Magneto couldn't lift a stadium without the help of Girard native Joseph A. Spano III.
Spano, 28, worked as a digital compositor on "X-Men: Day of Future Past," which opens Friday nationwide.
"A digital compositor is kind of like the end of the line for the whole visual effects chain," Spano said during a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "We're the ones who combine it all, dial it in and make it look sort of real ... We're the perfectionists of the group."
Special to the Tribune Chronicle
Girard native Joseph A. Spano III worked on the visual effects for “X-Men: Day of Future Past.”
When audiences see a gun fly into Magneto's hand or a sentinel land at Wolverine's feet, Spano helped make those moments a reality.
Working on movies like "X-Men," "The Wolverine," "Iron Man 3," "Jack the Giant Slayer," "A Good Day to Die Hard" and "42" may sound glamorous. The reality is different. For "X-Men," Spano worked 47 days straight without a day off at one stretch, and many of those were 20-hour days.
"On this movie in particular, it was a nightmare," Spano said. "I think we had 400 and something (visual effects) shots ... The hours were pretty terrible, but they always are."
It's not uncommon for people in Spano's field to take several weeks off to regroup after working on a big-budget, effects-heavy film because the hours are so grueling. Spano said his friends who've worked for Weta Digital, the New Zealand-based effects company that does all of the "Lord of the Rings"/"Hobbit" films, have told him they book their return flights a month after the job is done because it's the only way they'd get to see any of the country.
Spano went to Girard High School and graduated from Trumbull Career & Technical Center in 2004, where he studied interactive multimedia. His teacher, John Bagnola, hired him the day he graduated to work for him at Treasured Moments.
"I was working on local commercials and stuff," Spano said. "That's where I discovered special effects and compositing and stuff like that."
He still might be working on local commercials if it hadn't been a slow day at work and Spano hadn't seen a commercial for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
"I talked to them when I originally graduated, but that idea kind of got lost in time," he said. "I decided, yeah, I think it's time to move along. I called and ended up going like a week or so later to tour (the art institute)."
Since graduating in 2009, Spano has worked on 29 television series and films, according to his IMDb page.
"For the first couple years of me working, I wasn't doing features, it was more TV and commercials," he said. "While I had some fun times, the goal was always to get to features. Definitely 'Iron Man (3)' and 'X-Men' were my best work so far, and Digital Domain is the best company I've worked for.''
Spano is getting ready to move from Los Angeles to Vancouver, where much of the digital effects work has relocated due to Canadian tax incentives. He's already booked for a couple of other feature films; he didn't think he was allowed to divulge the titles yet.
He credited his parents with supporting his choices growing up - "All through high school, I was not doing any sports. I was on my computer, reading comic books. They supported all my dorky decisions, I guess, and it ended up turning into a career."
But being a comic book fan, there is one downside to Spano's job.
"When I was working on 'Wolverine,' we didn't have audio, we just had random scenes. From our perspective, it was just a movie of Wolverine killing Asian guys. That's all we saw for months. It's weird seeing shots I worked on pop up. I can't look at it the way everyone else does. I know what shots are fake or what's been added to them. It kind of ruins it."