In theatres June 7th from director M. Knight Shyamalan, writer Gary Whitta and Columbia Pictures is a summer blockbuster with AFTER EARTH.
The film tells the story of a father, Cypher (Will Smith) and his son Kitai (Jaden Smith) crash landing on Earth one thousand years after humans were forced to leave. What has become of Earth is dangerous to humans but father and son must work together if they are to make it out alive.
I once again have the joy of speaking with Jenny Fulle, Founder and Visual Effects Producer for AFTER EARTH and the brains behind The Creative-Cartel.
The Creative-Cartel is a production company in Los Angeles that specializes in visual effects and animation for films including the recent film TED and now AFTER EARTH. Jenny has worked on such films as PRIEST (one of my personal favorites), STUART LITTLE and I AM LEGEND.
Jenny’s career is very impressive working with such companies as George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic, 4Ward Productions, Dream Quest Images, Warner Digital Studios, Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Animations and Imageworks. With such an impressive resume it seemed the logical next step for her to start The Creative-Cartel.
Recently, her resume will now include JOUST, new software created to help get the job that directors like M. Knight Shyamalan need done!
I’m so glad to be talking to you again Jenny!
Thanks, you too!
So, moving on to bigger and better things!
Moving on for sure.
Talk to us about your involvement with AFTER EARTH.
AFTER EARTH was great for us. It was a lot different from TED and we were on it for about a year and nine months. We took over 700 shots that made it on screen, we did more than that but cutting the movie we lose some things. It was good though and we had vendors working all around the world. In this particular case we had our production team all around the world as well. We had our director, M. Knight Shyamalan at his place called The Fulcrum in Philadelphia, we had a team here and we had our visual effects supervisor up in San Francisco and working with other vendors from California, the east coast, Australia, Canada and Nepal so that was a lot of fun.
How hard is that when you have different people in different places all working on the same idea?
It’s actually not and for a few reasons. The world has really gotten flat as far as I’m concerned. We spend a lot of time doing reviews and have software with synchronized quick time reviews and we are basically on Skype with our vendors reviewing things. I don’t think anyone has actually done this but we were able to set up hardware/software that enabled us to do two place reviews. So we had Knight out in Philadelphia on his 2K digital screening room we hooked it up there and had it here in our screening room. We were actually able to do final screenings. Normally we come together to do that sort of thing but we were able to push the high-resolution digital file to Knights screening and our supervisors’ office and look at the finals. That was pretty cool. We also rolled out some software on this called JOUST. It’s a tool we’ve been working on for a while that really came into its own during AFTER EARTH. It has a lot of various components to it but one of the components is working with vendors and making the process more efficient and less labor intense when your dealing with so many different people in so many time zones. JOUST definitely helped us as well.
Working with JOUST did you feel like you had an edge?
Absolutely. When we have our eight vendors all over the world and we are in the heat of post-production we are getting 150 shots a day to review and it can be logistically quite challenging. It organizes that process and makes it so we can spend more time reviewing the images as opposed to sorting through them.
When you were presented with the idea of AFTER EARTH what did you think?
I was very excited about it. I mean who doesn’t want to do an M. Knight Shyamalan and Will Smith film? My first meeting was with Knight and I instantly fell in love with him. He’s a fabulous human being, a great director and so charming, funny and great to be around. Will I’ve worked with a couple of times before and I love that group, they are all great. I didn’t have to hesitate at all when they asked me if I wanted to join the team.
Was Knight pretty clear about his vision for AFTER EARTH and what he wanted for the film?
Yes, he was very clear. In fact he was amazing. One of my first meetings with him he had been doing pre-production on this for quite a while, he and Will. At that meeting he had thumb nail storyboards for the entire movie, which I had never seen in my entire life so early on. So for somebody like me whose job it is to try and organize a game plan for execution having such clear vision that has now been translated to paper is kind of dreamy for me.
