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FireflyEmmy Creative Awards : Blowing up spaceships for an Emmy
By Martin S. Gonzalez
Sunday 14 September 2003, by Webmaster
From football games, birthdays, school graduations and musical performances, Linda Jane Smith of Sierra Madre has never spared an occasion to root for her son, Emile.
Today, she’ll be cheering Emile on again, this time as her son vies for his first Emmy Award.
A visual effects supervisor on the now defunct television show, "Firefly,’’ Emile Edwin Smith and eight of the show’s digital effects crew were nominated in the category of Outstanding Special Visual Effects for their work on the show. It is Smith’s first Emmy nomination in a decade-long career in film and television.
Created by Joss Whedon, more commonly known as the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’’ "Firefly’’ was a short-lived futuristic sci-fi western that fell to poor ratings and shaky reviews. As visual effects supervisor, Smith oversaw all of the computer-generated elements and effects that were incorporated into the show.
"He came in a few months ago and very casually told us that he thought they might get nominated, and then later, he said they did get nominated’’ said Linda Smith, describing her son’s calm demeanor about it all. "He’s always been that way, very calm. I was far from calm to say the least.’’
But Emile Smith is reveling in his first Emmy nomination.
"It was fantastic when we heard we were nominated,’’ Smith said. "It was great to finally be one of the main guys.’’
Emile Smith’s interest in special effects came early.
"I remember he and his brother Benjamin always dragging around expensive video cameras in the back yard making movies,’’ said their mother. "They would put a toy car next to a tomato plant and film it, making the plant look enormous.’’
Both Smith and his brother were influenced by their father, Raymond, an electrical engineer who worked at JPL in NASA’s Deep Space Program during their childhood.
"The boys saw several space shuttle landings and were around space and science with their father all the time,’’ said Linda Smith.
Benjamin Smith followed in his father’s footsteps, eventually studying atmospheric science. Emile Smith remained steadfast in his desire to work in Hollywood. After attending UC San Diego and finishing up at UCLA with a degree in film, Emile Smith taught himself how to use digital effects software, eventually landing a job on "Star Trek Voyager.’’
Along with his father’s influence, Smith noted that "Star Wars,’’ was an important influence on his work in "Firefly,’’ along with old World War II films, and even NASCAR race footage.
"We look at the dynamics of how cars move around the track, or how planes in those old films dived and swerved, and we reference them in our effects,’’ Smith said.
Smith was especially proud of his work on "Firefly.’’
"We really went in trying to do something no one else was doing, creating effects with more of a hand-held blended realistically into the live action footage. Digital effects you see on other shows are sometimes very static.’’
The show already received an award for Best Visual Effects in a Television show from the Visual Effects Society in February and stands a good chance of winning when the Creative Emmys are announced tonight.
Smith will be working on the feature film adaptation of "Firefly,’’ directed by Joss Whedon and set to go into production early next year.
"I love every aspect of what I do,’’ said Smith. "When people ask me what I do, I tell them I blow up spaceships.’’
Smith is also an accomplished downhill skier, budding musician and is currently building his own home in Malibu. With no architectural experience, he simply drew up his plans and presented them to an architect for final design.
"He’s always been a free spirit, and he’s always been able to accomplish what he sets out to do,’’ beamed a proud Linda Smith.
ITAL Martin S. Gonzalez can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2734 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . END ITAL