At press time, the Visual Effects Society was evaluating the format for its 20th annual awards show due to the rise of omicron. Whatever form it takes, this year’s awards coincide with the 25th anniversary of its founding in early 1997, at a time when VFX on films such as Titanic were in production.
Reflecting the progress of diversity in the company’s leadership, in 2021 VES elected its first female chair of the board, Lisa Cooke, a visual effects veteran and producer at Tippett Studio. And, with this month’s election, the company now has its first roster of all-female visual effects veterans as board members: First Vice President Emma Clifton Perry, Second Vice President Susan O’Neal, Treasurer Laurie Blavin and Rita Cahill, who serves her. seventh term as secretary.
“I’m thrilled to have a wonderful executive committee made up of such talented women,” Cooke said, noting that it reflects growing diversity and inclusion in the visual effects space and highlights company initiatives such as its efforts to mentorship and outreach “to reach those who are underrepresented in our industry.”
Noting that VES has approximately 4,000 members in 40 countries, Cooke adds that another mission is to “strengthen our company’s global community” by expanding communication as well as mentorship and education efforts.
In the VES nominations announced Jan. 18, Warner Bros. Dunes led the feature film competition with six nominations, including one in the top category for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photorealistic Feature Film. DunesThe visual effects of were overseen by two-time Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert (first man, Blade Runner 2049) and run the DNEG VFX studio.
In the higher category, Dunes is nominated alongside Disney/Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which won four nominations; Sony/Marvel Spider-Man: No Coming Home and Legendary/Warners’ Godzilla vs. Kong, with three nominations each; Warner’s The Matrix Resurrections, with two names; and EON/MGM-UA no time to die.
Among the animated features nominated for the VES, Disney’s Encanto leads with six nominations, followed by Disney’s Raya and the last dragon and Disney/Pixar Lucas with five each. All three are nominated for Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature alongside Illumination/Universal. Sing 2 and Sony Pictures Animation/Netflix The Mitchells versus the Machines.
Disney/Marvel’s Loki leads the television field with four nominations, including in the Outstanding VFX in a Photorealistic Episode category, for which episodes of Foundation, lost in space, Nevers and The stall are additionally named. Reflecting the evolution of technology is the new category of outstanding virtual cinematography in a CG project. These nominees include the popular musical number “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” in Disney’s Encanto; the battle of the ocean in Godzilla vs. Kong; and sequences of Loki, Raya and the last dragon and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Nominees for Outstanding Created Environment in Photorealistic Feature demonstrate the complexity of the work, such as Arrakeen City in DunesWaterfall in Canyon Jungle Cruisethe mirror dimension in Spider-Man: No Coming Home and Valle Del Marre in The Suicide Squad. In the category of environments created for animated feature films, the company nominated Antonio’s Room in EncantoPortorosso square in Lucasthe country of Talon in Raya and the last dragonthe Crystal Theater in Sing 2 and the Mambo Cabana in Sony Pictures Animation/Netflix Long live.
The first VES awards were presented on February 19, 2003 at the Skirball Cultural Center, where Weta’s work on Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers won the top prize, which at the time was called “Best VFX in an Effects Film”.
Since then, the company has honored VFX achievements, including digital characters such as Gollum in The Lord of the RingsDavy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s ChestBenjamin Button in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Neytiri in Avatar. The awards also recognized digitally created environments, from Pandora to Avatar at the Paris Dreamscape in Creation and the Pridelands in Jon Favreau’s 2019 version of The Lion King. Among the new categories, one for virtual cinematography honored work in groundbreaking films like Gravity, The jungle Book and The Lion King.
Among VES’s plans for its 25th anniversary is an archive initiative through which it aims to launch a “digital museum” before the end of the year. “Our mission is to capture, preserve and share the rich history of this industry for generations to come,” says Cooke, adding that this includes “the stories of these luminaries and techniques from the past and present so that they are not lost for the future.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.