Accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Peter Jackson reflects on making ‘The Lord of the Rings.’

George Clooney’s meditative sci-fi drama The Midnight Sky won the top category of outstanding visual effects in a photoreal feature and a second trophy for its model work, Tuesday during a virtual presentation of the 19th annual Visual Effects Society Awards.
Led by VFX supervisors Matt Kasmir and Chris Lawrence and lead VFX house Framestore, The Midnight Sky contained VFX work that ranged from digital actors and facial performance capture to fully CG zero-G shots and virtual production techniques.
Pixar’s Soul swept the feature animation categories, winning five trophies in all, including outstanding VFX in an animated feature. In series work, Disney+’s The Mandalorian collecting three awards including one for outstanding VFX is a series episode, and HBO’s Lovecraft County claimed two trophies.
In the feature categories–in addition to the two awards claimed by Netflix’s The Midnight Sky–Mank grabbed the award for supporting VFX, The One and Only Ivan collected the award for animated character, Mulan topped the field for created environment, and Project Power won trophies for effects simulation and compositing.
This year, the Academy Award nominees in VFX are The Midnight Sky, The One and Only Ivan, Love and Monsters, Mulan and Tenet. Still, the VES has an uneven record of predicting the eventual Oscar winner, as in just four of the last 10 years the winner of the top category for outstanding VFX in a photoreal feature went on to accept the VFX Oscar.
Cate Blanchett presented Peter Jackson’s Lifetime Achievement Award during the virtual ceremony. Additionally, James Cameron and Jon Landau–dressed as if characters in The Lord of the Rings–appeared with Gollum, who begged them to take him to the VES Awards to honor Jackson. A string of colleagues and friends also saluted Jackson in a video tribute, including Andy Serkis, Naomi Watts, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, and Weta collaborators including senior VFX supervisor Joe Letteri.

“If you are going to take risks, take big risks. That’s been my relationship with visual effects,” Jackson said, recalling the “big gamble” to start VFX house Weta, in order to make The Lord of the Rings’ visual effects in New Zealand. He also remembered New Line Cinema initially saying that it didn’t trust untested Weta to create Gollum for the films. “It was like we had been challenged,” he said, describing how the team went to work to prove it wrong, and praising VFX artists for always taking these sorts of challenges. “I remember Bob Shaye muttering, ‘you can do Gollum.'”
Accepting the VES Award for Creative Excellence, three-time Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato also saluted the community and urged it embrace the word “no,” saying it’s a “call to arms … the encouragement that you want to try something.” Sacha Baron Cohen presented the award.
During the show, hosted by Patton Oswalt, presenters also included Zack Snyder and Pete Docter.
The complete list of winners follows:
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey – Brad Parker Roma Van Den Bergh Eric Guaglione Carlos Monzon Stefano Pepin
Project Power – Ivan Moran Leslie Hough Joao Sita Matthew Twyford Yves Debono
Tenet – Andrew Jackson Mike Chambers Andrew Lockley David Lee Scott Fisher
WINNER The Midnight Sky – Matt Kasmir Greg Baxter Chris Lawrence Max Solomon David Watkins
The Witches – Kevin Baillie Sandra Scott Sean Konrad Glenn Melenhorst Mark Holt
 
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature 
Da 5 Bloods – Randall Balsmeyer James Cooper Watcharachai “Sam” Panichsuk
Extraction – Marko Forker Lynzi Grant Craig Wentworth Olivier Sarda
WINNER Mank WeiZheng Peter Mavromates Simon Carr James Pastorius
News of the World – Roni Rodrigues Dayaliyah Lopez Ian Fellows Andrew Morley Brandon K. McLaughlin
Welcome to Chechnya – Ryan Laney Eugen Bräunig Maxwell Anderson Johnny Han Piers Dennis
 
Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature 
Onward – Dan Scanlon Kori Rae Sanjay Bakshi Vincent Serritella
Over the Moon – Glen Keane Gennie Rim Céline Desrumaux David Alexander Smith
WINNER Soul – Pete Docter Dana Murray Michael Fong Bill Watral
The Croods: A New Age – Joel Crawford Mark Swift, PGA Betsy Nofsinger Jakob Hjort Jensen
Trolls World Tour -Walt Dohrn Gina Shay, PGA Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin Matt Baer 
 
