From Wrangling Digital Animals To Overseeing Future Colony Designs

Cannes Film Festival

Columbia Pictures

Jenny Fulle excels at taking complicated visual effects jobs and making them as carefree as a visit to a playground.

"It’s my job to keep the sand in the sandbox," said Fulle.

An accomplished visual effects producer, Fulle and her company The Creative-Cartel. carefully account for every grain of "sand" – that is, every visual effect created for a feature film. The most recent sandbox her company oversaw was M. Night Shyamalan’s "After Earth."

Fulle was approached about the project by executive producer E. Bennett Walsh. Having collaborated with Walsh on the "Ghost Rider" franchise, she enthusiastically agreed to join the project. "After Earth" also reconnected her to Will Smith, whom she worked with on "Hancock," "I Am Legend," "Bad Boys," and "Men in Black II."

"He’s a dedicated actor who really gets involved in all aspects of the production," said Fulle. "He was a producer on this film, and he’s just a joy to work with."

Fulle also looked forward to the opportunity to work with Shyamalan. Always concious of her approach with a director she’s not worked with before, Fulle found him to be "charming, engaging and funny with a clear vision of where he wants to be." After reading the script, Fulle broke down all the visual effects into categories, including environments and creatures, and made pitches for companies she knew excelled at specific applications and diciplines. Ultimately, ten visual effects houses were contracted, along with a handful of individual effects artists, to complete the workload.

A great deal of the visual effects in "After Earth" were centered around the evolution of animals over thousands of years, as well as every aspect of creating an advanced human civilization. While the visual effects technology used for these creations was fairly standard, the challenge Fulle and her team grappled with was the massive bulk of digital assets being delivered by the assorted visual effects companies and collaborators as efficiently as possible.

Joust, a software created by Fulle and her team at The Creative-Cartel, was utilized to manage all the digital media coming in from all outside sources, both VFX as well as other standard items, such as previs storyboards and shot lists. Initiated on ;last year’s teddy bear and grown man buddy pic "Ted," the software stores material within four categories: on set tools, editorial tools, post tools and a viewer. The onset tools role includes gathering all material from set, such as camera and script supervisor notes, and provides a simple interface for the digital lab to import ALEs. The editorial tools allows for the uploading of EDLs for plate transcoding, marking circle takes for dailies, and prepare for final conform, amongst other detailed elements. The post tool provides a simple interface for vendor packaging, water marking for media and secure file transfers. The viewer provides a streamlined viewing platform for all media, including on set dailies and VFX review submissions.

Fulle attributes the creation of Joust to the unique quality of her company at The Creative-Cartel. Many visual effects production teams disband at the end of a shoot, however The Creative-Cartel has an intact team at its core. They began to realize they had created tools that aided in the efficiency of data management. Although Joust was designed as an in-house tool, Fulle recognized the potential the software had on a wider scale.

"We’re all traveling on the digital superhighway. Technology has come so far, but our pipelines haven’t been keeping up," said Fulle. "Joust was created internally to help with the efficiency on ‘Ted,’ It wasn’t intended to be brought to market, but it became easy for me to envision how any visual effects show could benefit from it."

This new pipeline development not only saves time, taking something that normally would require a week for completion and completing it in a day, but also has the potential to help a production save thousands of dollars, or, more importantly, getting a bigger bang out of any budget.

"It’s not about saving money," said Fulle. "It’s taking the budget and figuring out how to maximize it. It’s finding ways to make a $100,000 budget look like $150,000."