Magazine article Variety

Hollywood in the Berkshires

Magazine article Variety

Hollywood in the Berkshires

Article excerpt

The Berkshires in western Massachusetts are known for their mountain vistas, quaint towns and worldfamous music and theater festivals.

But the area also has a less-heralded rep as a creative cauldron for movie magic. On a wall of the Animagic Museum of Special Effects in the small town of Lee hangs a family tree illustrating the history of pioneering visual effects work done in the region, from the living painting technology used in "What Dreams May Come" to the super slo-mo 360-degree bullet effect used in The Matrix."

At the root of this unlikely presence of vfx wizardry in the rural part of an eastern state is Douglas Trumbull, the visionary behind the effects in films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Blade Runner."

"Doug was the person who started the whole influx," says Berkshires-based vfx supervisor Jeff Kleiser, who runs Synthespian Studios with wife Diana Walczak.

Trumbull moved to the Berkshires from his native Los Angeles in 1987. "I really wanted to live in the country and have animals and more of a farm-like life," Trumbull says. "I felt that the ability to communicate with the world over the Internet was feasible, and it's turned out to be true."

Trumbull applied his movie experience to theme park-type attractions, working on "Back to the Future - The Ride" for Universal Studios and a trio of presentations for the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, budgeted at $40 million.

At its peak in the early 1990s, the Luxor project employed 300 people, including John Nugent, who now runs Sandbox FX, in Pittsfield, Mass., which has provided 2D animation, rotoscoping and digital paintwork for films including "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "Night at the Museum. …

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