David Fogler ’90
Industrial Light & Magic
This profile originally appeared in Bowdoin magazine, Vol. 72, No. 2, Winter 2001
This world is but canvas to our imaginations.
Hunched at the edge of a studio table, Dave Fogler studies the details of something that doesn't exist. It doesn't look right; it won't fly. A chunk of clay crash-lands on the drawing board but, like its creator, is destined for lofty things. Growing up in New England reality, Dave Fogler might not have imagined that his sphere of influence would some day extend from rural Maine into the realm of other galaxies.
Celestial influence could be one way to explain Dave's spin through Brunswick, where he graduated from Bowdoin as a Studio Art/Art History major. He worked extensively with Professor Mark Wethli, who he credits in large part for getting him where he is today. Focusing on printmaking, painting, and drawing, Dave also "did a bit of singing, mastered the flannel shirt, and notably never paid any attention to the school's film and video offerings," he notes with a touch of irony. "Actually, I did take a film history class but, needless to say, there were attendance conflicts."
While at the University of California at Berkeley for a master of fine arts degree, Dave turned his attention from painting to, interestingly enough, film making. From here, we flash back to 1977 to witness little Davey Fogler whirring like a light sabre to the chagrin of other movie-goers during his eighth screening of Star Wars. "My mother had to watch it five times herself," remembers Dave, "and then had to invest in Han Solo wallpaper for my room." However influential Star Wars was to Dave's career trajectory, it plays C-3PO to the R2D2 of his most inspiring film experience: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. "Most guys wouldn't admit that," Dave grins, "but Rudolph established my love of stop-motion animation."
To pursue the art of stop-motion, Dave formed his own production company, Stonyvale Films, in 1996. His five-minute picture Chum, has been received well on this year's festival circuit. "I've embraced animation in my independent work," he explains, "because I can approach the medium from a slightly different tack and create film as a solo artist. But the distinction is a fine one, and I continually thank my lucky stars that my vocation and avocation are inter-supportive and at times, indistinguishable."
In 1997, shortly after moving to San Francisco with his wife, Mary Inman '90, Dave was hired at Industrial Light & Magic as a model maker and sculptor. "I intended to pursue work as a director and animator, but when given the option of making models of spaceships and being paid for it, I thought I should give it a try," he deadpans. On a campus roughly half the size of Bowdoin's, Dave and his colleagues create in small scale anything that can't feasibly be filmed on a set or on location, including things that (perhaps) don't really exist, like spaceships and monsters. "This is a galaxy far, far away from a desk job," quips Dave. "Your run-of-the-mill spaceship calls for a machinist to build a framework, including any working parts, a pattern maker to form the shapes of the body, a model maker to fabricate parts and piece the thing together, and an electrician to add lights and run the mechanized bits. Piece of cake."
Dave's film credits include Starship Troopers, Star Wars Episode I, Galaxy Quest, and several others just on their way to theaters, such as Pearl Harbor and A.I. Future projects include a new animated short already in production. Tentatively titled Rabbit is Running, it's based on the works of filmmaker Shayne Worcester, a close friend who was murdered in San Francisco in 1999. Next fall, Dave will for the first time take the role of production designer on a feature film, Camp, being shot in Portland, Maine. And, of course, Star Wars Episode II looms on the imaginative horizon.