On a tentpole film, the visual effects credits often run longer than the trailers that preceded it, but only a few of those names have risen to positions of real power in Hollywood.
One is Victoria Alonso, Marvel’s executive VP of visual effects and post-production. A former vfx producer, Alonso oversees Marvel’s vfx production and serves as executive producer on all of the studio’s films, starting with “The Avengers” and including its upcoming release “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Alonso isn’t just the tech chief at Marvel; she’s a key part of the creative team, helping to keep costs down while making sure the pictures feel huge. She says some of Marvel’s most creative moments have come from grappling with limited resources.
Take the scene in “Iron Man 2” where Tony Stark and Nick Fury talk while Stark is sitting in a giant donut. “We had a whole scene that we had designed, but we just couldn’t get it done,” she says. Then someone pitched moving the scene to a donut shop. “It’s a great scene, and it’s funny, and he’s in a freaking donut.”
When Marvel is stuck on a problem, everyone is encouraged to pitch ideas. If the pitch is bad, though, its author is sent to a metaphorical place of shame, aka “the island.” Everyone goes there at some point, says Alonso, and she’s been many times. “I usually leave the island tidy and with food, because I know my friends are coming,” she says.
The success of Marvel’s films may present a temptation to ramp up spending, but Alonso fights that impulse. “It’s like everyone can gain five pounds, right?” she says. “And if you don’t pay attention to your weight, within a year, you’ve put on 25 pounds, and you have no idea how it happened. So we try not to gain any weight.”
That said, Marvel’s movies are hardly cheap, often costing around $200 million to produce.
Alonso grew up a fan of Spider-Man, Batman and Wonder Woman, but has fallen in love with some of the characters she’s worked on.
“For me, Iron Man was the first born, so you never love a child the same way,” she says. “But Groot, the character that we’re doing in ‘Guardians,’ is the child that you wish every parent could have. There’s a sense of integrity and goodness and naivety and human kindness about this character that has absolutely taken over my heart.”