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Douglas Trumbull

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Visual effects pioneer Douglas "Doug" Huntley Trumbull (born 8 April 1942; age 74) from Los Angeles, California, was the director of special photographic effects on the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He served in the same capacity for the science fiction films Close Encounters of the Third Kind (starring Teri Garr) and Blade Runner (starring Joanna Cassidy). He shared Academy Award nominations with the rest of his special effects team for all three films. In 2012 he received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award at the 84th Annual Academy Awards for his contribution in film making.

He first served as a special effects director on the 1968 science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (starring Gary Lockwood) after working for NASA. In 1971, Trumbull directed the film Silent Running which built upon a number of special effects techniques developed for 2001. One of these was slit-scan photography, which he himself tried vainly to apply for the "going-to-warp" sequence of the refit-USS Enterprise in The Motion Picture. His technique was later successfully used by John Knoll for a likewise conceived sequence of the USS Enterprise-D in TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint". [1] Silent Running, though a critical success, was not a success at the box office ostensibly due to poor advertising. The plot line reflected the emerging ecology movement of the early 1970s, and is today regarded as a science fiction classic. Following Silent Running, he was a developing partner in the Canadian science fiction series The Starlost devised by writer Harlan Ellison, but eventually bowed out before the project went into production. In the mid 1970s he also served as a visual effects supervisor for The Towering Inferno (with a cast that included Gregory Sierra, Elizabeth Rogers, Paul Comi, George D. Wallace, and John Crawford).

Trumbull's preferred method of working was not as an employee but as a (semi-) independent contractor, and to this end he has founded over the span of his career no less than eight companies. [2] One of these was Future General Corporation (FGC) he founded in 1975, with full funding by Paramount Pictures, which, in the process, became sole shareholder. Purpose of the company was further development and exploitation of filming techniques Trumbull had invented by that time, most notably Showscan, an early high-definition filming technique. As such the company was set up as a research/ special effects house. It was FGC that was offered the job of providing the visual effects for Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1978, but was turned down by Trumbull as he and his company were then deeply committed to the production of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

A year later, FGC was again approached to do the effects, as the production ran into troubles after Robert Abel & Associates were pulled from the project. By that time relations between Trumbull and the Paramount management had deteriorated considerably due to the fact that, "Paramount had no vision at all and going through a big management change. The guy that I did the deal with was ousted, and Michael Eisner and Barry Diller came in and they couldn't see what I was trying to do and wanted to get rid of it. I don't know, there's just a whole train of disillusionment that accompanies my history in movies." [3] Trumbull used the problems the studio were in as leverage to secure a proviso that he would be released from his contractual obligations if he accepted, as well as the permission to establish a subsidiary studio model shop, the Entertainment Effects Group. Trumbull left FGC upon completion of the project.

In 1993, he won a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his concept of the first modern 65mm camera developed in 25 years, the CP-65 Showcase Camera System. He shared the award with three engineers. For Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Trumbull won a Saturn Award in 1980 for Best Special Effects, as well as an Academy Award nomination in the category "Best Effects, Visual Effects".

He also produced and directed a few films, most notably the 1983 science fiction thriller Brainstorm, starring Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actress Louise Fletcher and the aforementioned Silent Running.

Star Trek awards

Trumbull has received the following awards and nominations in the various Special/Visual Effects categories:

Academy Awards

Saturn Awards

  • 1980 Saturn Award win for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, shared with John Dykstra, and Richard Yuricich

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