There is no difference. Acting is acting. Performance capture is a technology, not a genre; it’s just another way of recording an actor’s performance. It’s very interesting being in two movies this year that are manifested completely differently but use the same process. The same visual effects company, Weta Digital, produced apes that look entirely real and a palette and a style that honors the source material of Tintin. What Steven was trying to do was to have the best of both worlds, where you can create the look and the feel and the sensibility of Herge [Tintin's cartoonist creator] but have emotionally truthful performances. The technology allows the actors to enter into those worlds…The technology has come to the point where we could shoot Gollum and the Hobbits in the same moment, as we did in Apes. In the original, I’d have to shoot against empty plates that were shot on the day, then repeat the process on the performance-capture stage, sometimes months later. Now we get it in one hit, so it’s much more actor- and director-friendly.
Obviously post-production and effects work exist on a continuum. But there’s a difference between technological alteration without which a performance could not exist, and post-production work that tweaks or modifies a performance or a set but that does not constitute the core of the work. Our current awards categories don’t provide appropriate recognition to the first category of technological and post-production work. I want Serkis to get piles of statues. I just think we have to find a way to acknowledge the interactive nature of the work. The fact that visual effects artists often don’t get properly credited is part and parcel of a system that involves visual effects studios giving up not just credit but profits in order to keep work, even though the industry increasingly relies on their work to satisfy audience expectations.
Maybe if Serkis gets a nomination or an award for a role where his face isn’t actually on-screen, it could trigger a special citation for the visual effects folks who translated his performance. I don’t know that it’s a perfect solution. But I think we need to reconsider the awards categories themselves, not just who fits into them.