Job means life, says special effects co-ordinator

Allen Hall says working as a Hollywood special effects coordinator is an ongoing learning experience.


A giant octopus emerges from the water. Its tentacles wrap around a nearby ship, sending sailors flying out to sea. The ship is ripped in half, just as cannons hit the beast with a fiery explosion.

But the ship is no match for the octopus, and its splintered remains drown in defeat.

On the set of Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Allen Hall watches the action unfold. “I can’t believe we did it,” he said. “It’s done and it’s on film forever.”

As a special effects coordinator, Hall is the man behind the action. To date, he’s worked on more than 100 films, including How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Road to Perdition, and Constantine.

But before Hall began playing with fire and robots, he was 25 years old and on his way to medical school.

After completing five years of post-secondary studies, Hall was accepted into dental school. But in his heart, he wanted to be an artist.

His father introduced him to Glen Robinson, who Hall refers to as “the No. 1 effects man of all time.” After endless phone calls, Robinson was able to get Hall a job working on the film Hindenburg.

“I got exposed to a lot of hardcore effects,” he said. “I couldn’t have been more lucky.”

With some experience under his belt, Hall was ready to start creating his own art. His first project was the 1979 flick, Love At First Bite. People magazine quoted it as “the comedy hit of the summer” and “the movie that set special effects back 10 years.”

Though Hall said he had no idea what he was doing at the time, he added that “each film is a learning experience.”

And doing his homework by reading endless special effects books has brought Hall to where he is today.

“It’s all on-the-job training,” he said. “You only have to know about this show and then the next show. You don’t need to know everything at once.”

To date, Hall has had three Academy Award nominations, and won the Oscar for best visual effects for his work on Forest Gump in 1994.

“It was thrilling to win,” he said. “I just had seconds, but I got to speak to a billion people at once.”

Hall’s current project is the upcoming 2007 film, I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, where he is coordinating a giant, four-storey fire among other surprises.

But even at 60 years old, Hall isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “This job keeps me alive,” he said. “I won’t stop until I fall over dead.”

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