Jeff Kleiser is a name you may not instantly connect with. But in the coming few months, one could be sure that every Bollywood lover will instantly recall this name when the Shahrukh Khan starrer Ra.One hits the silver screen. Reason? Well, Jeff is the VFX supervisor for this most talked about VFX heavy flick and also the CEO and Co-founder of US based Synthesian Studios.
On his recent India visit, we caught up with this VFX stalwart who is closely working with Ra.One VFX India team (Red Chillies.VFX) and is in the process of executing some rare VFX shots for the flick. Jeff Kleiser's pioneering work in computer animation has spanned the history of the medium. He has contributed to films with groundbreaking visual effects including Tron, Stargate, Judge Dredd, Clear And Present Danger, Mortal Kombat Annihilation and X-Men to name a few.
In a quick Q n A with us, Jeff shared tit-bits about Ra.One, Indian studios, their work culture and the industry.
Can you please tell us more about your background and credits...
Apart from working on several Hollywood 'VFX heavy' flicks, I have served as senior visual effects supervisor on The One - a film starring martial arts master Jet Li, which required the development of innovative digital face replacement techniques. More recently, I also supervised visual effects for Son of the Mask, Fantastic Four, Scary Movie 4, and most recently, Surrogates. In addition to supervising visual effects projects, I have also directed numerous commercials.
With partner Diana Walczak, I have directed CG-animated stereoscopic films for projects such as The Thea and EDDY Award-winning Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Thrill Ride (for Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida); the Philip Glass/Robert Wilson digital opera, Monsters of Grace, Santa Lights Up New York for The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and Corkscrew Hill an original ride attraction written by Walczak and myself for Busch Entertainment.
Besides all this, I am also a founder and trustee of the Williamstown Film Festival and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In addition to that, I also teach computer animation at Williams College.
How did your association happen with Red Chillies VFX and Shahrukh Khan?
My good friend Shelley Page, Head of recruiting for DreamWorks, recommended me based on our Mystique transformations on the X-Men films, which is somewhat similar to effects needed for Ra.One
Ra.One is talked about for its VFX extravaganza these days. How are you going to make sure that it is going to live up to the audience expectations?
We are employing new software technology and developing custom tools to create the effects. We have lined up an extreme computing solution so that we can execute novel VFX for the show.
You have been in India for a while now, how do you define the work culture here?
I have enjoyed India immensely. From a live action photography standpoint, it is a very different work culture in that there is much less pre-planning than I am used to, and there is a reluctance to make decisions and expedite strategies quickly that has been frustrating.
If we talk about the creativity, where do you put India on the global VFX's scale?
I have been seeing more and more interesting work done in the animation schools in India, but I would have to rank them substantially below the US and European efforts.
As India is getting prominent on the global map, what kind of feedback are you getting from colleagues in Hollywood?
Hollywood is waking up to India as a global player, and more US talent has been visiting India and working with Indian funding sources. I expect this trend to accelerate as more Indian films break through to the West, with Ra.One hopefully leading the charge.
How does technology fare in India?
Technology is becoming readily available globally, so there is little problem obtaining what is needed. India is behind in many areas of filmmaking technology, but many new companies and investors will change that quickly.
I am looking forward to coming back to India to wrap up Ra.One post production and have been talking with local producers about upcoming projects, in which we would like to become involved.