Eisenreich Brings Hollywood to Blythewood

Oscar winner Michelle Eisenreich on stage at Film Fest. | Photos: Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – Hollywood came to Blythewood last weekend as the inaugural Doko Film Festival opened with a red carpet reception featuring the town’s own two-time Oscar winner Michelle Eisenreich who helped judge the films entered in the festival.

More than 100 film buffs from as far away as New Jersey attended the reception on Friday evening at Doko Manor. They munched on heavy hors d’oeuvres, silently bid on a knife signed by James Jude Courtney aka Michael Myers of Halloween fame and chatted with Eisenreich and the high school film makers whose work would be judged on Saturday.

The 13 film finalists, chosen from 60 films from across the United States and Canada, were screened for the audience on Saturday at Westwood High School.

In addition to the presentation of the film awards, a highlight of the Saturday sessions was Eisenreich’s discussion and video presentations of her Oscar winning work in visual effects for the films Blade Runner (2017) and First Man (2010).

Now on top of her field in the film world of visual effects, Eisenreich talked about her career and shared insight for aspiring film makers.

“Hollywood is still home to all the big studios,” Eisenreich said. “There is a lot of filmmaking across the world now, even in Atlanta, but everything still traces back to the big studios in Los Angeles. Even films that are not shot there are managed from there. That’s still the place to be if you want to go into film.”

And that’s where Eisenreich headed – straight out of Florida State University with a brand new degree in film making.

“I was determined that’s where my future would be. I was willing to work pretty much as hard as anyone would let me to make that future happen,” she said.

“Hollywood is a very exciting place,” she said. “All the big studios are surrounded by giant gates. So you have to sort of be part of the special elite crowd to get through those gates.”

Eisenreich’s route to success sounds simple now, but it started, she said, by taking the first job offered to her, as a production assistant at Hammerhead, a small visual effects company in Los Angeles.

She said that job at first consisted of little more than making coffee and running errands around Los Angeles, so she strove to make the best cup of coffee and used her trips around town to get to know it. She also spent her time at Hammerhead learning about the visual effects work that went on at the studio.

“Visual effects was a part of film making I had never heard much about,” Eisenreich explained. “But what I found was a great mix of the creative part of film making and the technical part of film making. Directors are coming to you to create these visual images they can’t otherwise create themselves. They may not even know what they need to shoot for us to create them,” she explained. “I learned it was a very collaborative process.”

That immersion into her work paid off. By the time the company’s producer left for other work a couple of years later, Eisenreich was promoted directly to producer and later to head of production.

She eventually moved into the same position at a larger visual effects company, Double Negative., where her team racked up two Oscar’s in two years for their work.

“[The Oscars] are a great honor, of course, but it’s also very fulfilling on a personal level. I’ve been in the industry for a very long time. It’s a difficult industry – a lot of long hours, a lot of sacrifices. There‘s not much personal time,” she said. “When you’re on a project, everything’s about the project. It’s a big commitment, so it’s nice to be recognized.”

In her role as visual effects producer, Eisenreich was responsible for the budget, the scheduling, putting the team together and being the main contact for the client whether it’s a studio or a director.”

As a result of her success on ‘First Man, Eisenreich was recently asked to pull together and oversee a new TV division for Double Negative.

“It’s exciting. Instead of one project at a time, I’m now involved in seven or eight different projects at one time,” she said. “We just finished work on Star Trek Discovery for CBS, which is in its second season, and we’re currently working on a couple of projects for Netflix and Amazon.”

One of those projects is a six-part series titled ‘Catch 22,’ with George Clooney which will launch on Hulu early this summer.

“For the next couple of years I think it’s going to be more television than features,” Eisenreich said. “It’s interesting times for sure. Everybody’s trying to get their own streaming systems going to try to catch up with Netflix and Amazon.”

While Eisenreich’s work sometimes takes her on movie locations, she more often works in the studio near her home, which is fine with her.

Now married with two children, son Cooper, 11, and  daughter Harper, 9, Eisenreich said she loves living in Vancouver where the seasons change and the view is great.

“Our home backs up to the mountains and the ocean is about 20 minutes away. It’s nice here,” she said.

Eisenreich is no longer on the outside of the big gates looking in. She said she enjoyed coming back to Blythewood to share her career experiences with aspiring young film makers. It’s something she said she missed out on at their age.

“I would have loved to have been involved with something like the Film Fest when I was growing up here in Blythewood,” Eisenreich said. “It’s a great experience for them.”