Kristof Kiraly: VFXtraordinaire

Kristof Kiraly may not be a household name, but as a visual effects artist, Kiraly has played a part in making some of the biggest films of recent years. From ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ to ‘The Jungle Book’, mass explosions to vast landscapes, Kristof Kiraly is the man with the magic touch who, along with his team at Double Negative Visual Effects, gives your favourite films that extra kick.

Interview by Jakob Lewis Barnes

tgotg

JLB: Working in visual effects seems like a very specific and technical field of filmmaking, was there a particular moment where you realised that was what you wanted to do?

KK: From a very early age, I was obsessed with creation. I spent hours drawing, sculpting or playing with Lego. I’ve always wanted to understand how things work under the surface. I think it’s this kind of curiosity which led me to the world of computer graphics.

Like many other artists, the big blockbusters were the real push for me; I remember watching behind-the-scenes documentaries of ‘Star Wars’, ‘Jurassic Park’ etc. and realising that people do this for a living was a life-changing experience. Of course I had no idea how I could break in to the industry, but I dived in deep and spent all my time learning VFX on my own (this was a time before YouTube tutorials). With that knowledge, I was fortunate enough to secure a job with a small VFX company where I really started growing, and after six years I got invited to MPC (Moving Picture Company) in London.

JLB: I imagine visual effects to be an extremely challenging and painstaking task, so what, in your opinion, does it take to be a top visual effects artist?

KK: In my opinion, a good VFX artist has to be a good problem solver, because that is essentially what we’re doing most of the time. In this very technical world, things go wrong all the time and you have to figure out how to fix them. The ability to work under pressure is a must-have skill too; time is always compressed and the number of tasks can often be overwhelming.

Also you have to be open to learning new things all the time, because the industry is rapidly evolving and if you stop learning you’ll get left behind. And finally, learn to leave your ego at home. A movie is a team effort where your work is always open to criticism, changes and sometimes it can even be completely thrown out. That’s the nature of the beast, but that is also why the end result is usually much better than the first version.

maleficent

JLB: On IMDb you’re credited as “Environment Technical Director” – can you clarify exactly what that entails on a day-to-day basis, and on a larger scale in the filmmaking process?

KK: Environment Technical Directors are responsible for creating environment scenes, that match the photographic quality of the plates they are dealing with. In simpler terms, everything that isn’t a character, vehicle or prop is environment. Creating environments requires both technical and artistic knowledge, as it involves everything from matte-painting to modeling, texturing, projections, lighting, rendering and even composition. As I said earlier, it is creative problem solving on every level.

JLB: Your filmography includes quite a few superhero movies such as ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, but who is your favourite hero (or villain) and why?

KK: To be completely honest, I’m not a huge superhero or comics fan. I personally prefer movies that are closer to reality; I am more excited about everyday superheroes like the journalists of ‘Spotlight’, or the computer scientist Alan Turing, who helped Britain win WWII. But if I had to pick a superhero movie it would be Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, with its dark atmosphere and Hans Zimmer’s unforgettable score.

JLB: Recently, films like ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and the upcoming ‘Assassins Creed’ have opted for more practical effects rather than CGI – can you see this becoming a common trend?

KK: I think everyone agrees that going practical is the proper way of approaching any shot. It gives the film crew a physicality they can relate to. The actors can feel that they are part of the environment, the DOP can set the lights up properly and figure out what lens and camera movement works. Of course, practical effects are very costly, harder to control and have their limitations. That’s where VFX comes into play – to extend those boundaries, but it should be used sensibly and be based on reality. That’s why it’s good when we have the practical elements.

To be honest, my only problem with this new wave of “practical effect based” movies is their marketing and the way they treat visual effects publicly – as though VFX is just a negligible thing, and practical effects is the holy grail. The fact is that these modern blockbusters have almost no frame which has not been digitally enhanced in some way.

Ex-Machina

JLB: Your company – Double Negative Visual Effects – was part of the VFX Oscar winning team this year for ‘Ex Machina’. Where would you say Ava – the artificial intelligence at the core of the story – ranks among your studio’s creations?

