By AMY ROBINSON
The Charleston Gazette
BARBOURSVILLE (AP) — In a small, sparse office in Barboursville, magic is being made — movie magic, that is.
Husband-and-wife team Brad Kalinoski and Tina Wallace own Exodus FX, a visual effects company that works in film and television. After living and working everywhere from Vancouver to Los Angeles to New York and even China, the West Virginia natives decided to return home.
“We came back to change the mentality against West Virginia, the negative image we have,” said Kalinoski, whose family lives in Huntington.
The move allows them to offer their services at a lower cost while also promoting West Virginia. He said they want to assist the West Virginia Film Office in helping sell the state within the industry. They’re also working with students in Marshall’s School of Art & Design to help better prepare them for a career in the industry. (When Marshall’s new Visual Arts Center is completed in 2014, Kalinoski and Wallace will move their office there.)
Wallace returned in 2010 to get the company started. Kalinoski spent that year shuttling back and forth to New York, where he worked for Look Effects, including on the Oscar-winning “Black Swan,” which earned him a Visual Effects Society award nomination. He settled here last year.
So far things have been good, they said.
“We’ve been really, really busy,” Kalinoski said. “Busier than we ever expected.”
Workdays can last 20 hours, and it’s not uncommon to work six days a week.
Kalinoski is a compositor, and his wife is a rotoscope/paint artist. Compositing combines elements from separate sources into single images. Rotoscoping is used to create mattes, which are used in compositing, and painting removes elements such as production equipment or actors’ safety gear from a shot.
“She takes stuff out,” Kalinoski said.
“And he adds stuff in,” Wallace said.
Working with them are associate producer Jennifer Ogrin, the only other employee in the Barboursville office, and five other artists who work remotely from their homes _ including one in Argentina.
Recently, they have worked on films including “The Muppets,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “End of Watch” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (now showing at Park Place Cinemas). Coming up, Kalinoski will work on the comedy “Gods Behaving Badly” starring Christopher Walken and Sharon Stone, and the company is bidding for work on the Darren Aronofsky/Russell Crowe biblical epic “Noah” and “The Blair Witch Project 3.”
Kalinoski hopes they’ll land work on “Independence Day 2” as well. They’ve done plenty lately for the film’s co-writer/producer Dean Devlin, just finishing more than 100 shots for his television heist drama “Leverage.”
“They really liked our work and us so much they gave us some of the most difficult shots you could do,” said Kalinoski, who has been working with Devlin for three years.
That included shots from the season premiere, “The (Very) Big Bird Job,” which revolved around the heist of Howard Hughes’ famous “Spruce Goose” airplane, which is on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon.
“The director wanted it to look like the propellers were moving, but legally you’re not allowed to start the plane in the museum,” Kalinoski said.
That meant that, among other things, Exodus had to create 3D, moving propellers to replace the actual plane’s static ones in the shot.
Exodus also does commercial work. The company has been involved with ads for Netflix, Sony and Microsoft, and earlier this month, Wallace was working on Shoe Carnival holiday ads.
As well as things have been going, they haven’t been perfect, of course.
While Kalinoski said they have encountered some difficulties with companies hesitating to work with them because of their location, the biggest problem has come from within West Virginia. Trying to find Internet service was the biggest obstacle to their return.
“It was hard to find a place with Internet,” Kalinoski said.
More specifically, it was hard to find a place with the sort of Internet capacity they need to work with the sizable files they do.
“The files are so big,” Wallace explained. “They’re movie images, so they’re lots and lots of frames. And we ship them back and forth to New York and L.A.”
“We use terabytes (roughly 1,000 gigabytes) when we’re both working,” Kalinoski said.
“We almost considered moving the entire company to another state because of the lack of interest in providing Internet service to meet our needs,” he added.
Lumos Networks stepped up to help them out, but still, they’re paying much more for much less bandwidth than any other place they’ve lived.
“I wish West Virginia had a tech czar,” Kalinoski lamented. “Someone to see what West Virginia needs, how we compete with other states and what can be done to improve.”
They’re making it work, though, and producing movie magic that’s seen (or not seen, as is sometimes the case) across the globe. Not a bad homecoming at all.
Contact Exodus FX at exodusfx.com, 304-404-3339 or email@example.com. See examples of their work on their website.