Meet Aleks Paunovic – another one of our amazingly talented mocap stars. From playing in a band to becoming a stunt actor, Aleks chats about his journey through the performance world, and how he landed his role as a motion capture performer for Gears of War 4.
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I actually played in a band from my early teens to my thirties. During my twenties I was playing in a bar when a director came up and asked me to audition for his film. It sounded like an interesting opportunity, and I like giving everything a try so I went in and auditioned.
At the time I knew nothing about auditioning. They walked me through the process and I ended up getting the role. I arrived on set and realised it was a really interesting medium. The stunt coordinator asked me if I wanted get involved in the stunt industry. We had a meeting and I started doing stunts, and becoming a stunt actor. It’s something I really enjoyed doing. I studied in Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver. Eventually I didn’t want to get thrown down the stairs anymore, I only wanted to act. My career started moving forward from there.
Can you tell me about your first mocap experience?
Thanks to my boxing background, my first mocap experience was Fight Night. Three generations of my family are boxers. Another role was just from knowing people in the boxing industry. I did a few punches for a boxing game, emulating real boxers – from their stance to their style. It progressed into a very fantastical fight game called Punch Out. I played a character named Brick who was very big. It was fun, cartoon-like boxing.
Can you tell me about your work on Gears of War?
I played Baird and Oscar. Baird is the straight-forward military tough dude, who learned from generations how to be a soldier. He’s the professional type, so I really wanted to get that string stature and confident movements. Every movement needed to come across as something he knew, nothing was ever just frivolous. For me, Baird was a really strong character.
Oscar is the complete opposite of anything military. I really got to improvise and be in the moment. It was a lot of fun. It was really great to do those things and get wrapped up in the whole community.
What was day-to-day work like on set?
We would all arrive, have breakfast, get changed into our motion capture suits and do the ROM. This stands for Range of Motion, and is when you make sure all of the signals are working on your motion capture suit.
We then start discussing the scene and having a little bit of rehearsal time. Everyone really supports each other. What’s great is that there’s this huge screen where we can actually see the characters in costume, the way you would see them when you play. While I’m moving I see either Baird or Oscar. It was so interesting to see, because Animatrik could then really capture exactly how we wanted to portray the character. Everyone on set could then chip in and help each other. The day-to-day was a lot of hard work, but extremely fun!
What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
I think the most challenging aspect was making sure the timing is right within the games, because there’s a specific amount of time we had to do the scenes in. We had to mimic the voice that we were hearing over the speakers. We were needing to do the natural movements within a specific amount of time, and this needed to be done over the track that we’re listening to. We were trying to be as natural as possible without rushing steps.
Did you have a favourite scene to shoot?
There were a lot! One was when we were walking away from the wall, and my character was explaining to them why it was so dangerous. That was a good scene because it was really drawn out, really long, and we had to fit it all in there; almost everyone was in the volume at that time.
What do you like about working with Animatrik?
I really like their sense of community. They get everyone involved and speak with us at a very collaborative level, as opposed to the traditional director and actor relationship. They take care of their talent and put a lot of effort into preparing everything. When we arrive on set everything is ready to go. The team really do their homework and then share that with us. Animatrik help create characters in a way that I don’t think we could do with any other production company.
Working with Chad Willett on the Animatrik set was a huge inspiration for myself and a lot of the other actors in Vancouver. I’d previously worked with him on other projects. He’s a fantastic actor too, so he understands the medium. It was an obvious pick for him to be a producer, as he really understands what the talent needs. He made the project such a joy to be a part of.
What excites you about mocap today?
I love the concept of motion capture today because it is creating so many realms and stories. It takes audiences outside of the world we live right now, almost as though we’re jumping dimensions. You can play in this fantastical world and explore.
Animatrik can actually recreate the scenes people read in fantasy novels. I am fortunate enough to be a part of the upcoming Planet of the Apes movie. Motion capture played a role in bringing this world to life again. Animatrik helped me work within that film because they had have had so many years experience in the industry. Working with a professional company like Animatrik helped me become a part of War for the Planet of the Apes.
Do you have any advice for people looking to become mocap actors?
My biggest advice is not to be afraid to go big. Put your ego in your pocket and just have fun. You’re basically a five-year-old having a blast, but with the mentality of an adult. Just literally have a blast. Don’t put any scepticism in it and don’t be afraid to fail. Just go for it. A director or a producer will say something they want, and it’s better for them if you go bigger and more dramatic. It’s easier to bring you down than it is to push you up and get you to meet their specifications.