KK: I was extremely pleased to see ‘Ex Machina’ winning the Oscar for Best VFX. Especially since everyone was pretty sure that it would go to either ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Mad Max’. I think the movie in general was a massive achievement, and the effects served the story well; it wasn’t just a mindless visual orgy but a very organic piece. ‘Ex Machina’ is a great example of why I love to work for Double Negative – it is very much a technology-driven company with some insanely-talented artists.

JLB: For you personally, what is your proudest moment/favourite piece of work in the VFX industry?

KK: I’m extremely thankful that this is my nine-to-five. Working on movies that millions of people will go and see (and hopefully enjoy) is very rewarding. I’m proud of everything I’ve been working on, but my personal top three would be ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation’ and ‘Spectre’.

Mission Impossible

JLB: And finally, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given throughout your career?

KK: I’ve been given lots of great advice throughout my career, but two of those stand out as the most influential. The first, is from my late grandfather who told me that you have to learn new things so you have more legs to stand on and that will give you stability.

The other is from my former MPC leader, mentor and friend, Marco G, who told me that in VFX you have to have three things to survive: reputation, connections, and savings.

The JumpCut UK World Cinema Club

In an attempt to make us all a little more culturally enriched, JumpCut UK launches our World Cinema Club, where each month we will review one classic foreign language film, one new release foreign language film and bring you a couple of Top 5 lists for different countries and filmmakers. 

The first selection for the World Cinema Club comes from Hungary, in the form of Oscars 2016 frontrunner ‘Son Of Saul’. Click here to read our review of ‘Son Of Saul’ and look out for the film in UK cinemas from 29th April 2016.

Oscars 2016: The Nominees

The second biggest awards show in the film calendar (after the JumpCut UK Film Awards, of course) is feeling a hell of a lot closer now, after the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards were announced this week. 

Not surprisingly, ‘The Revenant’, Alejandro G. Iñårritu’s critically-acclaimed follow-up to his Best Picture win of last year (Birdman), leads the way with 12 nominations. The Academy also pleased film fans everywhere with a surprising 10 nominations for everyone’s favourite action film, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.

As usual, there’s plenty of controversy and public outcry, with scripts from Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight) and Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs) snubbed, and an apparent lack of diversity still plaguing the awards show. 

Will Leo finally win the Oscar? Can Iñårritu win back-to-back director gongs? Or will George Miller and his brainchild ‘Mad Max’ steal the show? Here’s all the nominees, plus a few predictions as to who might win on the night (although, if my earlier predictions of the Best Picture nominees are anything to go by, I wouldn’t pay much attention to my guesses).


BEST PICTURE
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant (our winner)
Room
Spotlight

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (our winner)
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room (our winner)
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies (our winner)
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol (our winner)
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

DIRECTING
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road (our winner)
Alejandro G. Iñårritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Anomalisa (our winner)
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

COSTUME DESIGN
Carol (our winner)
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Body Team
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

ORIGINAL SONG
“Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray” – Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3” – Youth
“Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s on the Wall” – Spectre

ANIMATED SHORT
Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow (our winner)

SOUND EDITING
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our winner)
The Martian
The Revenant

FILM EDITING
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant (our winner)
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul (our winner)
Theeb
A War

ORIGINAL SCORE
Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario (our winner)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian (our winner)
The Revenant

VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our winner)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian (our winner)
Room

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina (our winner)
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario (our winner)

Oscars 2016: Best Picture Predictions

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

The approach of the winter months doesn’t just mean it’s time to go shopping for a new coat, because with the cold weather and shorter days comes a growing desire for people to discuss The Oscars. It may be more than four months until the 88th Academy Awards, but that doesn’t stop anyone speculating as to who the winners and losers will be on the big night. To be honest, I’ve been guessing since this year’s ceremony ended, and whilst guesses are all we have for now, The Academy certainly have a distinct pattern to their choices, hence the term “Oscar bait”. Here are the films that are likely to make the cut and be nominated in the Best Picture category.

And the nominees are…

Sicario
Arguably, this intense thriller from Denis Villeneuve (who directed the fantastic Prisoners) is the film which started the ball rolling with all this Oscars buzz. As one of the few films in this list that has actually been released in cinemas, I can offer my personal opinion of ‘Sicario’, and if it was up to me, this would be the winner. Whilst myself, and many others, love this gritty crime flick though, it’s unlikely that ‘Sicario’ will go further than a nomination.

