How did I get into movies?

Movie Production in the Early 1980's

It was not Star Wars. I am too old for that, I was interested in making films and effects earlier and Star Wars was probably more of a confirmation that my ideas could work than something that made me want to do it. I was probably brainwashed into believing that Movies and Special Effects were a neat thing to work on by the Thunderbirds TV show when it was rebroadcast here in America when I was about 7, and from the "disaster" movies of the 70's.

Except for stop-motion super-8 animation, I did not do much about film until the last year I was at MIT (where I was in course VI-3, as they call Computer Science). While there I produced a small comic strip in The Tech called "Space Epic". Maybe somebody there remembers it? And I started working with a small informal group in Waltham called Paradox Films that was trying to make a 16mm science fiction film. They tried to make several, and I designed and built a number of spaceship interior sets. Every time though interest evaporated as we all realized just how much work making a movie is.

However we also made some sets for commercials, and working on commercials I found that with paid work, even for a stupid local commercial, a lot more got done and everybody was much more enthusiastic. It appears that money, free catered lunch, and most importantly the fact that somebody else was actually interested in seeing the project finished, all combined to make a huge difference in everybody's attitude.

So somehow that made me go to the famous University of Southern California School of Cinema Television, where I tried to study to be a Production Designer, and purposely avoided any work with computers, and maybe start on a design career.

Though I did art direction for several student films, it turns out that USC is the wrong school to go to for art design (try CalArts or Pasadena School of Design), and eventually I found myself doing animation exclusively, and from there doing computer graphics. USC has since then greatly expanded their animation department to a major program, but I think I was there with the small group that got them started on that.

I was hired at Digital Domain as a software engineer. After two years I decided to work as a Digital Artist, and worked in this position on the Terminator 2 3D Ride and on Titanic and several other movies. Almost all my movie credits are from this period. Perhaps I could have continued as an artist and tried to get into production design, like I planned to when I was 7. But it was frustrating that I had no time to fix the software I was using.

So it seems that Software Engineering has sucked me back and I am not sure I am going to get out of it. But Open Source software appeared as a huge deal just about this time, and making it offers the same opportunity to design something that many can see and appreciate, just like art design. I just have to make something everybody likes...