Eric Barba – TRON: Legacy

December 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

When the original “TRON” was released in 1982, it was a groundbreaking moment for visual effects in movies. Now, “TRON: Legacy” is making the same sort of impact on the industry its predecessor did 28 years ago.

Leading the charge into the new and improved digital grid in “TRON: Legacy” is visual effects supervisor Eric Barba. Barba, who is employed with Digital Domain, has worked in the visual effects department for the company is some capacity since 1994.

Over the last 16 years, Barba’s credits have included “The Fifth Element,” “Supernova,” and “Zodiac.” In 2008, he won an Academy Award for his work on David Fincher’s fantasy drama “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” In the film, Barba helped digitize Brad Pitt, who played a man with a disease that caused him to age backwards.

During an interview with me, Barba who is half Mexican, talked about using some of the same “Benjamin Button” techniques in “TRON: Legacy” and what he thinks about possibly winning another Oscar come February.

What are some of the first steps you have to take to update the original special effects into this sequel?

It all starts by sitting down with the art department. We started designing the different aspects of the film. It all starts with planning. Eventually, we find a design that we like and everything is drawn out first and then 3-D models are created. We have to act hand in hand with the art department.

Do you feel more pressure when you are working on a film like “TRON: Legacy” because it is so dependent on special effects?

There is definitely a lot of pressure. This was the longest I had ever worked on a film. I spent about two years working on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and about two and a half years working on this one. There were a lot of things we had to pull off with all these computer-generated effects and the 3-D effects. We wanted to make it for a modern audience.

The special effect that has been most talked about is the “de-aging” process you use to make actor Jeff Bridges look 20 years younger. Is there still room to improve on this specific technique?

This particular technique was one we used on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” We used as much of the knowledge we could from that one in this film. There is plenty of room for improvement, trust me. Most of the challenges we faced on this film were technical challenges. It was sometimes very daunting. But technology is going to get better and better.

So, can you understand why “TRON: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski was quoted as saying the “de-aging” technique is not “at 100 percent in 100 percent of the shots?”

That’s funny because immediately after that quote came out, he sent me and email and said he was misquoted. I’m taking his word on it. I think as artists we always want to work on something and improve on it before it makes it to the big screen. That’s just the nature of who we are. But we are on a schedule and a budget so there comes a time when we have to stop and ship the product off.

Thirty years from now what do you think people are going to be saying about the special effects in “TRON: Legacy?”

Wow, well, the thing is if your movie has a big budget you’ve hopefully hired the best people you can find. Digital effects aren’t cheap especially when you try to break ground. I hope, much like the original film, audiences will get a full experience and it will be less about visual effects and more about story.

There was an article that just came out in Popular Mechanics that questions whether technology helps or hurts the film industry. What are your thoughts on what you do as an artist effecting cinema as a whole?

I think it’s my job as a visual effects supervisor to help tell the story that the director wants to show on the big screen. At the end of the day we’re here to serve the director and the storyteller.

Do you think movies like “TRON: Legacy” can shape what other movie studios do in the future?

It depends on what you mean by “TRON.” If you mean more action/adventure films, then we might see more of those. If you mean something more “TRON”-specific, I think if this movie does well at the box office I’m sure they would love to make another one. It’s always a goal to get a franchise going. If you mean more 3-D movies, then I think the industry will get better and better as a whole. If studios shoot 3-D correctly, it can be a great experience for moviegoers. I think “TRON” can be the leader in all of that.

You’re on the short list for another Oscar nomination for your work on “TRON: Legacy.” Are getting accolades like this something you aim for when you’re choosing your next project?

You never know how your work is going to be accepted. I don’t think about awards, I just try to put the best product out there that I can. It’s up to whoever judges those things to say if it’s Oscar worthy.

Yaya DaCosta – TRON: Legacy

December 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

She may have stepped into the public spotlight by strutting down the runway during Season 3 of “America’s Next Top Model,” but Yaya DaCosta isn’t just another pretty face.

Since placing first runner up on the reality show for fashion models in 2004, DaCosta has used her newfound fame to focus on what she considers her first love: acting. In the last six years, she has earned roles on TV shows such as “All My Children” and “Ugly Betty” and in a handful of films including “Take the Lead,” “Honeydripper,” “The Messenger” and “The Kids Are All Right.”

In her most recent role, DaCosta has a small part in the sci-fi film “Tron: Legacy,” the sequel to the 1982 original, which follows a computer hacker who is transported into a digital world where he must defeat a powerful computer program.

During an interview with me, DaCosta, 28, whose multiethnic background includes being part Brazilian, explained why most models wouldn’t make good actresses and what she is looking forward to as her own acting career expands.

Was there a specific point in your professional modeling career when you felt acting was the next step for you?

To this day, I still don’t think I really had a professional modeling career. (Laughs) A lot of people dabble in this and that. I dabbled in modeling. At the same time I was waitressing and teaching and doing a million other things. Acting has always been my first love. It’s always something I knew I wanted to do. It just took many years for me to actually have the confidence to commit to doing it at the exclusion of all my other interests.

Did modeling help build that confidence?

I think for some people it might, but for me, not at all. It’s a different kind of job and a completely different skill set. In order to really excel in my acting I had to combat some of the things that models go through. Models have to be concerned with how they look at all times. With me, it’s the opposite. If you’re unable to lose yourself in a role and really embody the character rather than worry about how you look, then it’s just not going to look real. For me, personally, the two are unrelated.

Well, I really think you lost yourself in some of the roles you have earned so far. You were heartbreaking in “The Messenger” and really great this year in “The Kids Are All Right.”

Aw, well thank you!

This must be a dream come true for you.

I am working hard at it. I don’t think anything has come true just yet. I’m still working on my craft. I still have a lot to learn. For me,cwith each opportunity I get. I’m always in acting class and always studying, so for me it’s a journey. I don’t really see myself arriving at any particular place, but I really love what I’m doing right now.

Tell us about your role as a Siren in “Tron: Legacy.”

I’m actually in the movie for a really brief moment. But my acting coach always says, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” I went out for an audition to play a Siren. I didn’t know what it entailed. Like most of these big movies nowadays, they were very secretive. They wanted to know about my movement abilities because there was some very specific choreography they needed me to do for the scene. [Director Joseph Kosinski] wanted all the Sirens to move as one unit. It was short and very sweet.

Is it just a coincidence that your next film, “Now,” is also a sci-fi movie?

I’m not at that point in my career where I can be picky with roles. I just feel so lucky to audition for projects that I connect with. “Now” is such an amazing script. I’m just so excited being on set with the actors and seeing it come to life. Plus, we’re in a time where everyone is concerned about the future – what it will look like; if we’ll even have one as human beings here on this Earth. I think it’s very fitting for these kinds of scenes to be depicted on film.