If you want to break into the visual effects movie business, you’ll want to meet Catherine Tate. She’s worked for George Lucas (on Stars Wars: Episode I and II, at the legendary Industrial Light and Magic) and on other blockbusters like Hulk, Hellboy and Sleepy Hollow. But perhaps most impressive is her work on smaller budget films like the four-time Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) starring nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, and this year’s Sundance darling Fruitvale, the first feature film by Ryan Coogler, a 26-year-old who both directed and wrote the screenplay. (The Weinstein Company acquired the distribution rights for $2 million.) One way Tate can produce her captivating effects on the proverbial shoestring is by enlisting the help of her students at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
“The academy class came in and provided an unbelievable, impassioned labor force to push a boulder over a mountain,” said Benh Zeitlin, 29, director of Beasts of the Southern Wild. It was a mutually beneficial partnership. Thanks to Tate, at least two academy students who worked on Beasts are now working at DreamWorks.