John Gaeta on film, no shtick

John_gaeta_01Photo: Geoff Oliver Bugbee,

Ethan Zuckerman has also blogged this session.

Working on movies can inhibit knowing what is happening in the outside world, John Gaeta begins. He expresses happiness with the focus of IF. "It's important to have free discussions." Society can determine what it wants.

John Gaeta is soft spoken. He doesn't, as he says, "have a shtick" and invites questions at any time on any topic.

He wonders what "focus" movies now have. He's benefited a great deal from technological developments. He credits New York City as much as any education for shaping his creative views.

He describes his history prior to the Matrix, intertwining it with the technological developments. The old stop motion animators "are completely mad individuals."

He discusses at length a bit about the differences between what could be imagined computatively and the need for a physical acquaintance with materials.

What he finds most fascinating now: the audience is becoming supersaturated with "glitter." they know that anything can be created. It contributes to "a lack of astonishment."

That's a good thing. The story becomes more important.

And for young people, the new frontier is "interactive entertainment." What will be the Citizen Kane of this new genre? People don't see the intellectual might and power of games yest. The industry is like television in the 1950's. It's building its tools. It will have enormous influence over the next 30 years.

He says that Peter Jackson has announced that he will turn his attention to a new medium between "game and film." 

Question and Answer:

1. Why is "soul" so important now? In the last five years or so, filmmakers have oversimplified the possibilities of virtual humans. He asks, can actors will be replaced? It's a misguided question because digital characters must translate emotion. It's difficult as it is now for that to happen. Only a handful of actors can reach us like that now.

An Anthony Hopkins digital character can only be played by Anthony Hopkins.

2. Are the days of physical models going away?

If it happens, maybe realism will make a come back. It would be really good for humans to have competition from virtual humans because the soulful side of the real humans can be appreciated.

3. [question garbled, but it's about the future of the industry, I believe] The visual affects industry has found itself in a first: being able to accomplish nearly anything. It's more of a business today. People who might be attracted to it are asking themselves where they can go. Gaming offers possibilities. But that industry doesn't have the same objectives. It's much more interactive, for example. Using real time simulation to product unforeseen content is a possibility. He asks rhetorically, can one have a narrative experience in a game without distracting from the play? Of course. Photo realism in games is perhaps 5 years away. Cinematography will go different places when its allowed to depart from a script. Perhaps narratively the viewer will be able to enter the scene and discover more about a protagonist - for example, by going viewing his or her personal effects.

4. How does he allocate his time? What are his decision points? Now, it's the convergence of gaming and story. He's looking the creative destination. He believes that destination will also make the most business sense.

"Story tellers want to talk about the universe. Gamers want to know how the universe is built."

5. Could you offer more details about how this new medium would function, would work? He has no hard and fast rules, but games are superb at infinite possibilities. He's skeptical that a sort of multi-branching, never ending production is possible or desirable. A film's source of power comes from the creator. He still believes, though, that the "perfect sculpture" can happen whereby the audience can take some control.

6. What's he think about the ability of all to create content? He suggests the first airing on a full screen has the asked for impact; it's emotional. Other screens offer the versatility for added viewing.

The social dimension also offers possibilities for experimentation. He likes theaters that offer food and drink.

7. How can a student break into the middle, the converged industry he talked about? Technology is one avenue. He mentions simulations.

8. Is there money chasing a new format and a new audience. "Yeah, I totally do." Hollywood would like to find the solutions or co-opt them. It has, however, realized that it can outsource some of the work. The game industry, conversely, is a bit like the old studio system in Hollywood. When it realizes that production can be outsourced, something big may happen.