Cameron Waldbauer’s resume reads like a young boy’s wildest imagination.
At 17, living in Maple Ridge, Waldbauer landed what would unquestionably be the coolest job of all his friends. While they were off washing cars, making pocket change, Waldbauer was helping blow them up – cars, that is.
He landed a job as an assistant at a special effects company in Vancouver, helping any way he could. He fell in love with the job.
In the fall, Waldbauer’s passion and persistence paid off. The company kept him on the payroll, and he’s never looked back.
Twenty-nine movie credits later, Waldbauer finds himself at the pinnacle of success as a visual effects supervisor with his own company, Objects inc., and trying to find himself a good tailor.
Waldbauer walked the red carpet in Hollywood Sunday after being nominated for an Oscar for best achievement in visual effects on the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past.
While he and his visual effects team lost the Oscar to the work done on the movie Interstellar, Waldbauer understands the significance of his achievement.
It’s pretty incredible to be recognized in this way, said the Maple Ridge resident, who was in Montreal starting production on the next X-Men feature, his fifth with the franchise.
“Just to be recognized as a nominee speaks way more than actually winning the award because in the end it’s your peers who are choosing the Top 5 films that are nominated in that category. It’s the special effects branch of the academy that decides. It’s your direct peers that are choosing you.”
While the Oscar nod is a great feather in the cap, it’s Waldbauer’s resume that keeps him employed on some of Hollywood’s biggest budget productions.
After the Oscars, he had to head back to Vancouver to resume work on the next Star Trek movie. Other credits include 2013’s Elysium, featuring Matt Damon, and upcoming movies Warcraft, slated for release in 2016, and The Revenant, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Waldbauer said while the advancement of digital special effects has become a staple in the film industry, it hasn’t meant the end to the practical application he specializes in.
“We have so many tools at our disposal now. There was always the talk about how visual effects from computers will take over my job. It hasn’t happened yet and our jobs only get bigger and bigger each year. We get access to new tools just like they get access.”
He said the advancement of technology has made their job safer, and more controlled. Whether it’s using hydraulics, remote cameras or computer simulations, special effects that were once deemed impossible to pull off are now at their fingertips.
“Any of the big projects are first modeled on a computer in 3D. This allows much bigger builds than we’ve ever done before and allows for more sophisticated design. They also use simulation programs that can measure weight, distance, speeds and give directors and camera crews a better understanding of what to expect when a project erupts.”
And that, he said, is the goal – to be able to collaborate with a director and see his vision come to life on screen. One of his favourite memories dates back to X-Men: The Last Stand, which was filmed in Vancouver.
“There’s a lot of people in Vancouver that remember that day,” he laughed. “Throwing flaming cars down onto the set of X-Men from the what was supposed to be the Golden Gate Bridge was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Cars were going hundreds of feet up into the air.”
As he reflects back on his unsuspected career, Waldbauer said he is appreciative of everyone who helped him along the way, especially Mike Vezina, who gave him his first break all those years ago.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Mike, who turned out to be one my best friends. He’s the one who saw the potential I had in this business and he made sure it happened for me. I am forever grateful.”