Getting to direct TRON: Legacy, the highly anticipated sequel to the cult classic computer programmer movie TRON, as your first major motion picture is the task that most fan boys and girls would do anything for. While you do have to worry about angering half of the nerd world if you screw up, the fact that you get to play out your own vision of the next chapter in the story pretty much makes it work the risk.
For Joseph Kosinski, the man who actually gets to live this reality, the fight to have one of the most coveted jobs in the geek universe was a long journey. Although he had award-winning experience in making commercials and short films, his projects before TRON were completed in eight to ten weeks. From start to the final product, TRON: Legacy took three and a half years.
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“It’s definitely, in terms of time and commitment, was a huge leap,” Kosinski explained. “The scale is tremendous, but when it comes down to the day to day on set type stuff, I used a lot of technology that I had been playing around with in the world of commercials. I just kind of combined all those things into one project. It’s kind of going more on instinct than experience.”
The director first saw the original TRON in the mid 1980s on a poor quality VHS tape. He was impressed by the clean lines and minimalism of the film and wanted to carry that idea through to the next installment. When he found himself making his pitch to the Disney executives who had been trying to come up with an idea for the next film for the last 15 years, he realized he had to come up with something more than a verbal pitch. Rather than just talk about what he wanted to do, he decided to show them. After receiving a small budget to create a short film, he created a test piece in January 2008. That infamous footage is what was shown at San Diego Comic-Con, the response of which blew his simple project into a much-in-demand property. “This kind of incredible support from the fans is what gave it momentum,” he said. “I had to sell the project and sell myself at the beginning. It wasn’t like the just hired me and gave me a script and said, ‘Go shoot this thing.’”
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Kosinski didn’t get his start at a film school or even in computer graphics: Instead he took what he learned from his architecture degree and brought it to the movie business. Kosinski attended the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where they used the same computer technology that Digital Domain and Industrial Light and Magic worked with rather than traditional tools. Rather than spend ten years designing penthouse bathrooms, he said, Kosinski decided start his own company that would focus on creating CGI for short films and commercials.