SIMI VALLEY : Oscar to Honor Special Effects Firm

Artists and technicians who work at Ventura County’s only special effects company--creating spaceships, laser beams and crumbling foam mountains--have won one of the movie industry’s most prestigious awards.

The director of effects photography for Dream Quest Images in Simi Valley will receive an Academy Award next month for his work creating the Martian landscape in the futuristic thriller “Total Recall.”

Honored for his tricks at making miniature landscapes come to life, Alex Funke worked with his crew for more than a year to create such alien settings as twin moons in a red Martian sky, moving patches of sunlight and explosions.

The visual effects committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted earlier this month to award Funke the Oscar rather than nominate him on a ballot because the work was “clearly outstanding” compared to its competitors, an academy spokesman said.

“This film had just about every kind of effect . . . computer-generated animation, classical matte painting,” Funke said. “I think the thing that attracted the academy committee was it had such a tremendous range of different kinds of work.”


Additional awards for visual effects in the film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be given to three specialists who work for other companies. Funke will accept his Oscar statuette at the ceremonies March 25.

Last year, Hoyt Yeatman, one of Dream Quest’s three owners, was honored with an Oscar for his work on “The Abyss.” Two years before that, company employees were nominated for an award for “Blue Thunder” and “Big Business.”

“It’s quite an experience to win one of those,” Yeatman said. “It’s a tribute not just to the individual, who’s a figurehead, but to the crew.”

The 45,000-square-foot building near Madera Road and Cochran Street houses five stages with tear-away plastic walls, overhead tracks to move lights or props, and workshops for building and painting.

The 11-year-old company employs about 80 people and additional free-lancers depending on the size of a project. It is now working on “Hot Shots,” a comic spoof on the movie “Top Gun,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street 6.”

“It’s always fun,” Funke said. “You’re making something that doesn’t exist outside the film. It’s pretty magical.”