Was he receptive to know what would work? I know that a director has one vision of a film but you would know what can actually be done.
Both he and Will, who is also a producer on the movie, they were both fantastic with that. For my first meeting with Knight I brought a supervisor to the table Jonathan Rothbart who I have worked with on another movie because he seemed like a match for Knight and the group. Knight and J-Bart really got along well because I think J-Bart understood Knights vision and helped articulate it to our team that comprised of eight different vendors.
Working with Will Smith, that has to be interesting because most people see him as a funny man this movie seems pretty intense for him.
Also I think that it’s important because Jaden, who did THE KARATE KID and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, he is becoming a man. This is the first film where he has been kind of able to take on a lead role as an action star. There was a lot of intensity on the set when Will and Jaden where there that’s for sure.
Do you still enjoy going on the set and watching it all unfold? Is it still a thrill?
It is a thrill for me for about the first month then I’ve eaten too much craft service and the days get really long.
Did you find this a different experience from anything you’ve done previously?
None of the films are the same, ever. I think what separates it after doing it for a long time is that you don’t freak out when you are faced with a new challenge. Every single movie has new challenges and every single movie has its own set of unique things that come up that have to be dealt with. The difference is after doing it for a time is instead of saying ‘how are we ever going to do this!’ you know that there’s a solution and you can approach it in a calm manner and common sense and you’ll get it done. They are all different Jeri.
You said that Knight had already done some pre-production, is it hard to come in on that or was it just perfect for you?
When I say pre-production is that I mean the film is 1,000 years into the future and part of the movie is about creating the planet they end up settling on and what does the earth look like then. There is a lot of stuff that needs to go into the world we are creating and he had given a lot of thought to that already. He had a good foundation, a good start for what we were dealing with and what kind of worlds we would be building and philosophy of why they were like this. That is a big head start. He did the prep and gave a lot of thought to what he was doing.
Knowing the thought process of Will and Knight, did that make it easier to come in on the project thinking ‘yea, I got this’?
Absolutely, and both of them are very collaborative I find. It’s all about timing for us worker bees. We want to do things in a way that works for people. All of the filmmakers that were involved in this film were very collaborative and were trying to make the best film we could possibly make. I don’t think there was a person among us that thought they were the only ones with good ideas.
We all think of outer space and dream, did you have a lot of ideas coming from all directions?
Of course and that’s good. I think that its part of the process and you want those ideas on the table taking bits and pieces to get what’s best for the world we are trying to create.
You’ve got to be thrilled with what you’ve done.
Absolutely, I think that we’ve made a beautiful film and I’m very proud of the work and very proud of what we accomplished with the time we had. I am definitely proud of all the companies that contributed to it and grateful to be part of the team with Will and Knight and all of the other producers and the studio.
Tell us more about JOUST?
JOUST is a tool that is behind the scenes and I think that absolutely we have the opportunity to revolutionize the way that digital workflow is handled going forward. We’ve made it avaliable to shows as well. I never expected to become a technology developer but I’m thrilled to be here. I think we definitely have a great opportunity to make our mark with this.
That’s amazing, last time we spoke you were surprised with where you were working on TED and here you are once again surprised even more by what’s happened.
If you were to say ‘what is your wildest dream a year from now’ I would consistently undersell where I wanted to be and what is going to happen which is pretty nice.
Have you expanded your company as well?
We try to keep the company small because its part of what makes us so successful is that I can be hands on in the various aspects of production and my partner Craig can be hands on with the technical component of everything. All of our people are critical, we don’t have anyone who isn’t critical and making a contribution! If you get to big its hard to ensure that kind of company. It’s hard to maintain that sort of feeling.
Thanks for talking with us again Jenny; we have enjoyed learning the details of how the magic of Hollywood works! AFTER EARTH is in theatres starring Will and Jaden Smith from Sony Pictures directed by M. Knight Shyamalan – see you there!