A couple of our readers have been getting shirty with us over the inclusion of Peter Jackson’s latest “Hobbit” chapter in our Oscar contenders galleries, and it’s true that nobody is expecting anyone but the below-the-line artists of “The Desolation of Smaug” to feature much in the awards race. But here’s at least one gong the Oscar-winning New Zealander will be taking home this season: the Vanguard Award from the Producers’ Guild of America.
Together with pioneering visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri and their company Weta Digital, Jackson will accept the award in recognition of their technical advancement of the medium. The Vanguard Award, which acknowledges achievements in new media and technology, has previously been presented to such figures of George Lucas, John Lasseter, James Cameron and Stan Lee.
Guild chairs Lori McCreary and Michael De Luca say, “Peter Jackson and Joe Letteri have created some of the most epic visionary fantasies in the history of filmmaking. Through the development of groundbreaking technology and software, Weta Digital has redefined the possibilities for producers to create living, breathing worlds to house even their most fantastic stories. We are proud to present Peter Jackson, Joe Letteri and Weta Digital with the 2014 Vanguard Award for their continued determination to break new imaginative ground for our industry.”
Hard to argue with that gushing, even if you’re not a particular enthusiast of their films. I loathe term “game-changing,” but across such films as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Avatar,” “I, Robot” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” among many others, Weta have genuinely realized imagery that would have been impossible even a few years ago. Letteri, who became a director of the company in 2007, has won four Oscars for Best Visual Effects, for the last two “Rings” films, “King Kong” and “Avatar,” as well as a special Technical Achievement Award from the Academy in 2004.
This will be Jackson’s third award from the PGA: he won their Outstanding Producer award in 2003 for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and added a win in the animation category last year for “The Adventures of Tintin.” “We are truly honoured to receive the Vanguard Award and to be recognized by the Producers Guild,” he says. “Visual effects are a great tool to inspire the audience”s imagination and encourage them to take that extra step into the story.”
The award will be presented at the PGA ceremony on January 19.