As I waited for the 20th Annual Visual Effects Society Awards to begin, a man walked through the doors of the Beverly Hilton Hotel and asked if I was there for the ceremony. When I told him yes, a jolt of energy went through him as he blurted out, “Me too, and I’m pumped! i am amplified!”
That sense of unbridled excitement permeated the entire event – a night that signified a brighter future for VFX craftsmen everywhere after two years of pandemic-induced roadblocks that delayed their productions and long kept them from to attend celebrations like this.
“You’ve all been through a lot to get here tonight,” VES executive director Eric Roth said at the start of the ceremony. Those simple words rang truer and hit harder this year than they ever have.
Indeed, Namit Malhotra – Chairman and CEO of DNEG, whose work on dune, Last night in Sohoand other projects have won seven VES awards – underlining in a statement just how grueling the studio’s most recent work has been.
“It’s important to note that these projects were all in production during the pandemic,” Malhotra said. “Despite the challenges of finding new ways of working at this incredibly difficult time for the world, DNEG has produced work of a quality that has been recognized as exceptional by VES – an industry body that provides detailed assessment and full of technology and artistry that makes this work so special. This, along with the unprecedented number of awards we have won, is a massive testament to the capabilities of our teams.”
Framestore won four VES awards by the end of the night – a feat that its CEO, Sir William Sargent, says is a testament to the studio’s versatility.
“This year’s nominations are a testament to the immense breadth of Framestore’s work and the incredible talent of our artists, producers and technologists,” said Sargent. “Walking away with four awards for film, advertising and rides is a brilliant achievement, showcasing not only the incredible variety of projects we work on, but also our ability to deliver stunning work for every possible client or location. .”
As more winners were announced, a powerful mix of other emotions poured out: elation, determination, hope, grief. Mentions were made of the sad passing of Douglas Trumbull and Bill Taylor, as well as the tragedy that continues to unfold in Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine. But throughout, a rowdy, sometimes raucous applause for the winners was always on hand.
When Disney Animation supervisor Michael Woodside accepted the award for Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project (Encanto) on behalf of his collaborators, he told the guests of the bitter sweetness of his appointment: He learned of it the very day of his father’s death.
When Lucasfilm Executive Vice President/General Manager Lynwen Brennan received the VES Lifetime Achievement Award, she implored members of the industry to better recognize the human faces behind all the feats of technical magic. “I would like to take this moment to push for recognition [we] deserve,” Brennan said. “Entertainment wouldn’t be the same without the people in this room, yet so often we are anonymous. And there’s such a shroud of mystery about what we do that it’s tempting to lean into that mystery and not spoil the gimmick…like there’s a big computer with a visual effects button giant over it, and the magic came out of it. But it’s the people who make up the visual effects business – not magicians, not machines, but very hardworking people who put their heart and soul and so many long hours into their craft. That’s why we give awards: to celebrate people and raise understanding of our craft.
Founder of the Parallax VFX companies that provided software for ILM, Brennan recalled her experience seeing jurassic park as a transformative career moment. “From the moment I saw the brontosaurus streak across the screen, I knew I had to work at ILM one day,” she said. Eventually, that’s exactly what she was able to do, when Cliff Plumer, ILM vet and Parallax contributor, took a chance all those years ago.
Camille Poiriez, Arielle Cohen, Eloïse Thibaut and Louis Florean, the emerging artists behind Green, won the award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project. And after winning their award backstage, they were greeted by ILM Director Rob Bredow, who gave them the opportunity to introduce themselves and walk away with his business card.
Yes, the competition in their chosen field can be as fierce as it gets. But on this most optimistic night, it was only right that they get closer to their own dinosaur-sized dreams.
Max Weinstein is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. He is the editor of “Dread Central” and former editorial director of “MovieMaker”. His work has been featured in “Cineaste”, “Fangoria”, “Playboy”, “Vice” and “The Week”.