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REINVENTING PRODUCTIVITY

Technology helps ‘Annie’ director Will Gluck make movies

With his latest film, “Annie” – starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne – opening Thursday, director and writer Will Gluck is going to be even busier than usual. But during the making of his first big blockbuster musical, he kept up with all the moving parts of the business through a chorus line’s worth of tools, just as he does now.

 

“The reality is, you don’t really know how many Microsoft products you use until you think about it,” Gluck says. “That is basically a signpost for stuff that really works. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t talk a lot about your gas and electric at home, until it doesn’t work. But, your gas and electric powers everything. It’s something you always use. Even on my phone, I mostly check email, contacts and look at files on Word and PowerPoint. It’s all from Office 365 and it all works everywhere.”

Stacks (Jamie Foxx) and Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) spend some time together in Columbia Pictures’ “Annie.” Wallis used Skype to rehearse from New Orleans during the making of the movie. Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Stacks (Jamie Foxx) and Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) spend some time together in Columbia Pictures’ “Annie.” Wallis used Skype to rehearse from New Orleans during the making of the movie. Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

In a rundown of what he uses day to day, Gluck writes and looks over documents on Microsoft Word. When he browses the Internet, he uses Internet Explorer. When Gluck needed to approve costumes for “Annie,” he used Skype. When he needed to check out locations to film in New York, he used the Surface Globe app (powered by Bing Maps).

“I love it, it’s the coolest thing. We could do a lot of scouting from my office, as opposed to having to go there physically, because we were able to fly through the spaces,” Gluck says.

Gluck – who has always used PCs to work on his movies, which include “Easy A” and “Friends with Benefits” – keeps his Surface Pro 3 with him all the time as it’s “basically become my laptop now.”

Through that, he taps into email through Office 365. His email has the photos, schedules and dailies that he needs to review and keep the high-speed train that is a big Hollywood production moving. For instance, in the last month, he’s used it a lot to approve commercials for the marketing of “Annie.”

“I like that I’ve stopped putting things on any specific computer. It’s mostly photos through Dropbox and my email that I can pull up from anywhere,” Gluck says. “That email has to be 100 percent. Because everything’s on the cloud now, it’s amazing how much you trust it’s always going to work when you open your phone up, your laptop. Look, it’s in the name. It’s 365, it can’t be 364.”

“Annie” director and writer Will Gluck, who uses Microsoft products daily, on the set of the film with Jamie Foxx and Bobby Cannavale. Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
“Annie” director and writer Will Gluck, who uses Microsoft products daily, on the set of the film with Jamie Foxx and Bobby Cannavale. Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Inspired by a visit to the Microsoft Envisioning Center, Gluck incorporated the idea of a seamlessly connected digital life into his film.

“In ‘Annie,’ Jamie Foxx’s character lives in a ‘smart’ house, and that’s a big part of the movie,” Gluck says. “Then we actually built the set in the World Trade Center. Every surface in his apartment is a gigantic screen.”

When the stars of the film needed to rehearse from afar, they could.

“We did a lot of the rehearsing with Quvenzhané, the girl who plays on Annie, on Skype – she was in New Orleans and I was in Los Angeles and in New York,” says Gluck.

And in his own office, Gluck uses Perceptive Pixel screens and other technology. He also uses Xbox One to watch TV and movies, and play games.

“You know what’s funny? I’m in my office, and because I just said ‘Xbox,’ it woke up,” Gluck says. In his life and in his filmmaking, Gluck will continue to look for and incorporate smart tools like this. “I’m always trying to find cool things; it’s fun,” Gluck says. “If it’s helpful, it’s an added bonus. I’m waiting for the thing I saw in the Envisioning Center – no more screens, just stuff projected on walls wherever you walk.”

Lead photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment