Brad Douglas

Ben Grossman Wins academy award for best visual effects for HUGO

 FAIRBANKS – Word of a hometown Oscar winner spread fast but not too fast from Hollywood, Calif., to Delta Junction on Sunday night.

Although his son Ben Grossmann was being honored for groundbreaking work in visual effects in the film “Hugo,” Ben’s father, Bruce, watched the awards ceremony on a fairly primitive platform, a TV with “rabbit ears” antenna that inconsistently picks up the channel that broadcast the awards.

Bruce Grossmann watched the awards ceremony while talking with his father in Wisconsin who also was watching on TV. Grossmann noticed there was a 45-second lag between Wisconsin and Delta Junction, so presenters Ben Stiller and Emma Stone were still on screen announcing the nominees when Grossmann heard his son was among four winners for “Hugo.”

He trained his camera at the TV to capture a snapshot.
“His whole life has been hard work, attempting tough things, never passing things up,” Bruce Grossmann said.
Ben Grossmann was one of four to win the award for “Hugo” in the best visual effects category. Their group beat films including “Planet of the Apes” and the last installment of the “Harry Potter” films in visual effects.

“Hugo,” an adventure story about an orphan who lives alone in a Paris train station, had a big night throughout the ceremony, winning five awards and tying for best picture-winner “The Artist” with the most wins.

“Hugo” was particularly dominant in the technical craft categories including cinematography, art direction and sound categories.

Ben Grossmann grew up in a cabin in Big Delta and began attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks at age 16. In Fairbanks, he worked as a photographer for the News-Miner and a stringer for The Associated Press. He moved to California in 2001 to pursue his film work.

Grossmann worked with “Hugo” director Martin Scorsese previously in the Rolling Stones documentary “Shine a Light” and the 2010 feature film “Shutter Island.”

“Hugo” was Grossmann’s first Oscar nomination, but he won a Emmy in 2006 for his visual effects work in the SyFy channel documentary “The Triangle.”

The Oscar visual effects category recognizes the art of manipulating images outside the context of live action shots. As a film shot in 3-D, the visual effects in “Hugo” were a particularly major undertaking. Grossmann’s team worked on 800 shots, more than half of the movie, and spent 15,000 man-days of visual effects work, supervising 400 people in five countries.

Sharing the win with Grossmann were visual effects supervisor Rob Legato, special effects supervisor Joss Williams and digital effects supervisor Alex Henning. The film garnered 11 nominations, including best picture and best director nominations, the most of any film this year.

Film critics have lauded the 3-D in “Hugo” as groundbreaking. Grossmann said he was present in a final screening of a scene for Scorsese with director James Cameron (“Avatar,” “Titanic”) just before “Hugo” was completed. After the screening, Cameron told Grossmann it was the best 3-D film that’s ever been done. Grossmann and his colleagues were modest and tried to tell him the 3-D wasn’t as good as “Avatar.” Cameron wasn’t persuaded.

“‘No, best 3-D film ever, don’t try to narrow my words,’” Grossmann recalled Cameron saying. “So we said, ‘Oh maybe we didn’t screw up. That will be nice.’”

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