Industrial Light & Magic is, as its name suggests, a special effects company that oozes talent from its walls and cubicles. On the ILM resume you'll find the entire history of the Star Wars series as well as this weekend's top box office flick Star Trek.
The new Trek film -- which features younger versions of Kirk, Spock and the others at the start of their space adventures -- took in more than $76 million at the box office on its opening weekend.
Star Trek made $72.5 million from Friday through Sunday, plus $4 million just in pre-midnight screenings Thursday.
ILM's role in the movie is huge.
Typically, special effects-laden movies start with models -- small-scale versions of what you see on screen. The new Star Trek Enterprise? No model, just 100 percent computer generated magic. For the first time, this movie (which boasts more than a full hour's worth of on-screen of effects) used zero no models. The CG maestros worked completely -- start to finish -- with computers.
John Goodson is the guy responsible for the new Enterprise. A model maker himself, he says that while computers are "liberating," and give him "endless opportunities for variation," he still misses the physical world and the ability to touch what he's working with. He actually bought a $12 "Enterprise" from Target (complete with cheesy missile sound effects) to keep on his desk, and still draws on the back of napkins at his local cafe every Sunday.
Talking to the ILM employees always reminds me: There's a cool job out there for everyone if you're patient. After all, these guys are accomplished and at thier ages, frankly, there really wasn't much of this stuff around when they were young.
They busied themselves with early computers, or models, while watching movies like "Star Wars" (or TV shows like "Star Trek"), and waiting for jobs like these to come around. Now, they use technology to literally put magic in front of us on the big screen. Yes, they get to work in an awesome building with a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but they started out like many of us, digging movies, and wondering how they could someday make people see their own visions.
Thanks to them, I'll watch the new "Star Trek" with an extra appreciation. It's worth taking a second to consider how many months - heck, years - goes into making these effects. Whenever I see the credits roll by, I'm glad to see ILM get its due. There are always a couple of fellow nerds in the theater who applaud.
And how's this for cool? At Goodson's local coffee shop, they politely ask for (and keep) all of his napkin drawings. You never know where you might find one.