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Seth MacFarlane didn’t mean to interject “Family Guy” into the Kevin Spacey sexual harassment scandal, but the show has been lauded since then for its predictions when it comes to disgraced Hollywood stars. Nonetheless, the executive producer said he thinks the show’s role in anticipating such scandals has been overblown.
“I think the myth that ‘Family Guy’ is this Kreskin-like prognosticator of this kind of stuff is a little sensationalized,” MacFarlane said during Fox’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour. “I remember, when [the joke] was pitched, that rumor was that was a rumor that I actually had not heard, and other people in the writers’ room had. And it had to be sort of explained to me, ‘Oh, there’s this rumor that’s going around.'”
“Family Guy” joked about Spacey in a 2005 episode in which baby Stewie is seen running through a crowded department store naked, yelling, ‘Help! I’ve escaped from Kevin Spacey’s basement! Help me!'” After allegations surfaced of Spacey’s sexual misconduct, following a Buzzfeed article in which “Star Trek: Discovery” actor Anthony Rapp accused him of making sexual advances toward him, that “Family Guy” clip resurfaced on social media.
Executive producer Alec Sulkin said he was in the room when that joke was pitched, although he didn’t remember the origins of it. “I think that that was something where he was coming out of a story where I think he had sort of been kind of beaten up in a London park, and he claimed that he was walking his dog late at night and fell,” Sulkin said.. And I think that raised a lot of eyebrows and you know, it’s one of those things, in terms of standards, where if they’ve heard the rumors as we have, then they’ll allow it.”
Fellow executive producer Rich Appel said “Family Guy” will also be allowed by Fox’s standards and practices to make scandalous jokes about celebrities if “there’s some rumor out there that’s been published [or] if it seems so outrageous that no one could possibly believe it this would be.”
But, he added, some of those outrageous jokes have come to pass as well, even though at the time of airing, the show’s producers thought, “Well, this is never going to happen.”
Appel, coincidentally, wrote the now-frequently referenced 1998 “The Simpsons” episode that predicted Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox.
MacFarlane said he’s amused by the amount of coverage he gets every time another one of his predictions comes true. (He also made a joke about Harvey Weinstein while hosting the Oscars in 2013 that has since been cited as the truth behind that producer’s sexual assault.)
“I mean, it’s interesting to observe,” he said. “[When] this all happened I was just watching all this happen from afar. I think it’s the modern media where it’s like it’s more important to be first than to be right. And it gets out there and then somebody else picks it up and then somebody else picks it up, then it just becomes viral in the same way something does on social media. So it’s a strange thing to observe. We write our show the same way as everyone else. I mean, we make the same kind of topical jokes that shows like ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘South Park’ does. And you work with what you have, whether that be swirling rumor or political fact or whatnot.”
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When cinematographer Darius Khondji walked along the Han River, location scouting with director Bong Joon-ho, the great DP was trying to get a sense of how his newest collaborator wanted to shoot “Okja.” The conversation never touched upon filmic style or technical matters; instead, they talked about music, through which Khondji was able to understand and visualize Bong’s effusive cinematic style.
“The rhythm of the scene and the way the actors and camera play the scene — it’s very much related to music and rhythm, which is why I love this director,” said Khondji. “His camera has a personality.”
Bong himself talks about the rhythms and pacing of his shots in terms of “energy,” specifically the clashing of energy from three different sources: blocking, the camera and the emotion of the scene. His goal as a director is to control all three and create one rhythm — or more specifically, one piece of music.
“If you consider ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the whole film feels like one big huge music piece that is unstoppable,” said Bong. “I feel there are a lot of elements that decide upon the rhythm of the film and I try to intuitively control that rhythm via my senses. In the Korean film industry, it’s the norm to have an on-set editor just standing by. They cut the picture of the shots that were just shot; with that, we try to control the rhythm.”
Jae Hyuk Lee / Netflix
“Okja” supplied an unique challenge, as so much of the film’s energy and movement is generated by a CGI “super pig.” For Bong, who intuitively has the film playing in his head, he first had to collaborate with his VFX team to create the movement and then rehearse how to synchronize it with his camera during production.
Bong began the discussions with visual effects supervisor Erik De Boer two years before filming started. The first step was to establish how Okja would walk and run. The concept was the large animal would be driven by her size and her weight; to make her as photorealistic as possible, they studied hippos and elephants for locomotion and gait.
“Hippos are surprisingly agile animals,” said De Boer. “There was one clip with a hippo trotting on the river bank that Bong was very excited about and said, ‘That’s Okja, that’s how I want her to move.'”
To match the rhythm of Okja on set, visual effects animation supervisor Stephen Clee, using the stand-in stuffies around sticks, puppeteered Okja’s movements. Bong carefully storyboarded each scene, but De Boer quickly realized that the key to giving the Okja performance Bong wanted would rely heavily on interaction with the film’s the film’s young star, Seo-hyun Ahn, as the extensive photorealistic VFX work.
“There’s a difference in Okja’s movement in her weight and speed of her movement compared to Mija,” said Bong. “For example, in the underground shopping scene, Okja, this heavy load, bumps into the glass door and Mija, like a squirrel, runs around her and just tries to pick her up. There’s a rhythmic difference that’s in harmony and I feel that’s where the interest is rhythm-wise.”
De Boer and Clee would first rehearse the more complicated scenes with the stunt double to figure out how to execute all of the director’s careful choreography, then work with Ahn to ensure she could naturally interact with the stand-in fabric and foam operated by Clee.
“I really made a conscientious effort to make sure that she was comfortable with those props and the person handling those,” said De Boer. “Steve is a really nice guy and a great animator, so with him working in front of the camera it allowed her to focus on the performance and for us to direct him to get the movement right.”
Going into each scene, everything had been rehearsed and perfectly choreographed, yet De Boer said there was still something intangible. “While we were shooting, I watched the tension in his Bong’s body language — ‘slide a little left, a little forward’ and he was still sort of timing these shots,” said De Boer. “You could feel him counting it off, ‘Three, two, one, bang, OK that’s working.’ It was really like a fun little dance we did almost for each shot where at the end we would always agree right at the same time: This was the take, and we could move on.”
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