Alumni Profile: Trent Claus creates visual effects in Hollywood
calendar icon27 Apr 2018
Lincoln, Neb.--Trent Claus, who received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art in 2006, is an award-winning visual effects (VFX) supervisor with Lola VFX in Los Angeles.
He has been with Lola VFX for 11 years and has worked on more than 100 films, including 16 that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, and four that won the award. Additionally, nine of the films were nominated for Best Picture, and cumulatively, the films he has contributed to have earned more than $32 billion dollars in worldwide box office.
In 2012, he was awarded a Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture for his groundbreaking work on “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
“I’ve been very fortunate to work on some big films throughout my career,” Claus said. “It can be intimidating, at times, to work on something so big—films are so heavily reviewed, discussed and analyzed that there can be a lot of pressure. But to be a part of such a huge collaboration between so many different artists and craftspeople is always exciting.”
His most recent credits include “The Post,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Captain America: Civil War.”
“’The Post’ is a good example of ‘invisible’ or supporting visual effects, in which the audience is meant to be unaware that any work was done,” he said. “For instance, these films often need VFX teams to remove anachronisms for the time period, recreate facades of buildings, extend the sets beyond what was practical to film on location, or even to replace one entire city for another. Virtually every film and TV show released today has some amount of VFX.”
One of the first films he worked on was a re-release of “Blade Runner” (1982) titled “Blade Runner: The Final Cut,” released in 2007.
“It was an opportunity for the director, Ridley Scott, to revisit the film and, with a light touch, make some alterations and adjustments to fix continuity errors and to improve upon the effects,” Claus said. “That one was really exciting for me as I grew up being a big fan of the film.”
He has also worked on several projects for director David Fincher, including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” In that film, actor Brad Pitt stars as a man who starts aging backwards.
“’The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ was a big opportunity for us at Lola to showcase some of the cosmetic effects that we’d been working on, specifically ‘aging’ and ‘de-aging’ effects that have become something of a specialty for me.”
Claus has also been able to work on several Marvel Studios films.
“Another highlight has been my relationship with Marvel Studios throughout their first decade,” he said. “I worked on their first film, ‘Iron Man,’ and have since worked on 15 out of their 18 films. I started reading comics as a kid, and in fact, my first job at age 13 was at a comic book store in Lincoln called Cosmic Comics. I worked there for six years and then moved on, with no idea that I’d be helping to make movies about those characters someday.”
He loves the experience he got at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
“I had a great experience at UNL, and I think that there are a lot of things from my time there that have helped me along the way,” Claus said. “Having an art background has allowed me to approach problems from a different perspective than many of my colleagues, who often have more technical filmmaking backgrounds. I feel the differences have always benefited the team and ultimately the work.”
His advice to students interested in visual effects is to focus on their portfolio.
“Always remember that your portfolio is your artist resume,” he said. “Employers will be looking at your portfolio/reel first, so always keep it in the back of your mind for every project and assignment. Also, take an active role in critiques. Working in film means having your work critiqued daily, so being able to discuss your own work objectively, as well as being able to provide actionable advice for your colleagues, is very important.”
There is plenty to love about the field of visual effects.
“I love the fact that each day I might be asked to do something entirely different from the day before,” Claus said. “And it may very well be something that I’ve never done before.”
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