Former OTC student excels in animation work

Former OTC student excels in animation work

Friday, February 17, 2012

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Brett Ellis got his first taste of computer programming and animation while attending Ozarks Technical Community College in 2000.

Today, Ellis has taken what he learned at the College and become a top special effects artist for a visual effects studio, Digital Domain, in Los Angeles.

The Hartville native has worked on such movies as “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The A-Team,” “2012” and “Transformers 3.”

Growing up in the small town about 50 miles east of Springfield, Ellis was drawn to video games, and after graduation, he came to OTC to earn his Associate of Arts degree before transferring to the Savannah College of Art & Design.

“Taking those classes as OTC helped me decide that pursuing animation/visual effects was something that I would definitely like to try. I do still have those programming basics I learned at OTC that I dust off from time to time,” Ellis said in an email interview from Vancouver, B.C., where he is working on a yet-to-be-announced film.

As a special effects artist, Ellis and others tweak films with specialized animation of characters and vehicles. It can mean adding or enhancing smoke, weather, destruction elements, fire, roaring seas or steaming lava to a film.

“It can be very intense work. One week, I worked 99 hours. My advice is if you are thinking about going into that industry, you need to make sure you really love doing the work or you won’t last,” he said.

Ellis doesn’t go on the set while the movie is made, so he hasn’t had any brushes with major movie stars. He has, however, bumped into some when he was working out regularly at a gym in Venice Beach. He’s rubbed elbows there with the likes of Hulk Hogan, The Roc and heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko.

Ellis’ career has taken him to many countries to work on films, including Australia, which remains one of his favorite countries.

Surprisingly, Ellis’ favorite films don’t include a lot of visual effects, if any.

“I’m a huge western fan. I love Clint Eastwood films and the James Bond films — the Sean Connery era, of course,” he said.