Alumni Issue: Making Movie Magic

Friday, October 7th, 2016 at 12:22 PM
Alumni Issue: Making Movie Magic by Kimberly Firestine

Harry Potter. Atonement. Stuart Little. What do all three of these have in common?

The answer: Edinboro University alumnus Patrick Zentis.

Before graduating in 1989, Zentis studied traditional animation and cinematography at EU. And while some students take a few semesters to decide what career to pursue, Zentis knew exactly what his intended future held. 

“Movies like ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ were impossible without environment-related visual effects. That made me very interested [in matte painting],” Zentis said. 

“I also thought that backgrounds were the key to enhancing the mood of animated performances in traditional animation,” he said. 

Zentis has served as a matte painter, visual effects artist and animation supervisor for films such as “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” “22 Jump Street” and “Kate & Leopold,” among many others. A matte painter paints digital representations of landscapes, sets and fictional locations to create the illusion of an environment that is nonexistent, too expensive or impossible to visit or build. This means it’s almost guaranteed that Zentis had a hand in your favorite Harry Potter or “Bourne Ultimatum” scenes.  

His uncle graduated from Edinboro in the 1950s and influenced Zentis through his theater production design work and philosophy, spearheading his decision to attend Edinboro. Zentis was also inspired to attend Edinboro thanks to a presentation from another EU alumnus. 

“I attended an animation presentation that Bill Waldmen gave while he was in his senior year,” said Zentis. “That sold it.” 

Currently, Zentis is working on TV shows called “The Expanse” and “Black Sails,” as well as a feature called “Thank You for Your Service.” He just finished working on environments for “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. 

“The crew was wonderful and it was a really fun project, [it was] both creatively and technically interesting,” Zentis said. 

As for favorite projects, Zentis said it’s not the project as much as it’s the crew. 

“Unfortunately, talent moves around a lot so those crews break up,” Zentis said. “‘Bourne Ultimatum,’ ‘Quantum of Solace,’ the Harry Potter films and ‘London Has Fallen’ each stand out for different reasons.” Zentis said he enjoys working with people who do different tasks than him and that the “collaborative chemistry creates things that no one person would have come up with alone.”

While attending EU, Zentis said one of his favorite aspects was the encouragement he and his fellow students received from former professor Dave Weinkauf. 

“Each of us were very different people and had different goals, but we had a very common desire to learn our craft,” Zentis said. “This past spring, I had a chance to see three of them [fellow students] in LA and saw some of what they’re working on now. They still inspire me.”

In terms of advice for those looking to get into the field after college, Zentis believes that “film and animation are a reflection of life.” 

“Do much more than just your assignments, and study things that aren’t in your field. Taking classes in seemingly unrelated fields will make you a better artist,” Zentis said. “Develop a strong creative process in every medium available to you and experiment. There are many solutions that carry over from one thing to another.”

Working in the industry that Zentis does almost guarantees that there will be negative feedback on anything and everything. Zentis believes that negativity only comes with searching for the bad in something. 

“Critiques are never a negative thing unless they’re focused on finding faults,” he said. “Merely eliminating problems doesn’t create progress. In any piece of artwork, the successful energy will positively influence both the strengths and the weaknesses.” 

While Patrick Zentis currently lives in Berlin, Germany, his roots in Edinboro are undeniable. His work in film and animation has left a lasting impression in Hollywood as he continues to use his skills attained at Edinboro University to aid cinema. 

Kimberly Firestine is the arts editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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