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode
Lovecraft Country – “Jig-A-Bobo” – Kevin Blank Robin Griffin Pietro Ponti Francois Dumoulin
Star Trek: Discovery – “Su’Kal” – Jason Michael Zimmerman Aleksandra Kochoska Ante Dekovic Ivan Kondrup Jensen
WINNER The Mandalorian – “The Marshal” – Joe Bauer Abbigail Keller Hal Hickel Richard Bluff Roy Cancino  
Timmy Failure – Rich McBride Leslie Lerman Nicolas Chevallier Anders Beer Tony Lazarowich
Westworld – “Crisis Theory” – Jay Worth Elizabeth Castro Bruce Branit Joe Wehmeyer Mark Byers
 
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode 
I Know This Much Is True – “Episode 1” – Eric Pascarelli Keith Kolder Ariel Altman
Mrs. America – “Shirley” – Janelle Croshaw Kaylie Whitcher Leonardo Silva Zena Bielewicz Michael Innanen
Survive – Ariel Altman Rae Welty Caius Wong Carl Fong
WINNER The Crown – “Gold Stick” – Ben Turner Reece Ewing Andrew Scrase Jonathan Wood
Vikings – “Best Laid Plans” – Dominic Remane Bill Halliday Tom Morrison Ovidiu Cinazan Paul Byrne
Warrior – “Learn to Endure, Or Hire a Bodyguard” – Jonathan Alenskas Leah Orsini Nate Overstrom David Eschrich
 
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Raphael Lacoste Jean-Sebastien Guay Virginie Cinq-Mars Thierry Beaumont
Cyberpunk 2077  – Jakub Knapik Małgorzata Mitręga Piotr Suchodolski Krzysztof Krzyścin
WINNER Ghost Of Tsushima – Jason Connell Matt Vainio Jasmin Patry Joanna Wang
Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Reactor Finale – Gavin Goulden Jess Reed Bryanna LindseyMike Yosh
The Last Of Us Part II – Neil Druckmann Eben Cook Erick Pangilinan John Sweeney
 
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial 
Arm & Hammer – “Once Upon a Time” – Kiril Mirkov Solomon Tiigah Vanessa Duquesnay Prashanth Paramasivam
Burberry – “Singin’ In the Rain” – Fabian Frank Ryan Hancocks Rob Richardson Alex Lovejoy
Hornbach – “It Seems Impossible Until You Do It” – Ben Cronin Tomek Zietkiewicz Amir Bazzazi Bruno Fukumothi
PlayStation – “The Edge” – Diarmid Harrison-Murray Tom Igglesden Alex Gabucci Tom Raynor
WINNER Walmart – “Famous Visitors” – Chris “Badger” Knight Lori Talley Yarin Mares Matt Fuller
Xbox – “Us Dreamers” – Dan Seddon Elexis Stearn Fabian Frank Zhenya Vladi
 
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project 
Asteroid Hunters – Antoine DurrJini Durr Bert Poole Neishaw Ali
WINNER The Bourne Stuntacular – Salvador ZalvideaTracey GibbonsGeorge AllanMatthías BjarnasonScott Smith
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – Ryan Donoghue Becky Train Blaine Kennison Nick da Silva Corban Prim 
The March – Aruna Inversin Peter Nelson Kevin Williams Sean Kealey  
 
Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature
Die Känguru-Chroniken – Kangaroo – Claudius Urban Sebastian Badea Dorian Knapp Ruth Wiegand
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey – Don Juan Diego – Eric Guaglione Shuchi Singhal Adrien Annesley Mahmoud Ellithy 
WINNER The One And Only Ivan – Ivan – Valentina Rosselli Thomas Huizer Andrea De Martis William Bell
The Witches – Daisy – Jye Skinn Sarah Fuller Marco Iannaccone Fredrik Sundqvist
 
