His Effects Are Truly Special

Name: Edward L. Williams
Age: 41
Occupation: Visual effects producer
Location: Los Angeles

Shreveport, Louisiana, native Edward L. Williams has boldly gone where only “The Man” has gone before. He travels the outer limits of space by creating visual effects for spaceships, space-based battle scenes, atmospheric conditions and alien creatures. He has worked his special effects magic for all of the Star Trek TV series spin-offs.

He began his career at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles and quickly progressed from visual effects associate to supervisor. His responsibilities include syncing sound (synchronization of sound and pictures), checking dailies (reviewing processed film shot the previous day), transferring film to tape (telecine) and creating titles and opticals (opening and closing credits). He is now a visual effects producer for PD2 (Paramount Digital Design).

His “biggest personal and professional challenge” came as visual effects production supervisor for the 1997 silver screen blockbuster The Devil’s Advocate starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. The last scene entailed a wall mural with inlaid statues coming to life. “I had to shoot nude people, completely free of all body hair, in an underwater tank against a blue screen, then create the illusion that the statues were swimming in a milky substance,” he recalls. The effect was only on-screen for 10 minutes, but it cost nearly $2 million-40% of the film’s entire visual effects budget-and took three months to shoot and compute.

Training: No specific degree is required. However, many schools offer film majors bachelor’s degrees in fine arts. Williams, a one-time pre-law major, changed his concentration to film after developing an interest in visual effects and earned his B.F.A. in 1988 from UCLA.

Salary: Williams averages 12- to 16-hour days on a typical production schedule. The trade-off is a high salary. Weekly salaries for visual effects producers can range from $1,500 to $15,000, depending on experience and “what you bring to the table,” notes Williams. He is a two-time Emmy winner for outstanding achievement in visual effects for a television series and a four-time Monitor Awards (presented by the Association of Imaging Technology and Sound) winner. On average, Williams earns about $165,000 a year.

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