An Ashland filmmaker found himself basking in the limelight Sunday night when a movie named "Rango," about a lizard stranded in the Mojave Desert, nabbed the Academy Award for the Best Animated Feature Film.

An Ashland filmmaker found himself basking in the limelight Sunday night when a movie named "Rango," about a lizard stranded in the Mojave Desert, nabbed the Academy Award for the Best Animated Feature Film.

Gary Kout, who was production supervisor on the set, was sitting in his Ashland home when he got the news. The film stars Johnny Depp and is directed by Gore Verbinski.

"I think the monthlong process of working directly with the actors made all the difference," 44-year-old Kout said on Sunday night. Other animated movies attempt to capture the movements of characters, but "Rango" captured the emotions, he said.

The actors played out their scenes together, rather than separately. Animators then created images based on the emotional responses of the characters, Kout said.

"Rango" is the movie's unlikely hero, passing himself off as a deadly green gunslinger in the drought-stricken town of Dirt, run by a corrupt mayor.

"Rango" competed against other popular movies that include "Kung Fu Panda 2," "Puss in Boots," "Chico and Rita" and "A Cat in Paris."

Even though the movies are animated, they aren't necessarily for kids.

"Chico and Rita" dealt with adult themes, and Kout said "Rango" is definitely not a children's movie.

Kout said it was a departure for him to take on the "Rango" project because he normally produces independent projects such as "Conversations with God," "My Name is Bruce," "Calvin Marshall" and "Walk-In." "My name is Bruce" stars Bruce Campbell, a well-known local actor. "Walk-In" will premiere at the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

Kout said he was chosen as production supervisor based on his experience keeping budgets low and sticking to tight production schedules for independent movies. "I'm used to making movies in a short period of time," he said.

Kout helped work on TV commercials, including several with director Verbinski.

During the Super Bowl, local residents might remember an action-packed, 30-second spot in which a red Chevrolet Sonic drops out of an airplane and sky dives all the way to earth surrounded by skydivers. Kout helped produce the commercial.

Kout, who divides his time between Ashland and Los Angeles, is executive director of Southern Oregon Film and Television.

While seated in his living room, Kout said he's been receiving messages from well-wishers in the film community.

"I'm at the summit of my career right now, but there's more to come," he said.

Another Ashland resident, Greg Eliason, was the natural history producer for "The Tree of Life," which was nominated for Best Picture. The Academy Award winner for best picture went to "The Artist."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.