By Phil Karstetter and David Preut
RICHMOND,Va.- Wizards may be the stuff of Canterbury and the Round Table, but Virginia Commonwealth University has one right on its campus. Matt Wallin, an assistant professor of Communication Arts, works his magic on the big screen.
Wallin began his career in special effects as a lowly intern at the legendary special effects company Industrial Light and Magic while studying at San Francisco State. Since then he’s had an extensive and lucrative career, having worked on a host of major blockbuster films including “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, “King Kong”, “Star Wars Episode 1: Phantom Menace”, two of the “Matrix” films, and “I Am Legend.”
After having worked on several big-name films, Wallin attempted to start his own independent special effects company in New York. It was here, while working on a film for artist Matthew Barney, that Wallin met his wife, who was a carpenter on the set. He got married, and in 2006 moved to Charlottesville with his wife and son where he shortly thereafter began his career as an assistant art professor at VCU.
While Wallin never thought that he would end up teaching, he says it’s been a good experience.
“It’s been exciting to sort of look at things that I’ve done from the perspective of students who are just interested in learning about the subject matter and they get really excited about it,” Wallin said. “That excitement that the students have, for me can be really infectious.”
But teaching hasn’t only been advantageous for Wallin. Students, old and new, said that Wallin’s experience has translated well in the classroom. Austin Hannah, a VCU senior studying kinetic imaging, considers VCU lucky to have such an experienced art professor.
“He’s one of the few teachers I’ve had that have some significant work in the industry,” Hannah said.
Matt Schmidt, a communication art senior, agreed and said that he enjoyed Wallin bringing immense expertise into the classroom.
“I always feel like he is very knowledgeable about the industry and what’s going on,” Schimdt said.
Since he began teaching, Wallin hasn’t stopped working on Hollywood films. Two summers ago, Wallin and his family moved to Vancouver for 14 weeks so Wallin could work on “Watchmen.” Surprisingly though, he never saw many of his films.
“Of all the movies that I have worked on, they’re really difficult for me to watch and to enjoy them as movies, maybe with one or two exceptions,” Wallin said.
Whether he’s watched the movies or not, Wallin’s work has been viewed by millions.