Director Scott Leberecht began his filmmaking career as a visual effects art director at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic. His latest documentary film, Jurassic Punk, is about his fellow ILM effects artist Steve “Spaz” Williams. A talented artist, Steve pioneered computer animation VFX in movies, creating the alien effects for The Abyss and the morphing transitions for the “T-100” in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Steve’s most ambitious and revolutionary work for the movie and VFX industry was his work on the completely computer animated dinosaurs for 1993’s Jurassic Park.
Scott met Steve during his internship at ILM. Jurassic Punk was originally meant to be about the whole ILM ensemble at that pivotal time between The Abyss and Jurassic Park. But as Scott gathered the stories, he realized that he needed a main character who had an interesting arc, and Steve definitely fit the profile. Steve’s work on Jurassic Park had never been properly acknowledged, with credit for the visual effects going mainly to Phil Tippett and Dennis Muren. Steve himself was always a notoriously difficult, hard-drinking asshole who had trouble fitting into the corporate structure of ILM. Scott found it hard to shoot Steve’s interviews for Jurassic Punk, since his friend was at such a low point in his life. But Steve understood that Scott was trying to tell the story of what life can be like for a creative worker who gives their all, only to be left with little credit or money. Scott sees Jurassic Punk as telling two cautionary tales: be careful about innovating within corporate structures, and ensure that the people who create the art are properly acknowledged.
Life After Pi, a documentary short Scott made with Christina Lee Storm in 2014, is also a personal story about working in the VFX industry. Shortly before winning the Oscar for their special effects in Life of Pi, the visual effects studio Rhythm & Hues filed for bankruptcy. Scott had been working for the company for about six months when everyone was fired. The doc explores what’s been happening to the visual effects industry, as work is outsourced and it becomes a race to the bottom for the cheapest price. There was a very short window of time after Rhythm & Hues’ collapse where effects workers could speak their mind, even staging a demonstration outside the Academy Awards that year. Today, effects workers continue to voice their need to form a union, as the quality of effects work declines while studios demand cheaper VFX done at an even faster pace.
You can watch Jurassic Punk streaming on Amazon and Kanopy.
Life After Pi is on YouTube.
Midnight Son has just been released on Blu-Ray and features a soundtrack by Kays Al-Atrakchi
Find Find Scott Leberecht: https://www.jurassicpunkmovie.com/
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