From Homewood to Hollywood: a special (effects) journey
By Ginger Brashinger Correspondent October 24, 2013 8:18AM
Steve Barsevick stands in front of a poster of the character from the movie "The Wolverine." Hanging near Wolverine's claws is Barsevick's Blackhawks cap. He's a big fan. | Supplied photo
Updated: November 25, 2013 12:26PM
Steve Barsevick said he was “a huge ‘Wolverine’ comic book fan” when he was growing up in Homewood.
When he heard a “standalone movie” starring his favorite “X-Men” character was being made, Barsevick was “really, really excited,” he said, and he planned to be a captive member of the audience when the movie came out.
He never dreamed his name would be among the credits.
But in 2012, a quirk of fate and a failed romance in Tucson, Ariz., put Barsevick, 33, in the position of deciding whether to go back home to Illinois or to California, where his mother, Liz Casey, a former Flossmoor School District 161 teacher, had relocated in 1998.
“California was closer to go back to than Chicago,” Barsevick said.
The move has proved to be the right choice — although things weren’t looking good during Barsevick’s first several months in California. He couldn’t find a job with his telecommunications degree from Robert Morris University in Chicago and was “just applying for everything” after losing a seasonal job at Lowe’s.
“You name it, I was applying for it,” Barsevick said.
Barsevick thought because his job experiences had been “kind of nomadic” since his college graduation in 2004 — working in Illinois, Colorado, Iowa and Arizona — he might have compromised his opportunities.
But he knew he had a good work ethic, partly from his years as a hockey player with Team Illinois, the Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings, and the Minnesota Junior Hockey League. Although he wasn’t giving up, by November 2012, he was frustrated and told his cousin Elizabeth D’Amico about his fruitless job searches.
D’Amico said she would contact a friend, Joe Conmy, vice president of visual effects at Fox Studios, to see if he knew of any job opportunities for Barsevick.
“My thought process was, ‘OK, if anything, I have a new contact and maybe he knows people who can use me,’ ” Barsevick said. He wasn’t expecting much beyond that.
D’Amico was as good as her word, and Barsevick’s one-hour conversation with the studio executive led to an interview in December with a visual effects producer who was working on “The Wolverine” movie. Three hours later, Barsevick said, he was offered a job. The movie came out in July.
Barsevick’s story is not a Cinderella story. His first job began as grunt work.
He paid his dues as a kind of “boy Friday” around the office, doing everything from getting people coffee and scheduling travel to the more important work of downloading, captioning and updating hundreds of shots sent by the visual effects vendors in Australia and New Zealand, the same vendors who created visual effects for “Lord of the Rings” and “Superman,” Barsevick said.
The discipline he learned over about 15 years of playing hockey and another 10 years of coaching came in handy. Long hours at Fox Studios were required, Barsevick said, since “the vendors’ days were our nights and they were a day ahead of us,” he said.
Barsevick said his workday was often 12 or 13 hours. He would sometimes go home to Santa Clarita from the studio in Century City, take a shower, and drive right back to work so he wouldn’t have to fight traffic on his 20 mile, 11/2-hour morning drive to work.
Barsevick’s hockey training also served him well when he had to perform under pressure. When Jamie Stevenson, the visual effects producer, told Barsevick to make a presentation to the movie’s director, James Mangold — “a very intimidating presence,” Barsevick said — Barsevick was “extremely nervous” but said he “nailed it.”
“Jamie told me, ‘You’ve got a new talent under your belt, that’s for sure,’ ” Barsevick said.
Part of his reward for work well done as a freelancer was to be hired for his current job on “The Maze Runner,” scheduled for a September 2014 opening.
He said he’s been given added responsibility “to prepare me for the next step on the ladder, to be an assistant coordinator in visual effects,” Barsevick said.
His immediate goal is to work on location in March on a “Fantastic Four” movie as an assistant visual effects coordinator.
His ultimate goal is to become a visual effects supervisor, and nothing seems impossible to Barsevick now that he is succeeding in an industry he hadn’t previously considered as a career possibility.
“It’s been a wonderful ride — hectic, fun, and crazy and stressful, but it’s been worth every single minute,” Barsevick said.