Making the Impossible Possible

How Jon Gress uses visual and special effects to trick his audience

Jon Gress’ job is to make you see, and believe, the impossible. As a visual effects producer, he works to make the impossible possible both during and post production.

Gress specializes in invisible effects; slight changes in actions and backgrounds that the audience is not supposed to notice. Using visual effects, he has the power to blow objects up, show people falling off of buildings, and even change the color of the sky.

“Visual effects and special effects have always been created to do things that can’t possibly be created in reality cheaper and safer,” explained Gress. “My favorite part of the job is the ability to create the unreal.”

Gress first found his passion for visual and special effects watching Hollywood films when special effects as they’re known today were still in their infancy.

“When Star Wars came out and I saw the special effects, I was like, that’s what I want to do. I just fell in love with cameras and lights and making movies,” enthused Gress.

An example of Jon Gress changing the sky

Now, he’s taken his lifetime of experience to teach up-and-comers in the special and visual effects industry. For the past eight years, he’s mentored students who’ve gone to work on movies like the Avengers, Iron Man, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Recently, Gress began teaching an even younger generation of teenagers at Florida Film Academy.

When teaching effects, Gress finds it important to ground students in the basics first before they get wrapped up in the new technology that’s emerged recently in the industry. Using the processes of the pioneer special effects experts, who Gress describes as “stage magicians,” he teaches his students the importance of tricking the eyes themselves rather than programming a computer to do the illusion for them.

“I like to ground everybody in the basics and the ‘original’ effects because, to me, those are the tried and true core. It’s easy to get wrapped up in new technology, new programs, new applications and faster computers. But, at some point, you have to know how it works without all that.” he stated.

In the end, Gress finds it important to simply marvel at the intricacy of both the real world and it’s recreation through effects.

“[The world] is so detailed, there’s so much there. To be able to recreate that, one person by themselves is just astounding,” reflected Gress. “The ability to just dream something up, dream a land up, dream a world up and be able to actually create it and fly through it and look at it is incredible.”

Story by:

Shelby Beck (17)