Wait a tic. Don't special effects happen in post-production? Why the title segregation?
Excellent question! You are a detail-oriented individual and I applaud your commitment to eliminating redundancy in all its forms!
However, apparently you are also, like me, an entertainment industry layman, with a negligible understanding of how film and television are made. No worries. Here's the skinny: as the name implies, post-production encompasses everything that happens after filming, most of which falls into one of three buckets -- editing, sound, and effects. While there are a slew of different types of editors, the concept is pretty self-explanatory. Sound was covered in a previous post, so that brings us back to the original topic: effects.
If someone like you or I were to talk about special effects, we'd probably talk about all the spaceship explosiony, CGI alieny kind of stuff -- and we'd be totally wrong. All of that stuff is actually referred to in the biz as visual effects, and it happens in post-production. Special effects, on the other hand, usually occur during filming and consist of either mechanical effects (like pyrotechnics) or optical effects (like narrowing the camera lens to make it appear like you're looking through a telescope). Special makeup, like prosthetics and aging, is also considered a special effect, but that too was already covered in a previous post.
Long story medium long, that's why today's post is about women who have made their mark in Star Trek's post-production and special effects. Enjoy!
P.S. If you're just stumbling into this series now, feel free to start at the beginning with Trek's women writers. Or be a non-conformist and skip around, checking out producers, music & sound, directors, art & design, costumes & makeup, and production in whatever order your anarchist heart desires!
P.P.S. Most of the info below was drawn from imdb.com, memory-alpha.fandom.com, and linked interviews. While I've done my best to be thorough, I admit my fallibility and welcome corrections. The vast majority of women credited with working on Trek have little to no information available about them, and photos are even more scarce. Also, shorts, video games, books, comics, and fan-made media are not included.
The first woman to have a hand in the post-production of a Star Trek show was Doreen A. Dixon. As editorial supervisor (one of two) for TAS, Dixon worked on all 22 episodes. After performing various editorial tasks for several shows such as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Tarzan Lord of the Jungle, and Lassie's Rescue Rangers, she moved to the sound department, where she eventually became supervising adr (automated dialogue replacement) editor. Her sound credits include such classic films as White Nights, The Money Pit, and *batteries not included.
Michelle Leigh was the first woman of color to work on the special effects for a Trek property. As digital effects coordinator (also referred to as digital effects supervisor), she was responsible for managing all of the digital effects in Nemesis. Additional credits include The Time Machine (2002), Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, and Garfield (2004). Unfortunately the only picture I could find of her was super low resolution, hence the teensyness.
Photo via Zerply.com
The production supervisor (aka post-production supervisor) is one of the most important jobs in the world of post-production, responsible for ensuring that the project meets both the artistic standards of the director, as well as the budget and schedule requirements of the studio. Rose Duignan (she usually left her first name out in film credits) was the first woman to hold this position for Trek. During Wrath of Khan she was working for Industrial Light and Magic, then she went on to work for Paramount Pictures directly, producing a slew of Star Trek documentaries and DVD special features. Duignan also worked as a production staffer for Star Wars: A New Hope and production supervisor for Return of the Jedi. Among her numerous additional credits are visual effects executive producer for Iron Man 2, Avatar, The Last Airbender, and two of the Transformers movies.
Photo via imdb
For science-fiction film or TV, the visual effects producer is at the heart of the project, serving as point person for all things visual effects. She manages the department, overseeing logistics and assignments, as well as acts as liaison for the director, working with them to match their vision with technological reality by planning out exactly which effects will be used in which scenes. C. Marie Davis was the first woman to do this for Trek, working on both Generations and Nemesis (as executive visual effects producer). Starting out as an assistant film editor in the mid-eighties, Davis worked her way up to become Vice President of Production Services for Sony Pictures Imageworks. In less than 20 years she worked on nearly 50 films, including The Blob, The Abyss, Total Recall, Contact, Titanic, What Dreams May Come, Planet of the Apes (2001), Spider-Man (2002), and The Polar Express.
Photo via imdb
Speaking of the visual effects producer, Chrysta Burton was the first woman of color to fill this critical role. She started her career as a storyboard coordinator and production assistant, and was then hired as a production coordinator by Industrial Light & Magic, where she worked on movies like Transformers and Iron Man. In 2009 she served as visual effects associate production manager for JJ Abrams' Star Trek, and when the Beyond movie came around, she returned triumphantly as visual effects producer. She also produced the visual effects for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Cloverfield Paradox, and Overlord.
Photo via slated.com
Working hand in hand with the director, the film editor assembles the countless hours of footage to actually create the movie or show. This is an incredibly creative and artistic role, and two of the best in the business are the team of Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, the first women to serve as top editor for Trek. These two have worked on several JJ Abrams projects, including the 2009 Star Trek movie and its sequel Into Darkness. They also edited the seventh Star Wars film The Force Awakens, and Brandon alone worked on The Rise of Skywalker. Between the two of them, they've been nominated five times for Emmys or Oscars, although only Markey won an Emmy for her work on the TV series Lost.
Photo via geekandsundry.com
No matter how advanced computer animation and graphics get, there's no beating a good old-fashioned explosion. Amy Young was the first female pyrotechnician for Trek, providing her services for both The Undiscovered Country and Generations. Young's 30-year career took her from Broadway to Hollywood to opera houses, and she worked for many years at Industrial Light & Magic. Her first film job was as a modeler on Star Wars: A New Hope, and nearly all of her film credits are equally as notable, including Jurassic Park, The Abyss, Backdraft, The Rocketeer, and Hook. Her final movie was Jumanji (1995), and for the past several years Young has enjoyed a new career as an Event Coordinator, Operations, and Social Media Manager at the Space Station Museum in California.
Photo via rocketeerminute.com
Model makers have always been critical players in the Trekverse, sculpting and building the iconic spaceships and props that are instantly recognizable even to those not familiar with the franchise. Zuzana Swansea was the first female model maker for Trek, creating one of the Klingon vessels in The Motion Picture. Her only other film credit is the 1983 astronaut movie The Right Stuff, although the photographs that she took of the 1968 Soviet invasion of her native Czechoslovakia were used in the 1988 film The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Swansea escaped the violence that followed this event by moving to the U.S. in 1970.
Photo via startrek-enterprise.us
Where does chief model maker fit in to the special effects department hierarchy? The webs have failed to give me a clear answer. It sounds like it should be the top model maker, but there are also supervising modelmakers (don't even get me started on the one- versus two-word conundrum), lead model makers, and other authoritative model-related titles listed on some Trek properties, sometimes alongside the chief. So, was chief model maker Barbara Affonso the head model maker when she worked on First Contact? Uncertain. What is certain is that she was the first woman to fill this position for any Trek show or film. Pictured above is Affonso working on the Borg sphere for First Contact (top), and the Old Bandi City for TNG's series premiere, "Encounter at Farpoint." While working at Industrial Light & Magic for nearly 20 years, she earned more than 20 industry credits, including Star Wars episodes VI, I, and II; Willow; and Jurassic Park.
Photos via Memory Alpha
Visual effects associate Laura Lang carries the distinction of having worked on the post-production of more Trek shows than any other woman. What being a visual effects associate actually entails is another mystery of the universe, but whatever she did, she did it for 156 episodes of DS9. Lang also worked on The Blob, The Abyss, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, and Matinee.
Photo via imdb
Only one post left to go! Join us for the final edition of the Unseen Women of Star Trek: Odd Jobs!