The Illusionists — Scott E. Anderson

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 - Scott E. Anderson

CINEFEX — Give us some memorable moments from your early career.

SCOTT E. ANDERSON — I remember being at Industrial Light & Magic when the script for Terminator 2 came in. I read it and thought, “I have no idea how we’re going to do this, but I believe it can be done.” What really impressed me was how Jim Cameron took what he had learned from what we’d done on The Abyss, and pushed it in the direction of both spectacle and story. He knew where we were, and put out a challenge that was a giant step beyond that line.

CINEFEX —Did each step you took feel like a new a milestone?

SCOTT E. ANDERSON — Oh, the milestones would fall regularly. I remember the first time at ILM when we got a hard drive big enough that we could fit a whole shot on. Later, I did Hollow Man, which was the first show that ran over a terabyte of storage at Sony Pictures Imageworks. That terabyte of storage was distributed along a whole city block, all the way along the building!

CINEFEX — Everything just gets bigger, year by year. Drive capacity, the number of shots in a show, the size of the team you need to get the work done.

SCOTT E. ANDERSON — Yeah, you flash back to just 12 of us in the ILM computer graphics group doing The Abyss, and now on a big show you’ve got 2,400 people scattered across the globe. What was magic when I started is now a commodity. People are shopping based on price and location and rebates. That’s worrying, but on the other hand you now have interesting independent films that have visual effects. That’s an interesting place to be as a filmmaker.

CINEFEX — So the small films can be as rewarding as the big ones, perhaps even more so?

SCOTT E. ANDERSON — Yes. In the current world of filmmaking, when almost everything is affected by visual effects, we have a much wider range of projects to work on and filmmakers to collaborate with. The early days of visual effects were more rarefied. You had only high end companies dealing with only spectacularly talented filmmakers. Of course, you won’t make the same money if you choose to work on low-budget films, but you will get to help the filmmakers you want to help. That is a great thing.

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