Dear Mr. Andy Serkis,

IMG_20160318_241733230I just read that you’ve been selected to direct the Warner Bros. live-action retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. People are lauding this decision, and I wanted to join in. This is wonderful news, and a decidedly concrete manifestation of your growing success in the film industry. I am so thrilled for you! What you have achieved these recent years is absolutely astounding, so I wanted to reflect a bit on the impact that you have had the moving visual image.

I hadn’t realized that you had been working in the film, theater, and television industries for more than 20 years. I’ve seen a few of the films that you were in pre The Lord of the Rings and guarantee that until I consulted your IMDb profile minutes ago, I had no idea that you appeared in them. Looks like I’m going to have to go do some revisiting of your work. As you can probably imagine, I was first introduced to your work through The Lord of the Rings. When I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in theaters nothing seemed to be too remarkable to me about your performance. Of course, you have an incredible talent in vocal manipulations, but as a 10 year old movie-goer these nuances were largely lost on me. However, I must also acknowledge that in the first film your role as Gollum was still in its nascent stages. It wasn’t until after I watched the vast wealth of special features on the DVD release of the extended version of The Fellowship and The Two Towers that I truly learned your name. I remember learning how Gollum’s character changed over the course of production of the films. As visual effects and motion capture technology improved his physical manifestation on screen became altered, and he became the distinctive character that is well known throughout popular culture today.

I’m still in awe to think about it. You, dressed head to toe in a motion capture suit, looking nothing like the finished Gollum in the pictures and still embodying the character absolutely. I’ve come to realize that a quality that I admire the most in many of my favorite actors is the physical aspect of their performances. An actor can create a totally physically unique character without being covered in makeup and prosthetics (although in certain cases these too are vital tools in the creation of an astounding and memorable performance). I always think that it is magical when with a subtle tweak of the spine, or quivering finger articulation, an actor manages to convey the psychology and emotional state of a character. If he or she can do this, when coupled with line delivery, for me as an audience member, the actor truly does become the character. The same holds true for my appreciation of physical comedy. To achieve successful and believable slapstick is one of the greatest feats an actor can possibly attain. Your performance in The Lord of the Rings and subsequent motion capture performances illustrates perfectly to me that you are one of the paramount physical performers working in motion pictures.

It’s interesting to note how difficult it is to characterize what exactly you do for movies. It’s a hybrid between visual effects and acting, and unfortunately the current framework for recognizing achievements doesn’t quite know what to do with your work. It’s ironic really, considering that these characters that you generate perfectly encapsulate the collaborative nature of film production. I credit you with so much regarding these characters, and yet it would be remiss of me to fail to mention the visual effects artists on the other end of the production pipeline who are responsible for translating the data of your performance into a visual that fits into the story world. But I think you recognize this. Perhaps it was part of the impetus in the creation of The Imaginarium? Performance capture is a new reality of filmmaking that should be harnessed and embraced. I deeply admire your commitment to ensuring that the art form receives its due and that you are committed to teaching new generations about the technology. It’s important to be on the vanguard of these things, and you, sir, most certainly are.

When I went to see The Hobbit this past Christmas I was really excited to see that you were able to direct the second unit. Your background in motion capture will provide you with a unique and compelling perspective on filmmaking, especially regarding visual effects-heavy films. I look forward to studying your approach to computer generated realism, and am anxious to see how, under your guidance, the art of the motion picture continues to evolve.


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