(written from a Production point of view)
|Richard Edlund (ASC)|
|Date of birth:||6 December 1940|
|Place of birth:||Fargo, North Dakota|
|Roles:||Visual Effects Technician|
Richard Edlund (born 6 December 1940; age 73), was a multi-award winning and nominated (including several Academy Awards) cinematographer who has specialized in the various aspects of the production of visual effects. Hailing from North Dakota, Edlund was interested from an early age onward in cinematography, and has acquired a basic knowledge of cinematographic techniques and systems, while serving in the U.S. Navy and subsequently during his stint at the University of Southern California. (Cinefex, issue 2, p. 7)
Having had a long and succesful career in the field of visual effects, spanning nearly five decades and resulting in a multitude of highly successful motion pictures, it netted him 13 Academy Award, 11 Saturn Award, 1 President's Award, 4 BAFTA Film Award, 2 Emmy Award as well as 1 Sitges Award wins and nominations. Inducted into the "American Society of Cinematographers (ASC)", his distinguished career has started with contributions to the original Star Trek television series.
Star Trek association
Around 1965, Edlund got his first professional employment through, what became his life-long friend and mentor Joseph Westheimer (who came across Edlund's resumé at the Hollywood unemployment office) at his company The Westheimer Company, where he was enabled to further hone his skills as a visual effects technician. As it so happened the very first project he was assigned to professionally, was Star Trek: The Original Series. Edlund recalled years later what his duties entailed, "Mostly what I was doing was beaming guys in and out, though I did rotoscope the original Enterprise for the opening credits. It was the only Enterprise flyby they had for at least the first season, and they used it over and over – speeding it up, flopping it left for right...Talk about a show with no time or money. That was one of the things that made me uniquely qualified when Star Wars came along."  Though Edlund downplayed his role somewhat, he has made a noticeable contribution in the form of his design and execution of the Companion effect in the second season episode "Metamorphosis". (Star Trek Encyclopedia)
Edlund stayed in Westheimer's employment for the remainder of the series, having also worked in the same capacity on the contemporary television shows The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone as well as several television commercials Westheimer was involved with.
Early post-Star Trek career
Around 1969 Edlund left Westheimer to work free-lance as a still photographer and promotional filmmaker for a number of prominent rock groups, before joining the new visual effects company Robert Abel & Associates (RA&A) in the early 1970s. While there, he was an integral part of the team that worked on the ground-breaking opticals for the commercials of the era, the company was involved with, among others for the beverage 7-Up and the clothing brand Levis. An artistic difference of opinion with Robert Abel over the acquirement of a sophisticated piece of cinematographic piece of equipment, Paramount Pictures' VistaVision optical printer (last used for The Ten Commandments), made Edlund decide to resign in 1975.
Though Edlund had resigned, he did not leave in animosity toward the head-strong Abel and retained his respect for him as was evidenced in 1978, when Edlund tried to help out Abel. Abel's company was by then deeply involved with the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but he was not aware that he was running head-long into a fatal confrontation with the Paramount executives, due to the fact that he was spending far too much of the studios time and money designing and building a massive, interlinked and centrally-controlled camera and optical printer combo unit, while trying to re-invent the process as he did so, running massively over budget and over time in the process. Edlund repeatedly tried to make Abel aware of this, "I admonished him to keep it as simple as possible, because when the release date's breathing down your neck something's going to happen – it always does – and the more complex the system the more difficult it's going to be to fix and keep shooting. I don't know if Bob misinterpreted my meaning, but the end result was so overcomplicated it couldn't respond to changes without two days of re-programming, even though the problem might be something as simple as the magazine on the camera needing more clearance to avoid hitting the spacedock model.  Edlund's admonishments fell on deaf ears though.
The ILM years
Upon quitting RA&A, Edlund was not long without gainful employment as he was already sounded out by George Lucas to work in the fledging visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), becoming one of its fourteen founding members. As part of John Dykstra's visual effects filming crew, he was partly responsible for beefing out new techniques, such as motion control photography, to be used extensively for that company's first motion picture, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). The production earned him (and the others of his crew) as well as the company the very first of the many Academy Awards for visual effects that were to follow.
Upon completion of Star Wars Edlund continued working for Dykstra on the productions of the pilot of the original Battlestar Galactica series (1978, earning him and Dystra their first Emmy Award) as well as the movies The Manitou (1978) and The China Syndrome (1979). Edlund, however, did not follow Dykstra when the latter went on to form his own effects company, Apogee, Inc., but instead opted to heed George Lucas' invitation to rejoin ILM, for the production of the second Star Wars installment, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Promoted to visual effects supervisor, an important responsibility for him entailed the restructure and rebuild of the nearly dismantled company.
Edlund remained in the employ of ILM until 1984, and while the company in those years had produced the visual effects for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Edlund was not part of either production team, instead having worked on the productions of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), and Ghost Busters (1984).
Forming Boss Film Studios
In 1983, Edlund decided to go into business for himself and left ILM, after completion of Ghost Busters, and founded his own company Boss Film Corporation, which, much like ILM, specialized in the production of visual effects, the building and filming of studio models in particular. The company's first contributions were for productions like 2010 (1984), Fright Night (1985) and Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986). In order to kick-start his company into higher gear, Edlund acquired Douglas Trumbull's visual effects company, Entertainment Effects Group (co-visual effects vendor for 2010 and Fright Night) in 1984, taking over its facility in Marina del Rey and incorporating it into his company to formally become Boss Film Studios (or Boss Films for short) in 1985.
For the next decade-and-a-half, Boss Films became a prolific visual effects company that has provided the effects for many motion pictures, not few of them blockbusters, such as Die Hard (1988), Ghost (1990), Batman Returns (1992), and Starship Troopers (1997), to name but a few. As visual effects supervisor, Edlund himself was intimately involved with most of his company's productions. During this era Boss Films became a competitor of note to Edlund's former employer ILM.
While the company was never contracted to work for the Star Trek franchise, many production staffers, especially model makers, who had worked previously on Star Trek (like Bruce MacRae), or would later on work for the franchise (like John Eaves), have at one time or another worked for Boss Films. Most of Gregory Jein, Inc.'s staff, for example have done so, including Greg Jein himself, most notably for the 1990 feature The Hunt for Red October.
Nevertheless, in 1996, input of the company was required for an isolated incident. During production of the Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations", Doug Drexler discovered that the Deep Space Station K-7 model made a slow rotating motion in The Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles". The eleventh hour discovery necessitated the hiring of Boss Film's Larry DeUnger to replicate the rotating motion. (The Magic of Tribbles: The Making of Trials and Tribble-ations, pp. 44-45)
Despite having provided the visual effects for so many successful movies, Edlund announced on 26 August, 1997, the closure of his company, having stated, "We're averaging about $20 million [in revenue] a year, and it's not enough to pay the lease, pay the staff and still make a profit."  While the competitive environment undoubtedly played its role, it should also be noted that Boss Films adhered to the traditional way of producing visual effects, and did not made the transition to newer techniques, most notably computer generated imagery, as ILM did.