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Report of the Iranian Motion Picture Delegation at the LA-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - Day 8

Report of the Iranian Motion Picture Delegation at the LA-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - Day 8

The 8th day of the Iranian filmmakers’ visit to Los Angeles was spent at the Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Vice President of Communication and Marketing at Sony Pictures Digital welcomed the Iranian delegation, while proudly and excitedly informing them that their latest animation, “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs” had passed the 100 million USD at the box office last night. Leading the guests to the animation production facility, he explained that 650 artists and staff work at this building. First the cartoon characters are designed, then they will look for the perfect voice among the recognized movie actors, and after the voice is found the face of the character might be a little altered to better match the selected voice actor. He demonstrated a board showing the designs of characters before and after choosing the matching voice actor to confirm his explanations. 
He continued: “The initial process begins with the creation of animated characters in a storyboard and then the characters are converted into 3D images. During the storyboard stage, the character’s facial mimics for specific actions and emotions will be simulated (sadness, happiness, surprise and reflection), and then the camera angle will be selected in the 3D program.”
Afterwards, a test screening of the popular animation Spiderman was demonstrated for the visitors, along with the storyboard and 3D animation.
He also explained that the 3D models of many famous buildings and places are available in the Google 3D modeling software, and they can easily use these models for their animations without any cost. Answering Reza Mir-Karimi’s question, he said it usually takes 12-16 months to make the storyboard for a 90 minute film, and the directors and art directors work side by side with the animators from the very beginning. The guests were then led to a screening room to see a few samples of works which have not yet reached the production stage. 
VP of Communication and Marketing at Sony Pictures Digital also said: “The audiences of today are much more sophisticated and they recognize the difference between reality and special effects. We all know that going to the movies is a more advanced behavior than watching TV. There is a new generation of young filmmakers who are active in both. They see video, cinema and computer games as an integrated concept, and so the progress of the art-industry of animation will become much more accelerated.”
Sony Pictures computer center was in a 300 meter hall filled with a variety of racks. VP of Communication and Marketing mentioned: “We are trying to add the real cinema’s camera jolts to the 3D animation so that the product will be even more believable.”
A young man named Tony then joined the Iranian delegation as their guide for the rest of the Sony Pictures tour. He explained that Sony Pictures is the oldest American studio, and the building was originally the MGM headquarters before Columbia Pictures bought it. He added that he had also taken Majid Majidi on a tour of the company early this year. According to Tony, of the total 25 stages at Sony Pictures, 20 are actively engaged in production throughout the year. He added: “Our stages are made entirely of wood, without using any iron or cement that would reflect the sound.”
Iranian moviemakers visited four large stages with an average height of 12 m and area of 5000 sqm each. In one of these average sized stages, the construction of an opera hall was almost finished. Tony said it had taken more than 60 days to build this stage, and the overall shooting here will take no longer than 6 days. After the production of one film is wrapped up, the whole stage will be demolished to protect the writer’s right. 
The Iranian delegation was then led to visit North America’s largest stage at 14,000 sqm area and 34 m height. At this huge studio, the construction team was busy creating a setting of mountains, rocks and caves. According to the tour guide, a film based on a Japanese vampire comic strip was in production at this stage. He also explained that there is 10000 cubic meter of water underneath this stage to be used for nautical and underwater scenes.
Next on the tour for the Iranian filmmakers was the Post Production Facilities. Tony explained that in addition to producing movies and animated films, Sony Pictures also makes TV series and computer games, and rents out the stages and film accessories. One of the facilities here was a large hall for performing live music, with stage capacity for 85 musicians. Mr. Howard London, director of the music studio and an Academy member, said: “Two thirds of our services are rendered to other companies and studios, and that’s because we have modern technologies and experienced professionals, and also because the company welcomes the great artists, and these are all factors that have helped us become a more active service-provider.”
There was a bunch of 50 dollar bills on the large music editing table; Mohammad Mehdi Asgarpour jokingly asked if they demand cash for larger projects. London answered: “There is a superstition among producers which says if they tip during the last stages of music recording for their film, their film will sell. They all tip and we donate it all to charities. One of our colleagues recently passed away and we made a gift of the past four months’ tips to his son.” He further explained: “We use the internet to record sound and dialogs. There have been several occasions when an actor in another state sent us the audio material we needed for the production through the internet.” Alireza Raisian asked him what percentage of the films return to the studio to retape the dialogs, and London answered, almost all; usually 30-40 percent of dialogs are retaped.
Mir-Karimi asked London if he sees sound editing as an art or a technology, and he answered: “Technology allows us to bring back to life the lost emotions of an actor, and this of course requires a certain degree of taste, experience and inner discovery. So, I think it is both an art and a technology.”
After leaving the music studio, the Iranian delegation was taken to a screening room where the final touches were being applied to the latest Sony Pictures production. The Iranian filmmakers were asked not to divulge any information about the scenes of this film.
The visit to Sony Pictures Entertainment wrapped up at 4:00 pm.
Beginning at 7:30 pm, the two films “Gilaneh” and “7:05” were screened at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater, first one in the attendance of Rakhshan Bani Etemad, and the second of Mohammad Mehdi Asgarpour, Reza Kianian and Farhad Tohidi. Academy member Alfre Woodard was the moderator of the Q&A session before “Gilaneh” was screened. She praise Fatemeh Motamed Arya’s performance as the title character of the film, and compared her to Meryl Streep. Rakhshan Bani Etemad expressed her disappointment over the confiscation of Motamed Arya’s passport which stopped her from joining them in this session, and answered some questions about the film.
Asked about her take on the future of Iranian filmmakers, Bani Etemad said: “I believe the future of filmmaking in Iran will be more brilliant than ever, and that’s because of the wisdom and sound understanding of the younger generation of filmmakers.”
After the screening of “7:05”, Messrs. Farhad Tohidi, Mohammad Mehdi Asgarpour and Reza Kianian answered a series of questions on the reasons behind writing the screenplay, making the movie in France and the experience of casting French actors in an Iranian movie.
The session concluded at 11:45 pm.




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