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Future General Corporation

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(written from a Production point of view)

Future General Corporation or FGC for short, was a research/visual effects house, founded in 1975 by Douglas Trumbull and Richard Yuricich and located on the Maxella Avenue in Marina del Rey, California. Goal of the company was to further develop and exploit filming techniques, Trumbull up to then had invented or developed, most notably Showscan, an early high-definition filming technique. A deal was brokered between Trumbull and then president of Paramount Pictures, Frank Yablans, and its then holding company Gulf+Western to provide full funding, in the process becoming sole shareholders and holding company with Trumbull and Yuricich acting as CEOs.

It was FGC that was offered the job of providing the visual effects for Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1978, but was turned down by Trumbull as he and his company were then deeply committed to the production of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Upon completion of that project Paramount withheld funding for a new project, Trumbull had lined up, forcing him to let go of a large part of his team (see: Dave Stewart for a contemporary line-up of personnel employed at the time), many of them moving on to employment at companies like Robert Abel & Associates (RA&A) and Apogee, Inc., whereas others (re-)joined the restarted Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), that was gearing up to start production on the second installment of the Star Wars franchise. (Cinefex, Issue 1, p.4)

A year later however, FGC was again approached to do the effects, as the production ran into troubles after RA&A was pulled from the project. By that time relations between Trumbull and the Paramount management had deteriorated due to the fact that, "Paramount had no vision at all and [was] going through a big management change. The guy that I did the deal with was ousted, and Michael Eisner and Barry Diller came in and they couldn't see what I was trying to do and wanted to get rid of it. I don't know, there's just a whole train of disillusionment that accompanies my history in movies." [1] As a matter of fact, Paramount, stung by Trumbull's earlier rejection, was already in the process of shutting down FGC as Trumbull (who at that time was serving as an unpaid consultant to his old friend Robert Wise, the director of the feature) recalled, "I was under contract at Paramount, who began closing down Future General in order to provide my cameras to Bob Abel s company. At the same time, Bob was already a year into the production, trying to implement a radically new computerized and computer graphics driven process." [2] Trumbull used the problems the studio were in as leverage to secure a proviso that he would be released from his contractual obligations if he accepted. For the work, Trumbull was able to partly reassemble the team he had on Close Encounters. Trumbull left FGC upon completion of the project.

To cover legal liability for the studio models, which included handling of the models during filming of The Motion Picture and additional detail construction, Trumbull also secured permission from Paramount to establish a subsidiary company at the same location, Entertainment Effects Group (EEG). (Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, p. 181) Some employees from RA&A's Astra Image Corporation moved over to EEG, after RA&A was pulled from the project, followed by several model makers from Magicam, Inc., who were made responsible for applying additional paint jobs and detail construction work on the models, as well as handling the models during filming.

The relationship between FGC and its holding company, had soured considerably by then as was evidenced by the fact that the company was passed over in 1981 for the visual effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in favor of Industrial Light & Magic. According to Trumbull, FGC actually underbid ILM by $1,5 million, but the studio claimed that they wanted to cement the relationship with ILM that had begun with Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Cinefantastique, issue 44, Vol 12 #5/6, p.65) After that all activities within the company ground to a halt, though the company, as of 2010, is still listed as one of the subsidiaries of current holding company Viacom. [3]

The only other credit the company has to its name is the 1978 movie Night of Dreams, and the 1980 Close Encounters of the Third Kind - The Special Edition, the team of FGC embarked upon directly after The Motion Picture.

EEG fared somewhat better, as Trumbull retained ownership of that company, and that company provided the studio models for Blade Runner (1982), Trumbull's own Brainstorm (1983), Ghost Busters (1984), 2010 (1984), and Fright Night (1985). Trumbull sold off his company in 1984 to Richard Edlund for it to become Boss Film Studios in 1985. (Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, p. 181)

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People employed at the time of the production of The Motion Picture:

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