Alum Creates Movie Magic

Thursday, November 19, 2009

For Dawn Dininger ’94, there is no such thing as a typical day on the job. That’s because her career is as far from ordinary as you can get. As a special makeup effects artist, she crafts many of the creatures, monsters and superheroes that pop up on movie screens all over the world. From making minotaur and satyr costumes for the Chronicles of Narnia series to building dinosaurs for Jurassic Park III, Dininger has contributed to some of the most visually dazzling films in recent memory.

For Dawn Dininger ’94, there is no such thing as a typical day on the job. That’s because her career is as far from ordinary as you can get. As a special makeup effects artist, she crafts many of the creatures, monsters and superheroes that pop up on movie screens all over the world. Dininger was inspired to pursue her career at 15 as a student at Newnan High School. “My friend got to be an extra in a “Friday the 13th” sequel and the guy in charge of all the blood and guts came to speak at our school,” Dininger recalled. “It sounded amazing, and I decided immediately that’s what I wanted to do. We ended up working on a movie together several years later.”

Working on various sets keeps things from getting routine, which Dininger considers one of her job’s perks. “Each job is always different, and every day brings something new,” she said. “In the effects shop, one day could involve sewing costumes or gluing foam together to create the form of a creature. The next day I could be working on the animatronics that help the creature move. And some days it’s just making things look pretty.”

Last summer, Dininger was deep in preproduction on “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” the third installment in the Narnia saga and worked 17-hour days to make creature costumes. In July, she traveled to Australia for five months of filming. After shooting wraps, there will be several months of postproduction to complete the visual effects in time for the movie’s Christmas 2010 release date.

On another trip to Australia, she was called to the set of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” to help with various effects, including a giant fat suit for The Blob and the title character’s legendary claws. The trip was originally to last one week. Instead, she ended up living there for three months.

She credits the University of West Georgia for providing the knowledge she needed to continue down that path. “West Georgia offered lots of on-the-job training and I use the things I learned in class to this day,” she said. “Especially stuff like painting, dyeing fabric and learning to draw the human form. I just carved muscles out of foam yesterday, so that one definitely came in handy.”