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Alumni & Friends

One Myth at a Time

Do 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."


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