• Mon, Apr 18 2011

Hollywood Jobs: Dan Curry, Visual Effects Supervisor

Your martial arts background is really incredible. It makes me embarrassed about all the karate classes I’ve dropped out at at the Y. And of course you designed bat’leth (pictured) for the “Rightful Heir” episode of Star Trek: TNG. I don’t think there’s a person alive who doesn’t remember that episode.
I had been imagining this weapon for a long time. I made a foam core version bat’leth. I went to Rick Baker [Star Trek's makeup artist] and said we need something unique, fresh. I showed him this thingI wanted to design something ergonomically appropriate. Dennis Madalone, our stunt coordinator, at first wasn’t cool with the idea. Then he became an evangelist convert after showed him what I had in mind.

It was modeled after a Chinese fighting crescent. Now it’s become one of the iconic images associated with the show. Even last week i got an email from some guy showing video of him demonstrating it.

So what’s your favorite part of your job?
I like all of it, really. I like that it’s not the same thing every day. It’s not just putting nuts in a box or something like that. The challenges of a given day are different. There are 100 different solutions to every challenge.

I like working on stage. You get to chat with the actors, the directors. It’s pleasant and sociable. Also, I’m humbled by the skill level of every person on the set. Sometimes it looks like people sitting around a lot, but when it’s time to get going set up dolly track or blue screen …the skill of grips especially is always humbling. How brilliant a movie is often very dependent on the quality of the skill of the grips. Attitude and spirit can keep production happy. Work is stressful, but working with them is a joy.

I work on Chuck for NBC, (Mondays at 8PM!).I’m so blessed working with finest crew.

So what’s the “Ugh” factor for you on this job? Or do you even have one, because everything seems like so much fun?
Budgeting is not very much fun. Neither is tracking schedules. I try to avoid those things and work with people who love doing that.

So I have to know. What is Patrick Stewart really like in person?
All the actors I’ve worked with; they’re really great people. Patrick Stewart, he has an interesting sense of humor. But he also has a real gravitas. He’s always utterly prepared. A total total professional.

What advice do you have for someone who thinks they want to get into this line of work?
Don’t even think about doing this industry in you want 9-5 normal or if it’s not something you have a passion for. Really, really do your homework. It’s really important to become an educated person. Having a solid arts background is important. I find that people who are able to be especially valuable are also really good in traditional media. They can paint and draw. They’re able to be on set and do a quick sketch of an idea. It’s a worth a fortune, really. It cuts through the confusion when it’s right there on paper. Don’t neglect traditional media. The computer is just another paintbrush. We have very computer-oriented industry. I learned this lesson from Syd Dutton. Forget the thing you are working on. Paint the light as it’s passing through the air. Great matte painters are much more Impressionistic than you think. Peter Ellenshaw is one of the best Impressionists ever.

Remember that everything is done in support of a story. Every visual effect its purpose is to advance the story, not the ego of the artist. You have to remember the director’s vision, the tone.

Take a movie that you love, turn off the sound watch how the story is told without the sound. Any great movie; you can turn off sound and not even listen to a word of dialogue.

And get experiences in REAL LIFE. My experiences living in other countries helped influence the alien architecture of Star Trek. If I hadn’t been in the Peace Corps, we wouldn’t have had that. Plus life is a lot more fun that way.

I’m late on my article. Can you fashion some sort of quantum teleportation time travel device? At least so I can go back in time and make up a better excuse to my editor that thing I said about my cat being sick. I mean, I don’t even have a cat.
You can say your interviewee was busy with the demands of working on the show Chuck and had to reschedule.

It’s cool. I’m just going to blame in on Klingons.
Just tell her that you were trapped in a time warp and only today were you able to finally free yourself from the time space continuum.

I would, but you know, actually I think I’ve already used that.

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