Fulton native makes magic for the silver screen

By Ashley M. Casey

As a child growing up in Fulton, Marcus Taormina often borrowed his parents’ video camera to make live-action horror films and stop-motion movies.

But he never imagined he’d make a career out of it someday.

Taormina now lives in Los Angeles, Calif., and is a freelance visual effects and digital media supervisor for the film industry.

He has worked on “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Fast and Furious 6” and the reality TV show “America’s Next Top Model.” Currently, he is working on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which is slated for a May 2, 2014, release.

Although he works 12 hours a day — sometimes more — he says he “couldn’t be happier.”

Taormina originally majored in computer science, but “it just didn’t feel right to me,” he said. After a couple of semesters, he decided to switch gears to the University of Buffalo’s film production program.

“As soon as I took my first class, I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” he said.

Throughout college, Taormina took several small film jobs to familiarize himself with all aspects of production.

“One of the biggest things in the industry is making sure you understand your job and other jobs,” he said.

After graduating in 2007, Taormina moved to California to look for a job. Unfortunately, his move coincided with the Writers Guild of America strike, so it was hard to find work. Taormina worked in reality television, but his real dream was film.

“Film had more impact on people,” he said.

Taormina acts as a liaison for the director, camera crew and visual effects companies that are contracted to create computer-generated (CG) images, fix problems with props, and remove wires and other equipment that shouldn’t end up in the final shot. There are eight companies in the United States and Canada working on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

“It’s basically a big puzzle piece,” Taormina said. “I’m guessing information we will need in case a shot is envisioned later on that was not before … to create a fully CG environment.”

Many characters are fully CG, so Taormina’s job is to provide photo references and map the photos onto a three-dimensional scan of the actor.

“The actors see what’s become of them and how their characters look in CG, and they can’t believe it,” Taormina said. “That’s how you know you’ve done your job.”

Thanks to his industry connections, Taormina has kept a steady stream of freelance visual effects work going. He has worked in New York City and Baton Rouge, La., in addition to Los Angeles.

“It’s a very weird working environment at times,” he said. “Once I’m done with (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”), which is in about a month, I can find another job right off the bat, or I can take a little time off. That’s my vacation.”

The camaraderie on set makes Taormina’s sometimes grueling job more fun.

“This is the second ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ I’ve worked on. It’s a lot of the same team,” he said. “It’s the team bonding that you do. You’re all working an incredible amount of time. Long hours.”

But the movie magic is what Taormina finds most rewarding.

“It makes you feel like a kid and giddy when Special Effects comes in and they blow things up. It reminds you why you’re doing this,” he said. For the film he worked on in Baton Rouge, “There was an alien spacecraft (attacking) and we blew up a gas station. We closed an entire part of town. You could feel the heat from the explosion.”

Taormina has come a long way since setting up his G.I. Joes for stop-motion movies as a child.

“It was so magical to see what I could do by just pushing a button … and then bring the product upstairs and put it in the VCR. It got my mind thinking about what I could do creatively,” he said. “Not in a million years did I ever think I’d be working on a huge production like ‘Spider-Man.’”

Taormina’s advice for young Fultonians is to “always pursue your dreams.” He added, “(Even) if you think it’s silly, you never know what could happen.”

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