Steve Jobs
Nothing gets The Academy’s attention like a biopic, and with the late founder of Apple taking centre stage in this Danny Boyle production, ‘Steve Jobs’ is about as relevant as they come. A fantastic cast, led by the very talented Michael Fassbender, and Academy favourite Kate Winslet in support, ‘Steve Jobs’ has been garnering praise from early viewings and could be the frontrunner for the Best Picture award.

Suffragette
If there’s anything The Academy loves more than a biopic, it’s controversy. A cast boasting some of the best actresses around – including Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter – should boost ‘Suffragette’ and allow the feminist movement to be represented next February. It also helps that various stars, including Meryl Streep herself, voiced their concerns over the lack of opportunities and equality for women at this year’s ceremony.

Bridge Of Spies
The man responsible for classics such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Steven Spielberg, is back, and has teamed up with legendary actor, Tom Hanks, for this cold war drama. Both of these men are probably sick of the sight of these trophies, but it is very likely that this winning recipe will earn them a few more nominations to add to their resumĂ©.

The Revenant
One man who certainly wouldn’t mind getting hold of a golden statuette is Leonardo DiCaprio, and whilst we’re sure Tom Hanks could just lend him one for the weekend, we don’t think that would quite be the same. By hooking up with Tom Hardy, and last year’s big winner Alejandro GonzĂĄlez Iñårritu (director of Birdman), Leo may well have given  himself his best chance yet at grabbing a personal award and leading his film to glory. Could Iñårritu win back-to-back Best Picture awards?

Joy
Another winning team come together once again, to bring us ‘Joy’ this Christmas. Director David O Russell, who has received nominations for his last three films (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle), joins forces with Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, and familiar faces Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, in what could be a perfectly crafted, Oscar-bait picture. Whilst unlikely to win the top gong, it would be a surprise to see this one snubbed.

The Lobster
The film festival circuit isn’t just a fun way to spend your summer, it’s actually a breeding ground for hot productions hoping to catch the eye of The Academy. Pretty much every year there will be one or two films that thrive in the quirky world of film festivals and make it to the big stage for The Oscars. With an interesting plot, big name stars in Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell, and plenty of hype from critics, ‘The Lobster’ could well crawl its way into the Best Picture category.

Carol
The big success story from the film festival circuit however, is undoubtedly ‘Carol’. This film, which sees Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara embark on a complicated lesbian relationship, has been lauded by critics all summer and will continue to be praised all the way through winter as it arrives in mainstream cinema theatres. It’s an outside shot, but this low-key, artistic offering could well beat the big names and steal the top prize next February.

So, with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ unlikely to get the nod from The Academy, in favour of something more stylistically brilliant (they don’t know what they’re missing), my money is on ‘Carol’ and ‘Steve Jobs’ to fight this one out.

Oscars 2016: Best Picture Predictions

Written by Chris Winterbottom

It may be early, but with awards season kicking off, I thought I would share my tips for who will be nominated at the 2016 Academy Awards, which will be held on the 28th February. Last year’s winner of the award for Best Picture, ‘Birdman’, was part of an eight-strong group vying for that prestigious gold statuette, but the category can have up to ten films nominated. With that in mind, I’m predicting a nine horse race, considering the amount of interesting films still to be released before the big night.

And the nominees are…

Steve Jobs

After making the hugely enjoyable ‘Trance’, Danny Boyle is back to courting the big awards with this biopic of the Apple genius Steve Jobs. Michael Fassbender plays the titular character and with supporting actors in Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels, early reviews have suggested this is the one to watch. Personally, I am looking forward to this immensely; Danny Boyle is one of my favourite filmmakers and with a script penned by Aaron Sorkin, whose other works include the wonderful ‘The Social Network’, this film looks set to be a huge success both financially and critically.

Suffragette

This recent release has seen much of its acclaim directed towards the acting performances; I am sure Carey Mulligan in particular will at least be nominated for Best Actress at the awards ceremony next February. I haven’t seen the film, but with Jennifer Lawrence’s recent essay on sexism in Hollywood, and the regular calls of discontent at the amount of roles for women and the pay they receive when they come along, I feel the Academy will include the film in the Best Picture category to acknowledge female filmmakers’ cries for equality, regardless of its quality.

