If you are very very lucky, you might someday get to work alongside one of your heroes.
If you are truly blessed that hero might become a mentor.
I have no idea what comes after that, but it might be something like this:
There is a theological debate about the role of Computer Generated Images (CGI) that has yet to be engaged.
Fanatics of CGI have placed no ceiling on their ambition. The true believers are determined that we can, with just the right use of, say, motion-capture animation, produce life on celluloid (or tape, or whatever) that will breathe and glare and sweat and grunt and triumph as well as any human being could.
While Spielberg showed us all that giant reptiles from our distant past (indeed, not our own past, as we weren’t born yet) were scary as all get out, there hasn’t been a single CGI “human” who’s convinced. (I don’t count Yoda, since he was a born as a Muppet.)
And, as a viewer, I note a swift and steady draining out of my own belief in “human” characters as they turn, in long shot, to inhuman “bendies” like Spider-Man smashed into New York building after New York building in Sam Raimi’s otherwise admirable epic.
CGI people are not people. They are constructs, and they look it. And they sure sound it: just how many lameass Darth Vader sound-alikes can we stomach?
It just doesn’t work. Not yet. And there’s the smell of hubris in any effort to transplant real, flesh-and-blood actors with CGI constructs.
Actors tell the story. Their quirks, their errors, their unexpected sweat, their foibles – that is how we experience drama. The screenplay is the Alpha. The actors, the Omega. Everything beyond either of these helps get us there, reinforcing, filling in between these two poles.
The story is the thing, it’s everything, and only people can tell it. People. Flesh-and-blood actors.
Stu Maschwitz, CGI wizard, helped me understand this. Of all people. Sure, Stu had the entire CGI arsenal at his disposal – but he insisted that THE SPIRIT be true to its soul.
Even when I wanted to go for an impossible, across-the-city camera move, he balked, saying it would “look digital”.
And Stu wouldn’t let one damn character turn into a “bendie” or digital in any way. Hence my favorite shot – the Spirit leaps onto a water tower, and stumbles, just for a moment. Pure Eisner.
Like I do, Stu wants THE SPIRIT to be what it is: A love letter to New York City, featuring the best talents we can find, abetted by abundant CGI that you will find elegant…or invisible.
Thanks for the lesson, buddy.
Frank Miller has been teaching me about filmmaking with his images since before I bought my first set of Rapidographs. I am humbled by his words. Thank you buddy.