Ex Machina has won! Up against Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Revenant, The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road, Alex Garland’s stunning directorial debut Ex Machina triumphed. This is Double Negative’s second consecutive win and their third win in total: all for shows on which they led as the client VFX house (previous wins were for Inception and Interstellar).
With a budget of only $15 million, Ex Machina took on true goliaths of Visual Effects with its delicately cerebral and subtle sci-fi story of Ava (Alicia Vikander) – potentially the first android with true artificial intelligence, her creator Nathan (Oscar Isaac), and Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), the man come to test her.
Overall VFX Supervisor on Ex Machina, Dneg’s Andrew Whitehurst made the acceptance speech on behalf of the brilliant VFX crew responsible for bringing Ava to life.
“I’m really bad at predicting this apparently… this is so utterly unexpected.
Visual Effects is massively a team game, more so maybe than any other department. We have to thank people in two directions – we’ve got to thank the studio, we’ve got to thank the production… we’ve got to thank Alex for being an amazing director, we’ve got to thank Alicia for being Ava… and we have to thank the teams of artists, production and technical personnel at Double Negative, Milk VFX and Utopia, who are amazing. Without them we are nothing.
Thank you so so much.”
Alongside Andrew on stage were fellow Oscar winners, Ex Machina’s 2D Supervisor Paul Norris (now DNegTV VFX Supervisor on the likes Marvel’s Agent Carter), CG lead Mark Ardington (the man responsible for the pioneering rigging technique that combined Ava’s CG body components and Alicia Vikander’s real world movements) and Milk VFX Co-Founder and VFX Supervisor Sara Bennett.
It was the first Oscar wins and nominations for each member of the team, and Sara Bennett’s win installs her as the first woman to win the VFX Oscar as VFX Supervisor. The last female nominee was Pamela Easley for Cliffhanger in 1993, and the only other winner was Suzanne Benson in 1986 for Aliens. Ex Machina’s win is a huge step in Academy recognition for women in VFX as well as the possibilities of independent VFX driven films. This was also the first VFX nominee in 45 years to beat nominees on a show also featured in the Best Picture category.
A huge congratulations to the team and all the brilliant minds behind Ava and the world of Ex Machina!
“‘Ex Machina’ Provides First Oscar Night Shocker, Winning Best Visual Effects… “Ex Machina” triumphed in the field, the first truly shocking moment of the evening as it was … up against bigger, more widely-seen films” – Vanity Fair
“It’s the type of effect that you stare at for an entire movie without being totally aware it’s in front of you, but the Academy was apparently cognizant enough of the work behind Ava’s look to vote Ex Machina to victory.” – The Verge
“The sci-fi thriller Ex Machina — which was made for a threadbare $15 million — just scored a huge upset by winning the Best Visual Effects Oscar, topping The Martian ($108 million), The Revenant ($135 million) Mad Max: Fury Road ($150 million), and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($200 million).” – The Week
“‘Ex Machina’s’ Oscar win is a triumph for low-budget VFX” – Engadget
“The marriage of the winners’ technical skill and Vikander’s impeccable performance was apparently enough to overcome “Star Wars’” dominance at the Visual Effects Society awards” – LA Times
“Arguably the night’s biggest upset, this is only the second time that a film has won the VFX category without also having a best picture nomination, in a year when at least one other nominee (in this case, three) did have a best picture nomination.” - Hollywood Reporter