Real Estate Broker Wins Movie Award : This Real Estate Broker Wins Academy Award

Times Staff Writer

Bud Elam went from Levis and boots to business suits when he switched from producing special film effects to selling industrial buildings, offices and stores.

Now he has rented a tuxedo to wear during a ceremony tonight when he will receive an Academy Award in the scientific or technical division. Awards in the division are given before the Oscar ceremony, which will be televised live March 29.

“Funny, isn’t it: Real estate broker wins Academy Award?” He laughed. “But this is probably the most exciting thing that has happened to me other than helping my wife deliver our kids, and she did all the work on that.”

Elam, 41, is getting the award, in the form of a plaque, for work he stopped doing three years ago when he sold his interest in a computer company called Cinema Research.


Designed Computer System

Through Cinema Research, Elam helped design and build a motion-control computer system used for special effects, starting with the movie “Stars Wars.” The computer controls the movement of the camera and objects being photographed, making it appear that the objects are moving or flying.

He was in the entertainment business for nearly 10 years and lists, among his other credits, the “Galactica” and “Buck Rogers” series, the movie “Bladerunner,” and several Levi and Panasonic TV commercials.

Elam was schooled in engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo but after graduation, formed Cinema Research with some friends.


“But he always had it in the back of his mind to go into real estate,” his wife, Diana Gold Elam, said. “He liked the idea of being his own boss and putting deals together, but the film industry gets frustrating at times, because there are so many people involved in making decisions.

“In a real estate deal, all you must deal with is the buyer and the seller. So he made the jump.”

Likes the Challenge

He earned his sales and broker’s licenses, then teamed with Charles Chenea to form Southland Commercial Real Estate, with offices at 3435 Wilshire Blvd. They have three sales agents working with them and about $90 million in listings.

“Real estate is my thing,” he said. “I can’t imagine not being challenged by it for the rest of my life.”

He admits interest in producing special effects for another movie project:

“I’d consider working on ‘The Ring,’ because it’s about peace and love and why people should be good to each other.” He also knows William Layton Stewart, producer of the $35-million science fiction/adventure/romance, expected to start shooting in April.

“But I’d have trepidations about taking off even temporarily to work on that,” Elam added, “because I enjoy what I’m doing in real estate so much.”