Westport’s Avatar

In 2007 Connor Murphy graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design.  He’d focused on studio-scale animation, and enjoyed internships working on productions like “Corpse Bride,” “Brotherhood” and “Underdog.”

Connor Murphy

Now the 2003 Staples grad needed a Real Job.  He wrote 1,300 personalized emails.  Finally, he landed work as a “glorified production assistant” at Giant Studios.  The company — specializing in “motion capture technology” for film and video games– was just gearing up for a new project:  “Avatar.”

“It was pure Irish luck,” Connor recalls.  “To be honest, at that point I would have taken any job.”

Giant Studios is actually rather small — 30 people — allowing Connor to learn quickly and move up.  He served as director James Cameron’s camera assistant on stage, and ran the motion capture system.

With his animation training, Connor worked as a motion editor on 3 simultaneous projects:  “Mummy 3,” The Incredible Hulk” and “Prince Caspian.”  He applied the captured human motion to the movie characters, then changed, blended or enhanced that motion as needed.

When the motion-editing phase of “Avatar” began, he moved easily into that.  He had, he says, “the unique and very advantageous position of working on both the on-set capture and post-production effects portions” of the mega-blockbuster.

Six-day weeks were typical — and on those days Connor would work from 7:30 a.m. to midnight.  “We all got a little crazy, and a little fatter,” he notes.

“‘Avatar’ was my first credit.  Having touched nearly every scene in the movie in 1 way or another, I’m just proud that we finished and that people like it,” he says.

At Staples Connor was involved in tech for Players.  He took several advanced drawing courses, and spent his free time drawing in the art rooms.  He credits teacher Camille Eskell and the rest of the art department with helping him take art seriously — and get into RISD — but realizes now that “the rest of my Staples education was invaluable to successfully merging art with the real world.

“Being able to speak to the physics and the ‘reasons why’ behind the animation is just as valuable as being able to do it in the 1st place.”

This week, Connor began his next project:  “Real Steel.”  Directed by Shawn Levy, it’s “a ‘Rocky’-style story about robot boxing in the future.”

Connor looks forward to working on fight scenes — and “more extreme characters.”

3 responses to “Westport’s Avatar

  1. Let’s count the number of Staples grads of the last two plus decades who have done exceptional things in the Arts or Media. Heck with it, just to many to count.

  2. David E Arcudi

    Good effects, but should have held out for a good screenplay.

  3. 1300 personalized emails? That’s persistence! (I love it.)