The great motion capture Oscar debate

Posted by David Konow

As Oscar season approaches, Warner Brothers has been pushing for a big Harry Potter win


Yet, there's been talk since the summer about Andy Serkis potentially being the first motion capture actor who could be up for - and potentially win - an Academy Award. 

The motion capture Oscar debateWith the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as Steven Spielberg's motion capture adventure Tin Tin, talk of Serkis breaking the motion capture ceiling has intensified as of late.

As Serkis himself often says, doing motion capture is no different than any other kind of acting, but as Variety notes, "The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers doesn't recognize such work as  being covered by the guild's master contract. That means employers get to call the shots regarding the terms and conditions for [actors] who do performance-capture work, something  classifying it as lower-paying background work."

Yet James Cameron also told Variety motion capture is not "a red-headed stepchild," and that "it's great for actors, because you have the undivided  attention of the director. And I wanted to shake the perception that it's not really acting." 

And as James Franco told the Daily Beast regarding Serkis's Apes performance, "Andy has broken new ground in acting. The digital aspect of his character is just a necessary shell that goes on top of a masterful performance. If there is any justice, he'll win the Oscar. No one has yet given a performance like his, ever."

And as Steven Spielberg explained to the L.A. Times about the motion capture technology that made the entire film, "Technology is merely a tool... if your movie's working and if you're telling your story properly, you can get the audience involved and they forget and don't even care what medium you've chose to tell the story. To me the medium is not the message, the characters and the narrative are."

Interestingly enough, as Serkis recalled to The Daily Beast, the role that changed his life, Gollum in Lord of the Rings, was pitched to him as "a voice for an animated character. It's about three weeks work," and Serkis replied, "God, there must be over a dozen characters in Lord of the Rings. Can't you get me something proper?"