Making movies: Dean Wright on his faith and work in visual effects
Dean Wright is a director, visual effects and special effects supervisor in Hollywood who has worked on films like Titanic, The Lord of The Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. He is also a committed Christian and is trying to raise funds to develop more family-orientated films in an industry dominated by sci-fi
How long have you been working on visual effects?
Dean: Well, I've been working in the industry for over 20 years. I started working on a little project called Titanic in 1996 or 1997 and I became a visual producer for a couple of years and I also worked for Disney for a number of years as well and after that I moved to New Zealand and ended up working on The Lord of the Rings and eventually The Chronicles of Narnia. So basically I have been doing this since 1996 and directing.
Did you always want to do this?
Dean: When I was in grade school, my professor gave us an assignment to work on, and instead of writing it I wanted to make a film, I have always loved writing as well, but I wanted to do something different, and so I asked him if I could do a film, and he said yes, and I got an A. So I always loved film from an early age, I knew I wanted to work in film.
You have worked on many films overs the years, but what film did you enjoy working on the most?
Dean: Wow , that's a hard question. Probably the one I enjoyed the most is For Greater Glory. You see, I grew up in the south-west of America and my wife has some Latin origins in her, and this was my first directing role and being able to tell the story of what happened to these people in Mexico, was a great opportunity for me. I think The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was a great story to work on, so as a crew person that would be my favourite. But if you ask me this question tomorrow I will probably have a different answer for you, but that's todays answer.
Does your faith play an important role in choosing the films you work on?
Dean: It's important in that it's part of all my choices. I think in everyday life, there is the opportunity to choose your integrity amongst other things. I don't want to be involved in something that destroys the light just for money or anything that goes against my faith. The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia have very strong religious themes.
Have you ever turned down a film because it clashed with your faith?
Dean: Fortunately, I have been quite lucky though to have two or three options. I was at Disney at the time and a film that they wanted me to do I felt was completely meaningless and I never felt made any sense, or I could take the chance and pack up my family and move to New Zealand, so I decided to take a leap of faith to do a project I really wanted to do. While in New Zealand I eventually worked on 'The Lord of the Rings'. So I am glad I took that chance and it worked out.
What has it been like being a Christian and working in Hollywood? Hollywood is very liberal. Have you ever encountered opposition or ridicule because of your faith or does it just not come up?
Dean: Typically it doesn't tend to come up but on Greater Glory or Kingdom Come we never asked people what their faith was, and the people who came on board to a Christian film, it was an eye opening experience for them. Some I know even found faith after working on these projects. As a director maybe some people may not want to work with me because of my faith, but that's just a chance I'll have to take. Some have said 'well, he has done Greater Glory but can he do anything else?'. They will just have to wait and see.
Do you think the visual and special effects have changed greatly over the years and do you feel under pressure to create a wow factor?
Dean: Certainly, it changes constantly. Sometimes film makers use visual effects to make the story more interesting. For me, I love to push it to the edge a bit. I believe effects are necessary to serve the story.
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Do you believe the special and visual effects are taking over the substance and story of a film, or is there still a good balance?
Dean: That's the danger, not every case. Sometimes movies are a showcase of a wow factor. Film is more than that. Working on a film to get it right can take years. I worked on a film for two years, you put so much effort you want to leave the audience with something that resonates.
You were nominated for an Oscar for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Would you say that was your biggest accomplishment so far?
Dean: Yes, the Oscar nomination for The Lion, The witch and The Wardrobe was great. People didn't know what to expect, so that was awesome and getting the nomination from my peers was quite rewarding.
What's up next for you?
Dean: My goal is to try and develop more projects that are inspirational and family friendly films for the whole family to watch together. Because the industry tends to focus a lot more on sci-fi extravaganzas. So I am asking for support to bring more of these family oriented projects.
To support Dean, visit his fundraising page at http://www.gofundme.com/2pu79k
See Dean at work below on his directorial debut Kingdom Come, released as For Greater Glory last summer.