Saving Grace: An Excellent Premiere
Sisch worked on Saving Grace for about 4 months. She said she struggled over the script, rewriting it many times until she got the story she wanted. Then she put together her voice cast (including her own performance in the lead role) and go the voice recordings first. She smartly waited until she had the other actors performances recorded before she did her own and adjusted her interpretation to fit with the other actors. Sisch mentioned that she wasn't trying to be "realistic", but wanted the style of the acting (and the film) to be real for the story she was telling. A distinction often forgotten not only in machinima, but in commercial filmmaking as well.
She used three different real-time engines to create "Saving Grace": Moviestorm, The Movies and X3: the Terran Conflict. Her background in machinima filmmaking was primarily with The Movies, so she was comfortable with that game and it's various mods. Sisch said she really loved the animation system of Moviestorm since it allowed you to stack several animations to get unique ones that fit perfectly with the internal drama of her characters. X3 was used primarily for space shots and The Movies Game was used for a few dream sequences (to great effect).
Phil made an excellent point about how the AI characterization works against the cliche of Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey and instead of being the emotionless villain, the AI in "Saving Grace" actually becomes more human, more empathetic in the end. Sisch's decision to make the AI very stiff and artificial at the beginning, then move to a characterization that has more subtle movements (and I think more subtle performance) at the end is the mark of a thoughtful and careful director. In fact, the entire film is so well edited and shot that it's hard to believe Sisch has only been directing machinima for a few years.
And, of course, the fact that the central character, which is usually portrayed as a heroic male, is female. Exploring the nature of female heroism (and her final decision is heroic, imo) is another example of how subtle and intelligent this film is.
Sisch also mentioned that she thought that the story of Grace was complete and that she wasn't considering going back to the story as a kind of series. "What else is there to say?", she said (paraphrased). With the popularity of the film and because both the AI and Grace's characters are so interesting, there has been some interest in her extending the story some. I was very glad to hear that Sisch wasn't interested. Her reasons make so much sense.
Much more was discussed over the 1 hour + conversation, but it's too much to summarize here. We are working (Phil and I) on a way to archive these Premiere's in some fashion, so those who can't make it can at least get a feel for what the event was like. In the meantime, you can screen or download the film at machiniplex.net and if you follow the links there (or here) you can read her interview at the Moviestorm site and on her own blog.
My sincere thanks to Sisch for letting us Premiere her film and for archiving it at Machiniplex. I was also very impressed with here poise and her thoughtful answers to the questions she was asked. Also, thank you Phil Rice for running the discussion and for setting up the film both at Machiniplex and in Second Life.