Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump and The Matrix series. George Murphy has some groundbreaking Hollywood films on his resume – and an Oscar to boot. In his new role as CCO of Reliance MediaWorks (RMW), Murphy hits ‘rewind’ and ‘fast-forward’ while talking about the US and Indian VFX industries.
How did you come on board with Reliance as CCO?
I had wrapped up a few of my projects in LA and was looking for new opportunities to explore. In the VFX industry, you don’t know which country you are going to end up in because this is one of the most globalised industries in the world. You may be sitting in an office in the US but might end up networking with companies across the globe. That’s how I was introduced to Naresh (Malik of RMW). He told me of their desire to expand in the field of VFX beyond what they were already doing.
I had seen their name being printed on Hollywood digital work and, after some research, I realised they had the right pieces in diverse components that they could bring to the table and do something very unique vis-a-vis other companies.
As CCO, what key goals have you set for the company?
It’s a two-fold thing. One, visual effects is a very artistic and creative medium and there is a whole technical and business functionality that has to be there to make the whole purpose succeed. So I am looking at collaborating with the two aspects and creating a vision of where we would want to push the industry on top of what Reliance has already established.
Also, Hollywood is ground zero for the VFX in films. So being able to build a credible capability within the VFX community so that we can serve projects at any level. My aim is to build that capability in measured steps so that we can bring together additional creative expertise and how that interfaces with the rest of the community. The US and India can become cross-pollinating in that area.
In Reliance, I want to make sure that there is synergy between Reliance (RMW) in India and the team in LA. In India, there is a lot of change, not only in terms of budgets but also creativity. So I am looking forward to raising the standard.
During my research, I realised that there is a lot of VFX work being done in the Indian film industry. So my focus would be on how to bring in more quality work and to solve visual effects problems that this industry faces.
What is your assessment of the Indian VFX industry?
I am a novice in that arena, at this point. But the real question is, how we can contribute to that growth? It’s very parallel to the small, independent filmmakers in the US doing films, and they have very constraining budgets but they are starting to take advantage of VFX because the things that you can pull off with VFX you couldn’t do unless you had a big budget movie. Now, smaller filmmakers can use VFX which is much more economical and can afford to shoot guerilla-style. When you have a small budget but want to reach the same big audience, you can bring the same solutions that VFX provides. We are seeing a similar trend in the Indian market. If we start applying the same solutions here, there will be more opportunities to explore even in the Indian market.
Because we have such a diverse capability in our company. We can take the help of a diversified talent force, where the overheads may be a little lower. As far as the skills are also concerned, there are many things filmmakers are not aware of in the VFX market. So we collaborate with our facilities abroad and spread the costs in a way that another company couldn’t.
Nowadays, on TV and in small films, you see a lot more VFX that you even realise. Sometimes, something that can be done by a 50-member team can be reduced to the work of a 5-member team with the help of VFX. And so costs are obviously lowered.
Will you also be supervising the VFX for the Hindi and regional slate under Reliance Entertainment?
I will definitely be involved in that, I will be putting together supervisors and creative teams on any side of the plane. I will be focused intermittently on certain projects more than others that I will be directly responsible for. So, the short answer is, yes and no.
Tell us about your experience on Jurassic Park.
Jurassic Park came in at a time when digital was just making its foray into films. It wasn’t even a cheaper solution back then. At that time, we were doing traditional film optical, which meant that to put together elements in the scene, we were actually mounting them on layers on film and then combining them and that wasn’t happening entirely digitally. In fact, even the computer-generated images were being first put out in a film process. And we were just beginning to do that on the computer where, first the artists would work on it manually and then put them on the computer.
On Forrest Gump:
What I liked best about the movie was that it wasn’t a VFX movie. It’s very satisfying to do a movie which is all about the story and that is what was great about that film. But the harder thing there is that with such a film, you have to make sure the VFX doesn’t get in the way of the storytelling. It has to be in the background. And when we were making the film we weren’t even sure if people would understand what we had actually done on that film.
We had to stabilise old film footage and shoot Tom Hanks in a certain way and have him interact in a certain way and change the way certain words were coming out of the President’s mouth, which got very controversial!
On The Matrix Series:
The Wachowski Brothers were the originators of that idea and there was a strong creative chain that started it. I got involved to solve a specific piece of the entire battle sequence underground. We had a combination of CG solutions. We built miniatures for that and called them bigatures actually because those models were 20 ft high! So like all VFX, which is a collaborative process, that film too was teamwork.