Sunday 12 February 2012

Tom Shadyac on Jim Carrey and Christian Bale in Equilibrium.

Before we start, you should really read this all the way through, it is quite an essay, but the end is worth it.

Watching the Bonus material - Bridging the comedy chasm - for the film Liar Liar reveals some of the filming technique that Tom Shadyac uses for Jim Carrey. The run is that basically Shadyac is scared that he'll miss something (on camera) that Carrey does, fearing that he wont be able to get him to do it again. He says "if you come on the set late, you hear that Jim did an amazing thing and then i have to do a whole retake of a scene". So as a rule he has cameras constantly running. This is interesting because it shows how the director has adapted to the to cater for the performer, and begs the question of how much of the films he has directed starring Carrey have been staged. Or put another way, how much of what we see is off the cuff? It has been mentioned plenty of times by Richard Williams and Ed Hooks in-particular about how in animation we work by frames, able to access every essence and individual piece in non-real time, being able to spend how ever long it takes (or some case til the deadline expires) to get perfection. So my first two research artefacts spent trying to produce a baseline performance was a case of the latter. and one of the main issues of surrounding my piece was being able to see silhouettes so that the key poses looked natural from most angles, however, some not so well from the camera angle. I believe, as i said before, this was an issue with laying over Trunk and shoulder movement over the initial pass in the first artefact.

Watching Equilibrium last night made me think how hard it must of been for Christian Bale to keep such an inactive face while filming. From an animators perspective, our job is to bring lifeless objects into life, into performance, and into believability to the audiences perspective. Watching Bale, he had to take a constantly animated object (his body) and keep it confined too key movements, leading with minimal gesture in-order to create the illusion of suppressing emotion. Now there were subtle clues to give the audience some idea that he was thinking, which i'll come to in a minute. The most i've ever experienced of being inanimate is while meditating, concentrating on not thinking and not moving, but even then there is a sense of pulse, the movement of the internal functions, gasp of breath inflating the lungs, which drives out the upper body, and we can never truly be lifeless. Even in death, as the gases leave and the body decomposes we're active, only in thought (and the thought of others) are we dead. The reason i've explained this is too add that extra depth to how Bale communicates with the audience. His eyebrows and lips have little emotive expression for the most part, they . One trick i had noticed was the flicker of the cheek and neck as if he had suppressed his breath or swallowed to show pain, fear, or some kind of deceit, all there to show thought. The latter was indispensable as their needed to be some kind of communication with the audience. There is also the occasional clench of the fist too. In the Featurette below, director Kurt Wimmer talks about this, how he didn't want to give the audience complete zombies, so sub-characters show some slightly more expressed emotion, notably his second partner at his job, and the fascist senior dictator, and the enemies - 'senseoffenders' - could show them too, although oddly, their 'leader' was cold. However, the extras were zombiesque, but how else would you sell the concept of repression on a mass scale without it. Kurt Wimmer also mentions that he chosen Bale because he wanted an actor who could portray emotion, which is interesting as you'd assume he'd wanted an actor who couldn't! Finally, what we did get one character who was zombie-like and was so to be other than to solely add believability and that was the main characters son. He was really freaky, he felt dead-behind the eyes (something us animators strive to destroy) and very suppressed to the point the character himself was unaware (until the end). The only time he shown any sense of thought through the bulk of the film was when showing curiosity/suspicion, and this was purely dialog driven. It really gives off that eerie feeling and no wonder it is a foundation of horror films.

Equilibrium - Featurette - Finding Equilibrium by ohmygore

So, my third research artefact now has a direction, i had the idea before that i was going to look into which was more powerful/believable, a lie with a fake smile, or a lie with a real smile. I feel now that i may use the car scene from Equilibrium in which his second partner questions whether he has taken his dose of 'Prozium' (the sense suppression drug from the film). He lies, but there is also room to play with his reaction after, to reveal the deceit.

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