Culver City film students meet virtually with special effects pros

Wave Staff Report

CULVER — Film students in the Culver City Unified School District were able to participate in a Zoom meet-and-greet with Academy Award-nominated visual effects supervisor Kelly Port, the lead visual effects supervisor on the blockbuster film “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Port recruited a few of his highly talented crew members — Scott Edelstein, Howard Cabalfin and Simon Twine — to be on the panel.

Film teacher Holly Gable assembled the stellar cast.

“We are the only high school that has had the privilege of this Zoom session with these world-renowned visual effects professionals,” Gable said.

Connecting students to the industry is an important aspect of career technical education in the district. Culver City is one of the content capitals of the globe, according to a recent Hollywood Reporter article. Amazon Studios, Warner Media, Apple, TikTok and Scopely Games all now call Culver City home, as Sony Pictures Entertainment has for decades.

The boom is increasing employment numbers in the city. Colin Diaz, president and CEO of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce, estimated the influx of industry will bring between 7,500 to 9,500 jobs to the city. The career technical education pathways show students what is possible beyond high school if they have the desire to pursue those opportunities.

The panel shared stories and information on all kinds of topics including colleges, pathways to careers and what software programs are most beneficial to learn. One eye-popping statistic was how many visual effects go into the making of a movie like Spider-Man. Of the 2,600-plus shots that make up “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” visual effects touched about 2,500.

Students submitted questions in advance and were also allowed to ask questions live during the panel. One particular question: “What is most important for young adults who are trying to go into careers in film in general, and then also specifically for visual effects careers?” garnered the most discussion among the panelists.

Emphasizing that technical skills can be learned and mastered over time and experience, the panelists talked mostly about more innate skills such as the desire to learn, being self-motivated and passionate, and problem-solving prowess as necessary traits. Port told the students, “Be curious. Dive in. And explore.”

The panel let the students know that despite Southern California’s reputation as the movie-making capital of the world, visual effects is a global industry. If and when they decide to pursue a career, they will be competing with people from all around the world including Vancouver, Montreal, London, Sydney, New Zealand and now India and China. Those locations also represent wonderful opportunities to work in a variety of places.

“Every movie we work on is a different puzzle to solve, every time on every project,” Port said.

The panelists also reveled in the teamwork that is absolutely critical in making any film.

Towards the end of the presentation, Port showed the students before and after footage from “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” including the pre-vis animatic from a scene on the bridge where Doc Oc makes his first appearance in the film.

Kelly Port and his colleague and fellow Zoom panelist Scott Edelstein both received Academy Award nominations for “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” It’s the second nomination for Port and the first for Edelstein.


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