This is the third in a series of occasional articles celebrating WAVM's 25th anniversary
MAYNARD - There's a scene in the new action thriller, "The Peacemaker" starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, where a commando climbs out of a hatch onto the roof of a speeding locomotive in the night to sabotage a passing nuclear weapon-toting locomotive.
It may not mean anyting more to you than an edge-of-the-seat thrill, but when John LaFauce Jr. looks at it, he sees a job very well done.
LaFauce, 33, a 1983 Maynard High School graduate and WAVM alumnus, was part of the creative team of digital effects artists, who worked on "The Peacemaker" in making the shot, filmed during the day, look like it was filmed at night.
As a digital effects artist for Pacific Title Digital, who creates and composits computer-generated visual effects, LaFauce turned some of the movie's raw footage into the special effects the production studio, Dream Works SKG, desired.
In "The Peacemaker," which opened in theaters last week, LaFauce digitally configured the daytime footage to look like it was shot at night by darkening the exterior and interior of the train, shading windows, adding running lights and smoke blowing in the wind.
LaFauce added white "night" smoke to a train engine stack off in the distance while making sure the smoke was running at the same speed as the train and the rest of the shot.
"Some of the other shots we did look like they were filmed inside a helicopter when they were actually filmed on a sound stage," said LaFauce, who is now a freelance digital effects artist based in Los Angeles.
While "The Peacemaker" is a big event in LaFauce's career, he has over 200 other artistic credits to his name, including work on action blockbusters like "Mission Impossible," "Eraser," "Turbulence," "The Rock" and "Waterworld," just to name a few.
While he can't credit WAVM for all of his success in the digital animation field, LaFauce does give the station its due.
"I think it made me realize that I might have a talent for this kind of stuff," he explained. "So many young kids are talented and don't realize it. I was so fortunate to find out I was good at this. That is the best part I got out of the whole WAVM experience."
LaFauce's tenure at WAVM started in 1979 when he was in junior high school sharing the high school library following a fire at Fowler.
He recalled having faculty advisor Joe Magno as a substitute teacher on afternoon andafter finishing an assignment early, Magno asked LaFauce if he wanted to go into the studio and talk on the radio.
"That was the beginning of a five year relationship," LaFauce said.
An artist at heart - one of Lafauce's first tasks was painting a mural on the wall of the old studio - he was eventually awarded Most Creative Member - Cable TV at the WAVM banquet his senior year.
At WAVM, "I leaned more towards the creative roles because I had to. Aks anyone in the arts why they do what they do and they will say the same thing - it's in the core of the person," LaFauce said.
However, his leanings in the arts didn't quiet catch up with him academically and professionally until 1986.
After high school, LaFauce said "I spun my wheels for a good three years before I became more focused."
He entered Massachusetts College of Art and graduated with a degree in film making in 1990, along the way making a few short films that would get him credit later on.
LaFauce moved out to Los Angeles after art school and found himself, like other fledgling film makers, doing odd jobs.
"I moved out to LA to be in film," he said. "I knew live movies was something I wanted to a part of."
He worked as a page at ABC, as an escort at several Emmy and Academy Award shows and at a department store selling bath towels (once to pregnant actess, Leah Thompson- "Back to the Future" and now "Caroline in the City" - who couldn't resist showing LaFauce her stomach).
LaFauce submitted a short film he had made in college to the American Film Institute and won an award for it.
"It was a pretty big event," LaFauce recalled. "Francis Ford Coppolla and Mario Van Peebles were some of the judges."
He later landed a job digitally coloring cartoon images and worked on animated commercials like M&Ms, Rice Krispies and Peanuts MetLife.
"That led to what I am doing today," he said. He recently left Pacific Title Digital and is waiting to hear about a job at Walt Disney.
He explained that his job as a digital effects artist is like a "miracle worker" in the film industry.
"We come up with ways to fix problems," he said, adding that a studio hires the digital effects house and submits the film elements they need for the special effects shots. "We get a description of what they want as a finished shot and it is up to us to take this raw footage and build a shot."
As a digital effects artist "you can place an actor in a dangerous scene without the actor ever having to leave the sound stage,7quot; LaFauce said.
On a more cosmetic level, his job has entailed removing a double chin on an actor for an upcoming movie and wrinkles from an aging actress (he won't tell [who].)
ALthough there are many aspects of his job that are exciting - just being among the Hollywood glitz and glitter is one - LaFauce said the challenge and creativity of digital effects is what keeps him there.
"Pulling a shot off that I've never seen before is what makes the job exciting," he said. "Plus, knowing your work will be seen by millions of people."
Although LaFauce said he really didn't know back in his WAVM days that he'd land in Hollywood, he advises students interested in communications to find their knack and stick with it.
"Find one little niche you love and run with it," he said. "I think it's important for kids to be true to themselves and try many activities, sticking with what is the most fulfilling. Get life experience and the road will be built for you."