Tippett Studio Earns Emmy Nom for Hemingway

Tippett Returns To Emmy Noms' Field

LOS ANGELES, July 26, 2012, Robert Goldrich

This year, artists at the Berkeley, Calif.-based studio earned a nod in the Outstanding Visual Effects in a Supporting Role category on the basis of its work for Hemingway & Gellhorn (HBO). This marks Tippett’s first Emmy nomination inVFX since 1986 when it won for Ewoks: Battle for Endor. Tippett also won an Emmy in ’85 for Dinosaur.

Chris Morley, visual effects supervisor at Tippett and on “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” said of the Emmy nomination, “It’s exciting to be recognized. But after two year on this project, I really don’t think too much about awards. It’s definitely a bonus to receive such an honor yet for me it’s more about the creative and problem solving process. I love the craft.”

Morley also likes the new Emmy categories forVFX. Of the Supporting Role designation, he observed, “There are many invisible effects out there as opposed to spectacular effects that everyone can clearly identify as effects—creatures, dragons, space travel. To recognize both supporting and leading visual effects with their own categories is wonderful. Visual effects are being used so much nowadays to help tell stories and they often go unnoticed. Actually being unnoticed in the show is the goal—that’s a craft in and of itself.”

Among the examples of the invisible effects in Hemingway & Gellhorn, Morley cited adding palm trees to Bay Area settings to make the locales look more like Cuba, and a shot in which Martha Gellhorn (played by Nicole Kidman) gets out of a car and walks into Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba. That scene was lensed in three separate locations—(stairs and foreground) at a Catholic school in Northern California’s Marin County, on a set (doorway) built on Treasure Island in the Bay Area, and an image (of the home’s facade) captured by Morley in Cuba. Tippett put all these elements together in a matte painting.

There are more visible visual effects in Hemingway & Gellhorn as well. “One of the first challenges was bringing director Philip Kaufman up to speed as to what can be done utilizing visual effects. He has been at the forefront of thinking outside the box. He used a lot of stock footage in The Right Stuff for example—and then in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, where there was stock footage coupled with shooting reverse angles. Walter Murch cut that work together seamlessly. For Hemingway & Gellhorn, we worked on a third angle, placing actors inside the footage. We experimented a year before principal photography, looking at archival footage, picking plates, going out as a small rag-tag team and shooting all these tests. We had a locations manager stand in for Hemingway, an archival footage lady stand in for Gellhorn. We did some composites and showed Phil, opening up a new creative world of possibilities for him—which at the same time we had to reign in because of the fairly modest budget being in TV and not feature films. We all had to think creatively.”

Morley also cited the efforts of Tippett matchmove supervisor Chris Paizis who used computerized cameras to line up angles of the archival footage and then match those angles on set to have “perfect perspective.” This and other creative applications helped to put, said Morley, “the suspension of disbelief into play…You see Clive Owen [as Hemingway] and Nicole Kidman with FDR, and through a suspension of disbelief, the audience finds the scene clever, fun and charming.”