James Franco Weighs In On the Motion Capture Debate

James Franco mostly annoys me when he makes headlines these days, but in our ongoing debate for how to properly weight the recognition for Andy Serkis’s Performance Capture work, this is a useful contribution:

Performance Capture is here, like it or not, but it also doesn’t mean that old-fashioned acting will go the way of silent film actors. Performance Capture actually allows actors to work opposite each other in more traditional ways, meaning that the actors get to interact with each other and look into each others eyes. For years computer technology forced actors to act opposite tennis balls if a movie wanted to have CG creatures, but now the process has come full circle so that actors playing CG creatures can perform in practical sets, just like the “human” actors. In acting school I was taught to work off my co-stars, not to act but react and that was how I would achieve unexpected results, not by planning a performance, but by allowing it to arise from the dynamic between actors, and on The Rise of the Planet of the Apes that’s exactly what I was able to do opposite Andy as Caesar.

Now, your ability to coax good performances out of the people you’re working with is a skill that directors are generally recognized for, not actors (though I wonder if folks think about that when they’re casting their Best Supporting votes). But it’s a reminder that the effects folks couldn’t produce Serkis’s performance and the scenes as a whole he’s in without them, just as he couldn’t do what he does without their critically important work. We have to figure out a way to recognize these hybrids. They’re not going away.