On June 29th, coming to a theatre near you is the highly anticipated film TED. The film starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis is directed by Seth MacFarlane who also happens to be the voice of the cute and cuddly although foul mouthed and pot smoking teddy bear whose name happens to be Ted.
Wahlberg stars as John who has a child had a Christmas wish bringing his teddy bear to life. The two grow up together and now John who lives with girlfriend Lori (played by Mila Kunis), must choose between the woman he loves and his miracle best friend.
When a film like TED comes to screen it has always intrigued me about the people behind the scenes who have worked hard to make me laugh. This week I was honored to speak with Jenny Fulle, Founder and Visual Effects Producer for TED and also 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 such as the upcoming release of TED. Jenny has worked on such films as “Priest” (one of my personal favoraites), “Stuart Little” and “I am Legend”.
Jenny’s career is very impressive working with such company’s as George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic, 4Ward Productions, Dream Quest Images, Warner Digital Studios, Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Animation and Imageworks. With such an impressive resume it seemed the logical next step for her to start The Creative-Cartel.
Thanks for talking to us today! I saw a preview of TED and I absolutely had to talk to someone who made that happen. How did you get involved?
It was a lot of fun that’s for sure. I knew the producer Jason Clark and we had worked together several years ago on different projects like “Stuart Little” and “Monster House” so he and I went way back. The project was sitting on a shelf at the production company and it needed to have things done and he called me to see if I could help him work on the visual effects on the film component of the film since that is a heavy component. He and I came up with new ways to take on the digital TED so that we could actually green light and make the movie.
When you hear what it was about, what were your thoughts?
Oh my gosh I thought I had to work on this movie! The fact that Seth MacFarlane is part of the project and I have a 12-year-old son who worships Seth MacFarlane and “Family Guy”. We get to a certain point as parents where we want to do things that our kids think are cool so there was definetly a big part of that in it for me too.
So what did your hands get involved in?
We started working things up and had meetings with Seth to kind of understand what his vision was for the film and how he wanted to infuse his personality in the CG bear. He was pretty sure that he wanted to do motion capture and he wanted to do the voice so our challenge was to figure out how we could make that all happen for Seth and still keep within a certain magic number that the studio would be okay with.
What were some of the hardest challenges for you?
A lot of it was very fluid and it changed because it was a comedy. Its one thing to write jokes down on paper and another thing when they are played out on screen. We had to remain very fluid with the changes and Seth was always going back in to make things better. Our ability to stay current with those changes was probably the most challenging part of it all.
How is it working with Seth?
It is fantastic. He is a very funny guy. I tend to have to make a consciously put a filter on at all times and working with Seth on a film like TED you get to be as off color as you want because it ends up getting in the movie if its crazy enough.
I can’t even imagine being in the room with him while he’s being funny. How do you keep it together?
You laugh and you have a lot of fun. That’s definetly part of the whole joy of working on the film. Seth is wonderful to work with.
How did you make that possible, how did you manage to infuse Seth and TED together?
We did motion capture and we used a suit. Typically motion capture is done in a big volume using a bunch of cameras in a controlled environment. We didn’t have the luxury of doing that. As Seth was directing he’d be reading lines back and forth with the actors and we wanted to be able to capture his motion at that point as well. We got the suit and put it on Seth which is a system of straps that record his motion and we were able to take that, process it and hand it over to the animators when we got into shot production. We also had a high resolution camera on his face so we could have a visual representation of what his mannerisms are and how he moves his eyes, head and expressions and the animators use that as a template too to make TED’s face act and react to certain situations.
How was it working with Mark and the rest of the cast?
It was really fantastic. This kind of movie only comes along once every ten or twelve times. It was a wonderful experience all around.
What other work have you done?
I’ve been doing visual effects for over 30 years. I spent 11 years over at Sony Image Works as Executive Vice President of Production. We worked on all the Spiderman movies and we did “Open Season”, “Surfs Up”, “I am Legend” to name a few. Now I work for Creative Cartel which I’ve had for about three years we started on “Priest” and worked on “Ghost Rider” and we finished “Ted”. One of the things we do here are Creative Cartel aspire to do is to work with modest budgets that have ambitious appetites and help the filmmakers realize that. It’s a lot of fun actually and it tends to bring out everyone’s best. Its easy when you have a whole bunch of money to do something, but when you don’t have a lot of money you have to be smart and think out of the box. You have to work with creative and innovative people which is far more engaging for me.
So do you see that viewers tend to lead toward more innovation than dazzle?
Absolutely. Most of the visual effects, 80 to 90% of it has already been already so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Instead use it as a tool to tell the story and make sure every dollar of the visual effects budget shows up on the screen. We don’t waste it by reinventing the wheel. We work on projects at this point where there is something to be gained from it like working with a great bunch of people and working with Seth MacFarlane. Its about what kind of experience are we going to have after working on something for over a year. It going to be satisfying for us in some way.
How long did TED take you from start to finish?
I probably worked with Jason the producer for about a year before we went into pre-production just retooling it and then spent another year in production and post. Its been a two year process for me.
When that takes up so much of your time is it easy to part ways when your finished?
Its always hard. The hardest part is you make friends when you do this and spend a lot of time with people. When it’s a good expedrience you generally have made some good friends along the way. Its like the last day of school and its summertime and youdon’t know if they are going to be back at the same school next year. It’s a little sad.
With Seth making you laugh everyday that has to be sad.
It is but I have a feeling that TED is going to be a great success and we will probably be able to get the band back together in the not to distant future. TED is pretty off colored and it’s the best part of it. I tend to work on visual effects movies that are science fiction or visual spectaculars so to be able to work with a bear smoking pot and trash talking everyone is a real treat.
This has to be a lot of detail in bringing a bear to life.
Yes, the continuity takes a lot of data to manage. We have systems and data bases in place to take care of it all.
You have a fanastic lists of projects that you’ve worked on. How is it working with your own company now?
To be honest before I had less choices on what I worked on. Now, my company we are fifteen people and to keep the quality high and how we like it I don’t want to triple in size. We have two teams working two shows. We get to work on things that speak to us in some way whether it’s the story, the people involved or any number of reasons. Its nice to know we don’t have to take any project that comes along.
Do you like to keep your secrets about how you work your magic?
No, like to tell anyone anything they want to know. One of the things we have had to do is come up with different ways to approach our work. So we love to talk and share about what we do.
Creative Cartel is totally your baby?
Yes, there are a lot worse ways to make a living. I have a long standing relationship with SONY and they are incredibly supportive of me out on my own. Its been very fruitful.
You obviously have to have something different…..
I think its important not to be afraid to stick your neck out. I think that’s what helps give me my edge. I’m not afraid to expand and always have an escape plan in case its not working. Its important to be willing to step outside the box.
Your definetly willing to stick your neck out for a teddy bear and that makes Jenny awesome in my book. This Friday in theatres is TED!