Elliott helps ‘Iron Man 2’ come to life

Marianne Gillespie
Laura Elliott

Chillicothe native Laura Elliott’s handiwork can be seen if Chillicotheans know what they are looking for in “Iron Man 2.”

Elliott, a 2002 Illinois Valley Central High School graduate, has kept her hands busy doing special effects work for the last few years in California.

Her days working on the special effects of “Iron Man 2,” which was released on DVD Sept. 28, varied from running urethane parts for the suits to trying to make the suits more flexible for those wearing them on set, Elliott said.

Even then, from the waist down was computer-generated. The actors themselves wore little of the created suits, usually wearing motion capture suits, but the stunt men were not as fortunate.

“Sometimes they were in those suits for 14 hours a day ... in a suit that you can’t touch your hand to mouth in, let alone go to the restroom. Those guys were troopers.”

In one of the opening scenes, Elliott re-fitted the Mark 1 through 4 suits and posed them side-by-side in Tony Stark’s lab.

Elliott made the Mark 4 suits and the upper half of the War Machine suit, as well as the Mark 2 suits used from the first Iron Man. She worked on the effects for the movie from January through June 2009.

That behind-the-scenes information sticks with Elliott, admitting she does not see as many movies as she did in the past.

“Being in this business really makes your movie going experiences bittersweet,” said Elliott.

“It’s definitely cool to see the things that you and the people you know worked on on screen, but you start looking at that stuff all the time.

“No matter who did the work, you notice it, and most of it is good, but when it’s not and you notice it, it’s kind of distracting. It’s nice knowing how all of it is done and seeing other people’s work, and hearing how it was done is definitely a cool learning experience.”

Learning by experience is something Elliott has to her credit. Not only did she fabricate the suits for “Iron Man 2,” she built Terminators for “Terminator Salvation,” patched foam for the ice giant suits in “Thor,” and worked on commercials, such as the supermodelquins for Old Navy, all while working for Legacy Effects (the former Stan Winston Studio) and Stan Winston’s Studio. Winston died in June 2008.

She also has worked on other effects for TV commercials and Internet campaigns, as well as work for Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.

Chillicotheans, no doubt, do not know firsthand all the details that come together to make a movie like Elliott does.

“After living out here for a while and then going home and being thrown back into the pool of people in Chillicothe whose lives don’t revolve around movies is tough. It makes you realize how much our job, our hobby, our life in film consumes us — in a good way.

“I mean, it makes you notice how much of your daily life and conversation is about film and your work and others’ work. When I go home it’s hard to not talk about movies and effects because that’s my life — and I love it.

“Film is something that a lot of people like to think they know a lot about, but when you work in it and you see it firsthand and everything that goes into it, it changes you. It opens your eyes to a whole new world. I don’t know how to explain it.”

She plans to keep up that kind of enthusiasm for her future in the business.

“I am currently taking classes at Gnomon School of Visual Effects here in Hollywood to kind of make the switch over to digital effects,” Elliott said. “I have had four years of great experiences in practical effects, and I’m sure I will do more of it in the future, but there just isn’t the opportunity that there was 10 years ago in this side of the biz.”

With digital effects the up and coming art for Elliott to master, she has her goals set for the

future.

“My goal is to start doing digital at some of the smaller effects houses the beginning of next year and then hopefully get to travel all around, working at some of the bigger houses for a couple years. New Zealand, Australia, San Francisco and Washington are some of the places I would love to go,” said Elliott.