Creative Sessions Inform, Inspire

(L-R) Lady Gaga as Ally and Bradley Cooper as Jack in the drama “A Star Is Born,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Live Nation Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Developed for NAB Show’s community of creative professionals, the Creative Master Series returns this year with several engaging sessions that give audiences new insight into projects and processes. Speakers in the series—including the creative minds behind such films as “A Star is Born” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” — will  give attendees a firsthand look at how they realized their visions.

Presented in partnership with American Cinema Editors (ACE), this morning’s session “Editing ‘Into the Spider-Verse’” gathers the film’s co-director Peter Ramsey and members of the editorial team, including editor Robert Fisher Jr. and first assistant Sarah Cole, for a conversation with Hollywood Reporter Technology Editor Carolyn Giardina on the film’s groundbreaking visual style and their collaborative efforts in achieving it.

“I can’t think of any other animated film that made this much of a visual statement,” said Ramsey, who along with Rodney Rothman and Bob Persichetti, directed “Into the Spider-Verse.” “That’s why audiences have had such a great reaction.”

The feature pays homage to the classic look and feel of the comic books of the 1940s and ’50s, combining CG animation and hand-drawn techniques — the animation teams at Sony Pictures Imageworks wanted to achieve a tactile, granular feeling for the imagery, going as far as recreating the dot-printing process used in older comic books.

Their work produced a unique aesthetic, but making the film required an innovative, complicated pipeline. “This film was extremely, technically complicated, but also incredibly rewarding,” said Cole.

“With an animated film,” Fisher told Steve Hullfish in a recent Pro Video Coalition interview, “you’re in a very close relationship with the directors, producers, writers, storyboard artists. We get together from the very beginning. I think in animation it’s an ongoing process of refining and revising and trying new things and different things in different ways so that a cut of the movie may
evolve over a much longer period of time than you would have in a live-action film.”

“Creating a new pipeline and process required an extensive knowledge of the film, top to bottom,” added Cole. “As a result, I was involved in nearly every facet of production, helping not only with the technical aspects, but in contributing as a creative member of our team.”

“‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ was the editing opportunity of a lifetime, allowing me to help create and present a new Spider-Man, Miles Morales and six other very diverse Spider-People,” said Fisher. “As a part of this NAB Show panel, I’m happy to have the chance to talk about working with our entire creative and imaginative team, and the challenges and rewards of editing such a big, sprawling and heartfelt movie.”

This afternoon’s session “Matthew Libatique, ASC: Close-Up” is produced in partnership with the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG), and presents an conversation between ICG Magazine Editor David Geffner and Director of Photography Libatique.

The immensely innovative cinematographer—his films include “A Star is Born,” “Iron Man,” “Black Swan,” “mother!” and the upcoming “Birds of Prey”—will discuss his approaches to lighting, color and the visceral quality of his camera movement, designed to enhance the story and maintain narrative flow.

“I first became aware of Matty Libatique two decades ago with the festival hit ‘Pi,’ directed by Darren Aronofsky, in what kicked off a long creative partnership between the two men,” Geffner recalled. “It was shot in 16mm black and white and then blown up to 35mm. The high-contrast, grainy look was daring and totally unconventional; at the time I thought: ‘These guys are fresh! Can’t wait to see what they do next.’”

Next, of course, came five more features (“Requiem For A Dream,” “The Fountain,” “Black Swan,” “Noah” and “mother!”), each more visually bold than the one before, along with a handful of projects Libatique shot for other directors. With “A Star Is Born” he brings an intensity to every frame of this musical drama.

“This whole approach to visual storytelling—like Libatique’s remarkable career—has a swagger that seems to say, ‘I don’t care what you think about me, just as long as you feel what I’m about.’”

“Every film is custom-made, so I try to start anew each time,” Libatique tells Yonca Talu in a recent Film Comment interview. “The only goal I really have is not to repeat myself, and I always find that I repeat myself in certain ways—that’s the struggle. But at the end of the day, I’m always trying to search for something new, whether in movement, color or just approach, in terms of where the camera goes.

“Every film and every director deserves their own signature and interpretation. I don’t want to treat Bradley Cooper like I treat Darren Aronofsky, and I don’t want to treat Jon Favreau like I treat Spike Lee. I think they all have their own aesthetic, and my job is actually to tune into what their aesthetic is.”