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature 
Onward – Dad Pants – Kristopher Campbell Jonas Jarvers Rob Jensen Jacob Kuenzel
Over the Moon – Chang’e – Siggi Orri Thorhannesson Hyesook Kim Javier Solsona Alan Chen
WINNER Soul – Terry – Jonathan Hoffman Jonathan PagePeter Tieryas Ron Zorman
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run – SpongeBob – Jacques Daigle Guillaume Dufief Adrien Montero Liam Hill
 
Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Real-Time Project 
The Crown – “The Balmoral Test” – Imperial Stag – Ahmed Gharraph Ross Burgess Gabriela Ruch Salmeron Joel Best
WINNER The Mandalorian – “The Jedi” – The Child – John Rosengrant Peter Clarke Scott Patton Hal Hickel
The Mandalorian – “The Marshal” – Krayt Dragon – Paul Kavanagh Zaini Mohamed Jalani Michal Kriukow Nihal Friedel
Timmy Failure – “Mistakes Were Made” – Total – Maxime Masse Hennadii Prykhodko Luc Girard Sophie Burie
 
Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial 
Afk Arena – “Toilet” – Uzgahk Chloe Dawe Brad Noble Tim van Hussen Simon Legrand
WINNER Arm & Hammer – “Once Upon a Time” – Tuxedo – Tom Shiny Rajan Silvia Bartoli Matias Heker Tiago Dias Mota
Far Cry – “Legacy” – Anton Maxime Luere Leon Berelle Rémi Kozyra Dominique Boidin
Legends Of Runeterra – “Breathe” – Darius Maxime Luere Leon Berelle Rémi Kozyra Dominique Boidin
TK MAXX – “The Lil Goat” – Kiril Mirkov Silvia Bartoli Chris Welsby David Bryan
 
Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature 
Bloodshot – Neuralspace – Arnaud Brisebois Patrick Bacon Dawid Borkiewicz Gérôme Viavant
WINNER Mulan – Imperial City – Jeremy Fort Matt Fitzgerald Ben Walker Adrian Vercoe
The Eight Hundred – 1937 Shanghai Downtown – Stefano Cieri Aaron Auty Simon Carlile Patrick Zentis
The Eight Hundred – Shanghai Warehouse District – Jamie Macdougall Julian Hutchens Mark Honer David Pekarek
 
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature 
Onward – Swamp Gas – Eric Andraos Laura Grieve Nick Pitera Michael Rutter
WINNER Soul – You Seminar – Hosuk Chang Sungyeon Joh Peter Roe Frank Tai
Trolls World Tour – Techno Reef – Luke Heathcock Zachary Glynn Marina Ilic Michael Trull
Trolls World Tour – Volcano Rock City – Brian LaFrance Sara Cembalisty Christopher Sprunger Ruben Perez
 
Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project
Brave New World – New London – Guy Williams Justin Gros-Désir Markus Sterner Ryan Clarke
Cyberpunk 2077 – Night City – Jakub Knapik Lucjan Więcek
Lovecraft Country – Tulsa 1921 – Patrice Poissant Pauline Lavelle Mohamed Abdou Elhakim Alan Lam
WINNER The Mandalorian – “The Believer” – Morak Jungle -Enrico Damm Johanes Kurnia Phi Tran Tong Tran
The Mandalorian – “The Siege” – Nevarro Canyon – Kevin George Aaron Barr Piotr Tatar Abel Milanés Betancourt
 
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project 
Ghost Of Tsushima – “A Storm is Coming” – Aladino Debert Matt Dougan Eric Beaver David Liu  
WINNER Soul – Matt Aspbury Ian Megibben
The Mandalorian – “The Believer” – Richard Bluff Matt Jensen Chris Williams Landis Fields IV
The Mandalorian – “The Siege” – Dave Crispino Kyle Winkelman Paul Kavanagh Jose Burgos
 
Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project
The Mandalorian –  Boba Fett’s Ship – Jay Machado Enrico Damm Gerald Blaise Ryan Church
The Mandalorian – “The Rescue” – Light Cruiser – John Knoll John Goodson Dan Patrascu Rene Garcia
WINNER The Midnight Sky – Aether – Michael Balthazart Jonathan Opgenhaffen John-Peter Li Simon Aluze
The Witches – Rollercoaster – Jared Michael Peter Dominik Sylvain Lesaint Emily Tilson
 
Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature
Bloodshot – Omar Meradi Jeremy Poupin Sylvain Robert Deak Ferrand
Greyhound – Mike Nixon Nicholas Papworth Jeremy Smith Yashdeep Sawant
Monster Hunter – Vimal Mallireddy Warren Lawtey Tom O’Bready Dominik Haase
Mulan – Theo Vandernoot Sandra Balej James Carson Yuri Rudakov
WINNER Project Power – Yin Lai Jimmy Leung Jonathan Edward Lyddon-Towl Pierpaolo Navarini Michelle Lee
 
Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature 
Onward – Dave Hale Jonah Blue Laird Stephen Marshall Ricardo Nadu
Over the Moon – Ian Farnsworth Brian Casper Reinhold Rittinger Jennifer Lasrado
WINNER Soul – Alexis Angelidis Keith Daniel Klohn Aimei Kutt Melissa Tseng
Trolls World Tour – Stephen Wood Carl Hooper Spencer Knapp Nick Augello
The Willoughbys – Helén Ahlberg Kyle McQueen Russell Smith Raehyeon Kim
 
Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project 
WINNER Lovecraft Country – “Strange Case” – Chrysalis – Federica Foresti Johan Gabrielsson Hugo Medda Andreas Krieg
PlayStation – “The Edge” – Tom Raynor Andreu Lucio Martin Aufinger Platon Filimonov
Tales From The Loop – “Loretta’s House” – Dominik Kirouac Gaël Chopin Sylvain Nouveau Laurent Pancaccini
The Mandalorian – “The Marshal” Krayt Dragon – HuaiYuan Teh Don Wong Mathieu Chardonnet Prashanth Bhagavan
 
Outstanding Compositing in a Feature
Greyhound – Chris Gooch Tiago Santos Stu Bruzek Sneha Amin
Mulan – Christoph Salzmann Beck Veitch Joerg Bruemmer Indah Maretha
WINNER Project Power – Russell Horth Matthew Patience Julien Rousseau
Underwater – Sreejith Venugopalan Ruslan Borysov Susil Sabat Andreas Andersson
 
Outstanding Compositing in an Episode
WINNER Lovecraft Country – “Strange Case” – Chrysalis – Viktor Andersson Linus Lindblom Mattias Sandelius Crawford Reilly
The Mandalorian – “The Believer” – Peter Demarest Christopher Balog Shawn Mason David Wahlberg
The Mandalorian – “The Marshal” – Nicolas Caillier Simon Rafin Siang Kee Poh Simon Marinof
The Mandalorian – “The Passenger” – TC Harrison Tami Carter Jaume Creus Costabella Shane Davidson
 
Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial 
WINNER Burberry “Festive”- Alex Lovejoy Mithun Alex David Filipe Amresh Kumar
Perrier – “Heat” – Stéphane Pivron Franck Lambertz Harry Bardak Christophe Courgeau
PlayStation – “The Edge” – Alex Gabucci Rebecca Clay Alex Grey Alex Kulikov
Walmart – “Famous Visitors” – Chris “Badger” Knight Ben Smith Jake Albers Franz Kol
 
Outstanding Special (Practical) Effects in a Photoreal or Animated Project
WINNER Fear The Walking Dead – “Bury Her Next to Jasper’s Leg” – Frank Iudica Scott Roark Daniel J. Yates
 
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project 
Time’s Down – Valentin Soulard François Brugalières Nils Lemonnier Yan Weitlauff
Aral – Cédric Moens de Hase Benoit Paya Charles Morhain Mathilde Dallamaggiore
Strands of Mind – Adrian Meyer Laura Messier
WINNER Migrants – Antoine Dupriez Hugo Caby Lucas Lermytte Zoé Devise