We spoke with Gears of War motion capture performer Jesse Hutch. Discover his inspirations, challenges and how he was transformed into character JD FENIX, with a little help form Animatrik!
Can you tell me a bit about your background? How did you get involved the acting industry?
When I was a young boy I remember seeing the animated film, The Hobbit. My imagination exploded as I was jumping out of trees saving the world with my buddy Gandalf. As I grew older my interest in the Bible further peaked my need for rich stories. I was constantly watching movies, and to this day I still watch films as often as I can.
I never actually thought I would work inside the film industry. I was a white water raft guide for five years before I began pursuing acting. One day I heard an advertisement on the radio about a conference where you could potentially meet the casting director for 20th Century Fox. I love their films, so within five minutes I was leaving work and driving two hours to the closest major city to attend. That drive took place about 19 years ago now, and I’m still in the industry. I believe that says a lot because before the film industry, I was never in a job for more than five years. The world of mocap, acting, directing, writing and mo-cap has captured me.
I love the changing environments, the challenge, the locations and of course, the people. I consider my career to be a modern day campfire – sharing stories. Some of the stories I have the opportunity to be apart of are amazing, but mostly it’s the people I rub shoulders with that are what really matter to me. That’s my real story. People are what attracted me to this business, and it’s the people who keep me in this business!
Can you tell us about your first mo-cap experiences? What was the project, and what did you have to perform?
My first motion capture experience was with Animatrik. I worked with their team as well as The Coalition to help create Gears of War 4. It was just over a one and a half year project, and I loved every second of it. When I first started on Gears of War I felt like a CIA operative. Everything was all hush hush. I had no idea what I was really working on the first couple of days. It was awesome.
Can you tell us about the character/s you played in Gears of War and the mo-cap stunts/acting you were involved in?
I am the motion capture performer for both the cinematics and gameplay for character JD FENIX. There was the odd time where I played a young boy, a towns folk, or a robot, but JD was my main task.
Can you tell us a little about your day-to-day work on set?
As a mo-cap performer my days on set differ to that of a television or film set. One of the main differences is that I wear spandex all day and am covered in 63 tiny reflective nodes.
What was your favourite scene to shoot?
I really enjoyed creating the scene where JD’s father, Marcus, is taken. So much of what was said was communicated through body language. As a performer, mo-cap helps you to become aware of every nuance, every breath and every moment.
What other films have you worked on with Animatrik? What do you like about working with Animatrik?
I love the performance capture world because of Animatrik. They have ushered me into this line of work and I crave more. They are some of the best people around. Everyone is very professional, fun and easy going. I couldn’t have ask for a better work environment.
What excites you about mo-cap today and the future?
I’m a tech geek. I love the idea of using technology and performance as a way to achieve someone’s vision. I’m a big fan of movies like Avatar and Planet of the Apes. I continue to pursue my skill set in the mo-cap arena so that perhaps I could work with people like Andy Serkis or Terry Notary one day. I’m a firm believer that you should always learn about everyone’s job on a set. It helps with respecting each other’s role and working as a team. MoCap is such a cool team dynamic.
Is there any advice you would give to someone looking to become an actor in the mo-cap industry?
Keep going. The film business is a rollercoaster ride filled with twists, turns and uncertainty. All I know for sure is that if you give up, you definitely won’t succeed. If you keep going, you might just find yourself carrying a lance, shooting the bad guys.