BY ROBERT GOLDRICH
CULVER CITY, Calif. --- Long-time freelance collaborators Jon Warren, Doug Miller and Evan Jacobs have launched Vision Crew Unlimited, a visual effects studio housed in temporary quarters here. Permanent space is being sought for the new venture, which offers a mix of services including mechanical effects, puppeteering, motion control and construction of models and miniatures. The company eventually plans to diversify it's in-house capabilities to encompass computer graphics and digital compositing.
Warren and Miller serve as creative/technical directors at Vision Crew; Jacobs is the studio's executive producer. At press time they had just wrapped miniature, puppetry and mechanical effects for their first ad assignment under the Vision Crew banner: a Coca-Cola commercial directed be Spike Jonze of Satellite Films in Hollywood for Creative Artists Agency, Beverly Hills.Vision Crew is also working on visual effects for Sometimes They Come Back...Again, a Trimark Pictures feature. The Trimark and Coke jobs helped finalize the three principals' decision to open Vision Crew formally.
Jacobs said he and his two colleagues had harbored the ambition to have their own facility ever since they established a close collaborative rapport as freelancers who worked regularly for Boss Film Studios in Marina Del Rey, since 1989. Warren and Jacobs met each other two years earlier, having started their careers freelancing for Fantasy II Film Effects in Burbank.
In April, Warren and Jacobs wrapped effects crew chief duties on what turned out to be their last job at Boss: a package of four Dodge Caravan spots Terry Windell directed for BBDO Southfield, Mich. Around the same time, Miller was concluding motion-capture puppeteering for the feature Species, his swan song for Boss.
Warren, Jacobs and Miller then got the chance to work independently of any effects studio on a trailer for the upcoming 20th Century Fox film Broken Arrow, directed by John Woo and starring John Travolta and Christian Slater. Within a three-week turnaround time, Warren, Jacobs and Miller built a working model of a Stealth aircraft for the trailer. The model, which had an eight foot wingspan, wound up being used in the film.
"The Broken Arrow job crystallized our plan to open a company together," Jacobs said. "We didn't have a lot of capital, so the project helped us fund Vision Crew. And we then built some momentum as more calls about jobs started to come in. Being awarded the Coca-Cola and Trimark work helped cement our decision that getting into this made sense."
The Coke spot continues what has been a steady stream of ad credits for the Vision Crew founders. In October, between freelance commitments to Boss, Jacobs, Miller and Warren teamed on miniatures and physical effects for an NFL Quarterback Club commercial out of agency RDA International in New York. The spot, directed by Zack Snyder of bicoastal The End, required a miniature 65 x 35 ft. football stadium, which they built in fifteen days.
Earlier spot effects credits for Jacobs, Miller and Warren at Boss include "Bud Bowl III," in 1991; the Chevy Truck "Hulk" spot in which the '94 model truck emerges from a '93 model; and last year's Unocal 76 "UFO" package. Warren and Jacobs worked on the original DHL "Flying Van" campaign in 1989. And Miller also did miniatures and mechanical effects for "Bud Bowl VI" and Dodge Neon in '94.
Jacobs said he has begun exploring commercial representation prospects for Vision Crew on both coasts and in the Midwest. The company also hopes to build a client base in long-form. Warren and Jacobs were the lead mechanical effects people for Boss on the film Outbreak. While freelancing for Digital Domain in Santa Monica, Miller was involved in miniature fabrication for Apollo 13. Miller and Warren worked on miniatures for True Lies, also out of Digital Domain, and Cliffhanger for Boss. And as a freelancer as Boyington Film Productions here, Jacobs served as model shop supervisor on Ed Wood.