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Douglas Trumbull: In Retrospect

Compiled and Edited by C.A. Chicoine



This article is based on a recent retrospective film series I attended given by Douglas Trumbull.  Although my focus is on the movie Blade Runner, I have included highlights of Mr. Trumbull's career as a means to enlighten the reader unfamiliar to him and his work. As a result, I have integrated previous interviews, articles, and materials on Mr. Trumbull, into this article.   


There are some slides not included in this article that Mr. Trumbull used in his presentation. However, I kept his dialogue in tact for the information they provide the reader. In place of the slides will be the text Missing Slide, to prevent any possible confusion. It is the hope, of this writer, that one day I will acquire the missing photos and will be able in insert them in their respective places within the article.

In editing this article I attempted to be faithful to the flow of the presentation, whilst offering insight on the talent of this special effects guru, and events that led up to the creative input of this influential work of art.




Blade Runner’s origin began in the mind of Philip K. Dick. His compelling story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is filled with his philosophy--metaphysics, theology, epistemology, and ethics. One particular theme that runs through this book is empathy. When Hampton Fancher wrote the initial screenplay of this work, new elements were added to the story, and some dropped. With the collaborative imaginations and creativity of David Peoples and Ridley Scott, the final result was the Blade Runner we‘ve come to know and marvel. But without further creative assistance from a few more creative geniuses, we would have had a much different film. Without futurist extraordinaire Syd Mead, the city background, and vehicle designs would not be as sublime. Without Lawrence G. Paull, Los Angeles circa 2019 would not have the same ambience. Without Vangelis, the music would not deliver us to this futuristic world as successfully. And without Douglas Trumbull, the Hades Landscape, Tyrell Building, Advertising Blimp, and the many special effects not obvious to the average moviegoer, would not have their illuminating splendor.

My fascination with this film started through the music of Vangelis. Being a big fan of his, I got the soundtrack when it was released. The acquisition of the Director’s Cut version of the Blade Runner movie was soon to follow. Upon viewing this masterpiece, as soon as the Hades Landscape filled the screen, I was immediately transported to this world of the not too distant future. I was immersed in this visually and musically hypnotic journey wanting more. Upon further investigations of this world, I found there were other dimensions to Blade Runner. I discovered the universe of Philip K. Dick; the worlds of literature written about Blade Runner and DADoES; the worlds of art and movies influenced by them; and the worlds that have influenced them.


But, never in this world had I imagined ever meeting anyone from the “Great Hall“. Mr. Douglas Trumbull took part in a three-week film studies residency at Simon’s Rock College, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts last October (2006). The residency included Trumbull’s participation with the students taking the Electronic Arts Studio Video Production course. Together, with a scene performed by the Theatre Arts Department, they created a short film using electronic cinematography, “Virtual Set” technology, and computers to record, store, and edit scenes.


In addition to the residency were four evening events. The events featured the screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick; Blade Runner (1982), directed by Ridley Scott; Silent Running (1972), which was directed by Mr. Trumbull; and Douglas Trumbull: Past, Present and Future, an evening which Mr. Trumbull spoke about the current and future direction of his cinematic explorations. Mr. Trumbull was introduced by Larry Burke, who teaches film studies and digital video production at Simon’s Rock, and also organized the residency and events.

Mr. Trumbull introduced each film and delivered a short presentation with a Q & A afterward. I introduced myself to him and told him about BladeZone, and my intentions of writing this article based on his retrospectives given that week. It was an honour meeting Mr. Douglas Trumbull, and attending these events. It will be an event I will treasure.

Special thanks to Larry Burke, Lee Gaskins, and Sean Kennedy.

C.A. Chicoine

March 2007



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