail to the Chinese overlords…

        RH? I see a ton of RH and Imageworks guys up here now…..all guys who towed the company line for so many years…..and now they joined the migration for the rest of us?

        Happy for ILM? All i know is the recruiter asked me if i needed moving compensation? and if I didn’t need the couple grand for moving expenses it would put me at the top of the hiring list….I know a ton of guys who will NOT work for ILM for the paycut…..I know tons of guys who have taken cuts….

        I like Star Wars but i like my freaking mortgage and retirement money better……

        At MPC up here…there have been some hires for $12 hour…..which is less than the minumum wage for Seattle..

        With my earlier post I was simply asking for a head count of displaced workers……we shouldn’t sugarcoat anything…..peoples lives are being uprooted and wages are being assassinated.

        Be positive……???? I bet you work for Dreamworks and still have a never before worn greenscreen shirt in your closet……

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        The last comment is a stinger 🙂
        Nice to see you still have those. Well
        Played my friend!

      • vfxmafia says:

        @ Andreas…

        Just because I HAD to move up here doesn’t mean i have changed my anti subsidy stance. Im still bitter about the $5,000 I had to eat in ,moving costs up here……(car shipping, $2K in new furniture, first month deposit, etc)……

        That story about Quebec subsidies being cut sent shivers up every Canadian’s spine today….i would hate to spend another $5K in moving expenses in some other city again.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Can’t help
        But feel the more it happens the more people hate it, even our Canadian brothers so more support the cause to end them.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Everyone up here…..knows its a matter of time 2 years maybe before a move happens again……I think what few Canadians that are up here….(and there aren’t many maybe 10% of every studio is actually Canadian) I see no sups which are Canadian either…..But even the Canadians are worried they may have to now move….

        Subsidies create unstability period.

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