Quick Hits: Lisa Joy, Genre Storytelling, Inspiration and the VFX of Westworld!

Building the hosts in HBO's Westworld

The soaring popularity and critical acclaim of the fantasy series Game of Thrones has ushered in a new era of award-winning genre television. In an interview with Variety, Westworld showrunner Lisa Joy explains that fantasy and science fiction require huge budgets to match the expansiveness of their stories. Now – thanks to the success of shows like Thrones – they are finally getting them.

“In genre, it’s actually a very ambitious landscape these types of movies and shows deal in because you’re creating worlds,” Joy says. “It’s not a small office drama or a procedural. You’re literally creating universes and times and places. That demands an ambition and scope to the production that previously people weren’t given.”

It’s not enough to have excellent production values, however, as plot and character are the main driving factors of any good story. “I think [Westworld] is resonant on a level that is, of course rooted in the genre, but I think is really relevant to a lot of people. All literature, TV and drama are basically cribbing off of mythology — these epic stories of man against the gods, [where] here our man just happens to be a robot, and the gods are humans, but the idea is the same,” Joy admits. “It’s ‘How do you survive in a world that is sometimes hostile and often unfair? And how do you do that with your moral code intact?’ I think the timelessness of those questions is what appeals.”

Check out the full story at Variety.

Paul Cameron_1

In another Variety article, Joy and fellow showrunner/husband Jonathan Nolan discuss how they draw inspiration for Westworld from a variety of artistic mediums: including photography, traditional art, crafts, and even poetry. “Other people’s artwork has a reciprocal effect on ours,” Joy explains. “Our show is inspired by art, and then we see the fan art that’s out there that has been made for the show, and that takes it to the next level. It’s wonderful being a part of this chain of creative influence.”

Nolan shares how art helped them craft the visual appeal of Westworld. “We did this road trip across the west when we were at the outlining stage for the pilot…In part of that trip we went to Santa Fe and found a couple of original prints from Edward Curtis.” He continues, “The pictures are timeless. They capture a moment before you feel the end of the west, if you will. The pictures here were very inspirational for us and the show in terms of the look and feel.”

Joy looked to poetry for inspiration for Dr. Robert Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) character. “Dr. Ford’s character is so poetic and so versed and educated in literature and culture. Because of the way he speaks, I found it inspiring to read poetry and think about those poems – because he would have read those poems and been inspired by them,” she says.

For more on the artistic influences that helped craft Westworld, head over to Variety.

Dolores Creation on Westworld

Finally, the LA Times brings us an interview with VFX supervisor Jay Worth, who dishes on the complex yet subtle way visual effects enhanced Westworld. . “As a rule, visual effects are the flavor not the dish,” Worth admits. “When it’s not possible in the natural world, that’s when we step in.” One of the most interesting and impactful moments was the “birth” of Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood). “It needed to be robotic but elegant in a beautiful, realistic way,” he explains.

Although the actors who portrayed hosts drew on their immense talent to make the performances as accurate as possible, visual effects were used to add another layer of realism. For example, frames would be removed or “jerking, mechanical-like motions” would be added in instances like a host breaking down. “Our actors were incredible at embodying the role, the only time we changed something was story-dependent,” Worth says. “Sometimes we would take the smallest bit of sheen off their eyes so they would look less human.”

Read the rest at the LA Times.

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