Sicario

This Denis Villeneuve film is one of my favourites of the year so far. Currently, I would like ‘Sicario’ to win the award for Best Picture, but I haven’t seen the majority of the other potential nominees so it is too early to put fully commit. That said, the film is a brilliant piece of visceral, shocking and tense filmmaking. There may be nominations for its cast too, particularly for Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro, and Roger Deakins is sure to win the Best Cinematography award for the first time. For now, ‘Sicario’ is an outsider, but we shall see what will happen in the coming months.

Inside Out

This may prove a controversial choice to some, considering no animated film has ever won Best Picture, but the amount of positive reviews for this Disney-Pixar effort may sway Academy voters. This is another film which I am yet to see, and I have to say that it is one of my big film regrets this year. I suspect that ‘Inside Out’ is the animated film most likely to pick up the Best Picture gong in February, but it still remains a big outsider. However, it was not so long ago that the majestic ‘Toy Story 3’ picked up the nomination for Best Picture, with ‘Up’ achieving this feat the year before.

Bridge Of Spies

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and The Cold War? I’m predicting this film will receive the most nominations of all at the 2016 Academy Awards. But I feel this movie will pull an ‘American Hustle’ – receive the most nominations, including Best Picture, but then fail to win anything. Whilst it has a chance in the Best Costume and Best Make Up categories, and maybe some of the technical categories, I just don’t feel like the ‘Bridge Of Spies’ campaign will gain enough momentum.

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino’s last two films, ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (I know it’s spelled wrong) and ‘Django Unchained’ both received Best Picture nominations, and I am certain his latest effort will deliver him another. The film’s official release date is the 8th January 2016 in the USA, which would have made this ineligible, but with a limited release on Christmas Day, I’m confident that ‘The Hateful Eight’ will be nominated. The release date is telling; films with a release date around January and February here in the UK are often the big contenders when it comes to awards. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be Tarantino’s most financially successful film, even surpassing ‘Django Unchained’, but like his previous couple of movies, I don’t think it’ll win the Best Picture award.

The Revenant

Will Leonardo Di Caprio finally win the elusive Oscar for Best Actor? Many seem to think it’ll be his year, but I think the great man will have to wait at least another year. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu enjoyed big success at last year’s ceremony with ‘Birdman’, but I think he will receive something of a muted backlash for ‘The Revenant’, at least in terms of its critical reaction. However, The Academy love Inarritu and because of this, I believe the film will be competing for the Best Picture award. More likely though, I think we could see Emmanuel Lubezki pick up another statue for his cinematography work. For those that have seen the trailer, it already looks to be a visually stunning film.

Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers are back with ‘Hail, Caesar!’, a musical-comedy satirising Hollywood. The film has a 1950’s setting, during Hollywood’s golden era, and features a fantastic cast including Scarlett Johansson. This film will be the main competition for Danny Boyle’s ‘Steve Jobs’. It will certainly challenge in terms of the technical awards, like Best Editing, but in my opinion the film will most likely pick the Best Director(s) award. The Coen Brothers are no strangers to award nominations, after the receiving a whole spate of them for ‘No Country For Old Men’, ‘True Grit’ and ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’.

The Danish Girl

I am a big admirer of Tom Hooper, particularly for his work on the underrated ‘The Damned United’. But his rise to the top, in terms of British filmmakers, has come off the back of ‘The Kings Speech’ and ‘Les Miserables’. You only have to look at the poster for this movie to know that this is an unashamed, Oscar-bait project. I don’t feel like this will be much of a success at the Oscars in February, but having said that I didn’t think ‘Gravity’ would either. Sometimes there are surprises, and I am sure Redmayne will receive another Best Actor nomination for his defiant, cross-dressing role, but my gut instinct is that the film will slip under the radar somewhat.

So there you have it – my predictions for the Best Picture category. Of course, this list may well be wrong and even if it is, it does not necessarily represent the year’s best films. I often find that The Academy is completely wrong in its choices; like Christopher Nolan being ignored twice, for ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar’. We are talking about an awards ceremony which snubbed ‘Citizen Kane’, after all. But there is no getting around the fact that the Oscars are the most prestigious of awards ceremonies, and I think in 2016 we will see Danny Boyle and his film ‘Steve Jobs’ be the triumphant victor.