Alumni Stories

Dan Bartolucci: Visual effects animate the world of the imagination on screens big and small

BFA 10 Film

Awards season is a busy time for film instructor and alumnus Dan Bartolucci who, as a member of the Lola Visual Effects team, is usually nominated for best visual effects on one or more motion picture each year. However, you’re more likely to find him in jeans and a t-shirt riding his motorcycle around town than at a tuxedo fitting with an invite to Vanity Fair’s Oscar after party.

I think the general population has mixed feelings about visual effects. Our work is most successful when it isn’t perceived as an effect.

Dan Bartolucci

Bartolucci is an esteemed Autodesk Flame® artist and VFX editor who remains dedicated to his alma mater, where he currently teaches two classes. Immediately after completing ArtCenter’s undergraduate film program in 2010, Bartolucci ignited a VFX career that’s been soaring ever since. He has conjured many memorable feats of special effects magic, including shrinking Chris Evans in Captain America, aging the lead actors in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 and emaciating Bella in Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1.

AC: How do you describe what you do to people who are unfamiliar with the world of visual effects?

DB: At our company, a lot of our work is most successful when it isn’t perceived as an effect. What we do, when dealing with plot-driven effects, is anything from face-replacements, aging (upwards or downwards), increasing or decreasing proportions/sizes/weights/muscle, and any kind of beauty or cosmetic work you can imagine.

AC: How do you think movie fans view visual effects? What do they seem to like and why?

DB: I think the general population has mixed feelings about visual effects. Some love it. Some hate it. The people who hate it, in my opinion, are responding mainly to the big action movies. There are some great articles out there addressing the apparent ‘numbness’ people can acquire from seeing so much of it. However, some people will always love to indulge in the big crashes, explosions and creatures. Personally, I love both worlds.

AC: What do you consider pure artistry in the field?

DB: I’m fascinated by the incredible evolution in creatures and their inherently life-like qualities. I’m not excluding any effects specifically, but off the top of my head I really dig well-done creatures. From real animals to aliens, I love it. I was a huge fan of the creatures in Life of Pi and Prometheus.

AC: As a member of the Lola Visual Effects team, nominated for best visual effects for Lone Ranger, what is it that you think stood out to voters?

DB: Realism, regarding the application of effects, is always a good start. I think people appreciate effects that ‘sit’ in the scene, regardless if their background is in practical or visual effects, and the team at Lola did an incredible job applying the work.

AC: What is it about teaching that brings you back to ArtCenter?

DB: ArtCenter is a creative powerhouse. I went through the school so fast (six terms, 21+ units each term) that I missed some of what I would have experienced if I had stayed longer. It’s a very rewarding environment and I love the ambition of the creatives here. Working with such ambition and creativity makes me never want to lose that connection.

AC: What is it like riding a motorcycle from Santa Monica to Pasadena during rush hour?

DB: Let’s just say that if I didn’t ride a motorcycle I wouldn’t be able to teach. I’ve heard stories of it taking 2-3 hours going from Santa Monica to Pasadena during rush hour. I refuse to see for myself! I enjoy riding, and it certainly keeps things interesting during my commute!

More Alumni Stories