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88th Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: Visual Effects

CATEGORY: Visual Effects
SPEECH BY: Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett



Q. Well, congratulations everybody, especially given the MAD MAX tide.  This may have made or have you feel like something of a surprise even more surprising on this night.  So talk about the work, especially with so many different kinds of nominees in this category:  Bears, robots, space operas.  It's quite a varied field, and you guys prevailed.  So talk about how you got here.  

A. (Andrew Whitehurst)  I suppose the thing that's maybe different about EX MACHINA is that it's pretty rare in visual effects to be asked to do something subtle and delicate.  And that was something that ‑‑ that was the brief that Alex Garland gave us, and it was a complete pleasure to run with that.  So maybe that was the thing that we had that was different.  We were ‑‑ we were less rather than more. 


Q. EX MACHINA was one of my favorite films of the year.  And it wasn't being talked about, and then suddenly it got rediscovered.  Did you all notice that process where it's something they found it again, you know, how was that for you when you began to see this kind of appreciation for it, et cetera, et cetera? 

A. (Paul Norris)  Yeah.  I think one of the things that we realized it was getting a lot more attention once we'd been nominated with the BAFTAs as well as the Oscars.  And I think particularly with our colleague here, Sara, who's one of the first ‑‑ 23 years since ‑‑

A. (Mark Ardington)  First female nominee in 23 years.  

A. (Paul Norris)  Exactly.  And now the first winner in 23 years.  So, yeah, it was quite quiet for a while.  And we loved working on the film and we never expected this kind of attention or these kind of accolades.  And I think that, you know, it's ‑‑ yeah, it's just amazing.  Just amazing. 

A. (Mark Ardington)  I'd just like to say that amongst our peers, they did recognize that what we were doing was something very different and then all of a sudden that did grow and become a general public thing, but we never thought it would end somewhere ‑‑ well, continue to somewhere like this. 


Q. Hi.  You were up against films that had budgets that were at least seven times as much as yours.  Can you talk about your fears against going up against such big hitters and just how you created an incredible world for such an economical amount?

A. (Mark Ardington)  You're the budget manager.  

A. (Andrew Whitehurst)  You make me sound like I'm an accountant. 

So I don't think any of us actually felt that there was an issue in looking at the budgets between the films, because looking at all of the nominees this year, they're all such different movies.  You've got sort of an existential western, you've got us, you've got that kind of pop art, feminist action road movie.  It's an amazing range of films this year, and I think to me that was the most exciting aspect of being one of the nominees is just looking at the range of different kinds of movies this year.  So I don't think we felt any kind of pressure particularly, but it was ‑‑ I'm not going to lie, I mean, it's an astonishing feeling thinking that actually we were the ones who ended up winning it. 


Q. What do you think the visual effects can do to hire and retain more women and people of color? 

A. (Andrew Whitehurst)  Here you go.  Come on, Sara. 

A. (Sara Bennett)  I'm lucky enough I was a co‑founder of the company in London called Milk Visual Effects.  So as a manager it makes it easy for me I guess because ‑‑ no, it's not easy.  Let's say two people come knocking, a man and woman come for the same job, they had about the same talent, I'd pick the female and get more women in basically, just so it will make the ratio more even.  But I've been doing it for 17 years.  There's a lot of women, a lot of brilliant women doing what I do in our industry.  It just so happens you get picked, if you're nominated for an Oscar or a BAFTA, but there's a lot of women doing it already.  So we just need more, I guess.  


Q. Congratulations.  My question is also for Sara.  What would you recommend and what advice can you give to young girls who are trying to elbow their way into the technical world? 

A. (Sara Bennett)  I think it's about personality, and I'm confident that there is a lot of men in our industry and they're probably are ‑‑ they may be more vocal than we are but I think you have kind of self‑belief and confidence, and for me I've always been looked up to in my ‑‑ what I do, and I just think you need to ‑‑ you need to have the personality and the confidence and the kind of you‑really‑want‑to‑do‑it because it's really unsociable, it's long hours; it's fun, but it's hard work basically so, yeah. 



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