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9: Interviews with Shane Acker and Elijah Wood

September 8, 2009 2:42 p.m.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando interview Shane Acker and Elijah Wood at Comic-Con 2009 about the new animated feature "9."

Related Story: 9: Interviews with Shane Acker and Elijah Wood

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

KPBS FM Radio Film Review: 9 and Interviews with Shane Acker and Elijah Wood
By Beth Accomando
Air date: September 9, 2009

HOST INTRO:
It's not often that a film finds a perfect date for its release. But the animated feature "9" opens today, which is 9-9-09. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando talked with the director about the feature and the short film that engendered it.

NINE(ba).wav SOQ 3:51

(Tag:) "9" opens today (Wednesday September 9) throughout San Diego. You can watch a video of Beth's interviews at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G-slash-cinema-junkie.

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KPBS film critic Beth Accomando talks with actor Elijah Wood about playing a character in an animated film.
ELIJAH WOOD: It¹s a lot of fun and it becomes very singularly about creating that character through voice. (:08)
Be listening for Beth¹s feature about the making of 9. That¹s coming up later on Morning Edition.

Four years ago Shane Acker appeared at Comic-Con with a short animated film but this past July he came with a Hollywood feature.

SHANE ACKER: Well it was great because I was never able to get into Hall H so the first time I was able to get in I was presenting something. So it was pretty fun.

The film he brought was "9" and it packed the 6000-plus venue at Comic-Con. Back in 2005 Acker brought his UCLA short film of the same name to Comic-Con and walked away with an award for best animated film.

SHANE ACKER: I was able to make the short film on my own in my spare bedroom the technology had come down to a level where independent artists and filmmakers could use it you don't need the whole infrastructure of a studio to produce your own short film. Everything is at your disposal if you just have the energy and enthusiasm to stick with it for four-and-a-half-years.

Acker not only stuck with it but managed to impress filmmakers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov. They then signed on to produce a feature length version of his short. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic future and the title "9" refers to a nine inch tall hand sewn character who discovers he's not alone in this desolate landscape.

CLIP "Wait I'm a friend…"

Acker describes the look of the film as painterly in a kind of old school romantic style.

SHANE ACKER: … it's an interesting world and space that we enter, and even though it's post-apocalyptic, but we're really trying to find the beauty in this kind of landscape, and we're exploring the world from a completely different perspective, we're nine inches off the ground and we're experiencing the world through these creatures and inhabit spaces that we don't or can't. It's not the ruins of our world it's the ruins of this retro futuristic world that's very steam punk in nature. So it's as if a steam punk world collapsed.

Bringing an animated world to life involves directing the film once with the voice actors and again with the animators. Acker says the process is a highly collaborative one.

SHANE ACKER: So it will go from script then usually we will get some scratch voice actors to come in and do a dry run on the performance of the characters then the storyboard artists have their take on the characters and their personalities and then we'll go and record the actual actors who will have a different take on the personality and then we'll take all that raw material to the animators.

The animators also look to the actors says Elijah Wood who voices the character of 9.

ELIJAH WOOD: When we were in the studio recording and this is true of all the actors we were filmed for reference and they use our face and facial expressions as help for them to inform on how they would animate.

Wood has plenty of experience with blue screen acting from "Sin City" and "Lord of the Rings." But he enjoys going to a recording studio to voice a character.

ELIJAH WOOD: It's a lot of fun and it becomes very singularly about creating that character through voice. I think the process is very interesting. You are kind of unhindered about the physical and you don't have to worry about all of those exterior elements you are only worried about how to emote and bring the character to life vocally and how to do that physically in that space because that certainly helps especially if it's an action sequence you find yourself having to move to imbue the voice with a sense of movement.

CLIPS action scene

"9" delivers a visually stunning animation but what may be most surprising is that Acker's student film looks almost as good as the Hollywood feature. Technology has come a long way but some things never change. At Comic-Con, Acker found himself offering advice to struggling student filmmakers.

SHANE ACKER: Keep pushing it forward, people will respond to the enthusiasm and the momentum you create and they will see when someone's really poured their heart into something.

CLIP: 9, you shall protect the future.

For KPBS, I'm Beth Accomando