The Illusionists — Paul Lambert

by Graham Edwards

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - Paul Lambert

CINEFEX — What films inspired you as a kid?

PAUL LAMBERT — I spent my youth watching and rewatching Star Wars. That and The Sound of Music were the only films I had on home video, and I watched them hundreds of times. They’re both very close to my heart. At that time, it didn’t register that these fantastic worlds were actually being created by people. Later on, I went to college and did aerospace — I was actually on my way to making rockets. But it wasn’t really for me and I got a bit lost. I went to art school because I had a deep urge to be creative, then got a job servicing Steinbecks and Moviolas. That’s how I found the film industry.

CINEFEX — No doubt your interest in aerospace paid off while you were working on First Man. How did you make the switch from servicing the equipment to using it?

PAUL LAMBERT — I started off as a runner at Cinesite, where I spent all my nights learning how to use the Flame and Inferno setups. It was a different time back then. The Flame suites would be unlocked and you could go in there and learn in your own time. Nowadays you go to school for all that stuff.

CINEFEX — Visual effects facilities are much more structured now, in so many ways.

PAUL LAMBERT — That’s true, and it’s partly because they have to protect themselves from client changes for this, that and the other. You know, I think the key to managing all that is having an independent team close to the director to do quickfire test and visuals. Then you can leave the photoreal part to the bigger facilities who have that kind of infrastructure.

CINEFEX — You’re talking about the in-house team, which has become increasingly important in recent years. As overall visual effects supervisor on a show, you’re working cheek-by-jowl with that team during post. Does that give you the chance to get hands-on yourself?

PAUL LAMBERT — Well, I’m working on Dune at the moment, and just the other day I got on my laptop and turned around a quick temp shot of an ornithopter taking off. I was actually quite proud of myself — it’s been a while!

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists