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Area native's animation featured in new movie
'Escape from Planet Earth' opens today
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At right is a movie poster at Movie Town in Martinsville for Escape from Planet Earth. Martinsville-area native Celeste Leizer (below) is a visual effects artist who worked on the computer-animated family film. It opens today in more than 3,200 theaters in North America. (Bulletin photo)
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Friday, February 15, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Celeste Leizer hopes local movie-goers will escape into an imaginary world that she helped create.

The Martinsville-area native is a visual effects artist who worked on “Escape from Planet Earth,” a computer-animated family film opening today at more than 3,200 theaters in North America, including Movie Town in Martinsville.

The movie is about a space hero astronaut who tries to help an alien planet and gets caught in a villain’s trap. Leizer said the movie has “a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor” that will amuse adults and children alike.

Visual effects that she designs include “anything that is not an animated character running around,” she said.

To see Leizer’s work in the movie, look for effects such as rocket thrusters, rocket boots, electrical arcs, sparks, cattle prods, shock collars, water sprays and a “snot bubble.”

She was limited in how much she could elaborate about the movie, produced by Rainmaker Entertainment, before it is released.

All of the effects were designed with computer programs. Leizer said it is challenging to learn the programs. Furthermore, the software is constantly being updated, and it is challenging to keep up with the changing technology so she can stay competitive in her field, she said.

Leizer describes herself as an artist. She enjoys taking photos and drawing, preferring spontaneity over deciding beforehand what her subjects will be.

Leizer, 24, is the daughter of Howard and Jane Leizer and a 2006 graduate of Martinsville High School. Watching movies as she grew up, she became interested in how motion pictures and their visual effects were created. After she realized that some people earn a living by creating those effects, she figured that she could, too, she recalled.

She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a focus in creative technologies, 3D (three-dimensional) animation and visual effects.

But she figured that she needed further training to get jobs in feature film-making. She took an intensive year-long course at the renowned Vancouver Film School in Canada, earning a diploma in 3D animation and visual effects.

“Escape from Planet Earth” was the first motion picture on which Leizer has worked. She recently finished creating effects for another movie, “Superman: Man of Steel,” which will be released in June.

Leizer and other visual effects artists work under contracts with movie studios for specific projects.

“They hire you for a few months to work on one movie,” she said, “and then you go somewhere else” and work on another movie for another company — for months at a time, her resume shows.

The job pays well enough, according to Leizer, that she is able to take a little time off to visit her family in Martinsville before she pursues another project.

She is talking with movie companies and hopes to be able to land her next project by March or April.

Although visual effects artists work under contract, movie companies have effects supervisors who work just for them. Leizer said she eventually might pursue such a position, which would offer job security.

She also expressed interest in creating visual effects for video games.

 

 
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