My American Dream


Image from Flickr

I earned my Green Card by meticulously planning a hi-jack attempt on Air Force One. It was returning from a summit in Moscow and carrying Harrison Ford as President of the United States. Our team of animators and engineers helped all the explosions look realistic, simulated Air Force One refueling in the air, and made everyone believe that President escaped from the plane in a computer-generated pod we created for him, which was dropped through computer-generated doors at the bottom of the plane. I even had a chance to meet the President, I mean Harrison Ford, at the Sony stage, along with other actors who were practicing jumping from a plane in front of a giant air blower. And this was all part of work that I was actually paid to do as a member of the special effects team on the movie "Air Force One".

We came to the US when my talented husband was accepted into a PhD program at USC. We rented a tiny studio behind a Beverly Hills mansion and immersed ourselves into the exciting life of work, sports and fun. We were young, hyperactive, self-confident, and LA was just right for us with its wide open roads, hugging blue skies and bursting cultural life. We listened to KCRW, paid $10 for the cheapest Hollywood Bowl seats, watched fresh releases at Sunset 5 and met European movie directors in a small screening room of the film forum, open to anyone interested. At lunch we ate avocado burgers in a surf joint in Venice, or sipped Jamba Juice in Santa Monica and twice a week we took kick-boxing classes at 9pm, then showered and went out.

Here my wildest dreams came true when it turned out that my math training could apply to the exciting world of movie special effects. The setting was like a dream: on the ocean side of Los Angeles, in a quiet nightclub atmosphere, in an abandoned military hangar, lit by a web of Christmas lights and lava lamps, surrounded by a life-size Princess Leah statue and old Star Wars spaceships, accompanied by a pet parrot. We were making Hollywood history and immortalizing our characters on the big screen.

We were compositing green-screen shots of the famous actors onto a separate background sequences, measuring motion of the plane and mapping reflections of the night city lights onto it, drawing explosions, removing wires and cat whiskers, rendering fur, building spaceships, removing wrinkles and doing more explosions. We worked 10 hours a day, occasional weekends, and we rarely saw the sunlight. But it all seemed like a very long party. And then, we had a chance to take off the geek clothes, to put on the fancy outfits and go to the movie premiere where we cheered to every movie sequence we helped to make and everyone stayed till the very end for the fast running credits searching for their name in tiny print.

Read more about The Math Mom in her life story: Love, Life and Math.

26 comments:

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