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The Westheimer Company

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The Westheimer Company was an optical visual effects house, based in Hollywood, California, which provided the, what was at the time still called, special effects, or opticals, for all three seasons of Star Trek: The Original Series. As this production was the most effects laden television show of its day, Westheimer was one of the extra effects companies that was brought in early in the first season, to alleviate the workload on its primary effects vendor, Howard Anderson Company. Founded in 1955, the company was owned and operated by its namesake, Joseph Westheimer, who would run the company for thirty years. The Westheimer Company was the first of the additional visual effects houses that was brought in to work on the series, and started work on the third episode, "Mudd's Women", after Howard Anderson Company became backlogged on the effects heavy episode "The Corbomite Maneuver". Westheimer was brought in on the strength of their work they had done on the science fiction series The Twilight Zone and would continue working on the Original series for the remainder of its run. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, 1st. ed., p. 143)

Planet maquette set up for filming at the Westheimer Effects Company

A planet maquette at Westheimer's, geared up to rotate for filming at 24 frames per second

The Westheimer Company was nominated twice for an Emmy Award for Special Classification of Individual Achievements for its work on Star Trek: The Original Series in 1968 and 1969. Twenty years later Westheimer was reacquainted with the franchise as it provided additional visual effects for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as well as titles and opticals for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Among the employees at The Westheimer Company who were involved with Star Trek was Joseph M. Wilcots, later becoming an Emmy Award-nominated cinematographer, and Richard Edlund, who later became a multiple Oscar-winner. A later employee was the Star Trek award winning visual effects supervisor Ronald B. Moore, who got his break in the motion picture industry at Westheimer's.

None of Westheimer's production staff, including Westheimer himself for that matter, were ever individually credited for their contributions to The Original Series, instead being officially credited collectively under the company name.

Outside the Star Trek franchise, the company provided special effects for numerous television series, including The Twilight Zone and The Big Valley, prior to Star Trek. Indicative of the contemporary, 1950s, early 1960s, television status of visual effects was, that the company was not officially credited for these productions, notwithstanding the fact that they were, especially in the former case, an important element in the productions. Later, after Star Trek the company also started to work on major films, such as Star Wars V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). The last recorded credit were "End Titles, Optical Effects" for Love Hurts (1990), and the company seems to be no longer in existence, most likely due to the long illness and ultimate death in 1998 of its founder, Joseph Westheimer.

Staff Edit

Staffers involved at the time of the production of Star Trek were among others,

Emmy Award nominations Edit

The Westheimer Company, received the following Emmy Award nominations in the category "Special Classification of Individual Achievements: Special Photographic Effects" for their work on Star Trek:

Further reading Edit

  • "Out-of-this-world Special Effects for 'Star Trek'", Rae Moore, American Cinematographer, October 1967, pp. 715-717
  • "Where No Show Had Gone Before", Jan Alan Henderson, American Cinematographer, January 1992, pp. 34-40
  • "Special Visual Effects", Daniel Fiebiger, Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, 1996, pp. 64-75

External linkEdit

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