Myth at a Time
cell phones interfere with aircraft instruments? Could a frozen
turkey be a lethal weapon? Every Wednesday night television viewers
look to Tory Belleci (B.A., '95) and his fellow
"MythBusters" for answers.
Belleci, a builder and host on the popular Discovery Channel program,
creates the models and contraptions that help separate scientific fact
from fiction. He picked up
his earliest carpentry skills from his handy father, and later, as a
cinema studies major at SF State, developed his skills in model-making,
screenwriting and producing. Warren Haack, a technician in the Cinema
Department, remains impressed with the imagery of "Sand Trooper,"
a film Belleci made as an undergraduate -- especially its realistic-looking
model tanks. The film screened at the Slamdance Film Festival and was
later sold to the Sci-Fi Channel.
After graduation Belleci amassed an impressive portfolio of special
effects work during eight years with George Lucas' Industrial Light
and Magic. He created the Trade Federation battleships and podracers
in episodes I and II of "Star Wars," built the castle in "Van
Helsing," the ship sails in "Peter Pan" and spaceships
in "Starship Troopers." Belleci says he had a hand in "anything
that blew up" in the last two films in "The Matrix" trilogy.
Professor Larry Clark hasn't been surprised to see his former student
succeed in the special effects industry. Belleci is not only an excellent
builder, Clark says, "He is also able to visualize exactly how
his models will look on screen."
Belleci works mainly at a "MythBusters" workshop on Potrero
Hill. Large-scale projects -- say, a head-on collision between two semi
trucks -- take place in remote locations, from an old runway at the
former Alameda Naval Air Station to the outback of Australia. In September,
Belleci put the finishing touches on a pirate ship, the future testing
ground for a series of pirate myths.
Behind the scenes of each hour-long episode, Belleci and his crew put
in about 100 hours of planning and construction. "It's all-consuming,"
he says cheerfully at the end of a 12-hour workday. "It's great
-- I get paid to do what I love."