From Bethel to the Big Screen

As a Bethel student, Robert Wiese ’12 spent a semester exploring the film industry in Los Angeles. Upon graduation, he returned to LA and has since made a career in pre-production work for several DC and Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, content specialist

October 21, 2019 | 10 a.m.

Bethel graduate Robert Wiese

Bethel grad and Minnesota native Robert Wiese ’12 has a love for storytelling, which carried him to Hollywood for a career in pre-production animation for film.

When Robert Wiese ’12 saw Aquaman in theatres, he wasn’t there as an average movie-goer. He was there hoping to catch a glimpse of his creative work on the big screen. His name makes a subtle appearance in the end credit roll, but the type of work he does is instrumental in bringing action-packed blockbusters to life.

Wiese is a pre-visualization artist for The Third Floor Inc. a studio in Los Angeles, where he’s worked on the pre-production end of films like Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Captain MarvelPacific Rim Uprising, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Using 3D animation, Wiese’s team helps filmmakers plan for some of their most visually complex scenes.

“Before they go on to shoot the film, we take the storyboards and turn them into digital camera work,” Wiese explains. “We create 3D models, characters, creatures, vehicles, environments—anything the director and concept artist have come up with.” Wiese’s team then shoots the film digitally, which the directors and producers use to inform their next steps in production.  

Wiese didn’t always aspire to specialize in visual effects, but film work has long been in his sights. Growing up, his love for storytelling was ignited by films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and books like The Odyssey. “I’ve always been a more grandiose storyteller. I like the bigger stories rather than the smaller dramas,” he says. “That’s why getting into the film industry has been really fun. I’ve gotten to work on Godzilla, one of my favorite creature characters. It’s a dream come true, really.”

Wiese’s love for stories carried him to Bethel, where he pursued an individualized degree, combining art and media communication courses with the intention of preparing for a career in film music. “The media production department at Bethel was really helpful in fostering the ideas of good storytelling,” he says. “They also allowed me to explore different options in film, and determine whether things were realistic or not.”

Wiese explored both on campus and off. His final semester was spent at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, which Bethel partners with to provide students with a semester of real-world experience in the film industry. Wiese interned at Hans Zimmer’s studio, which provided the opportunity to sit in with composers and observe their work. While Wiese loved music and enjoyed learning more about it within the context of the film industry, he started to consider pursuing an area that was seeing more growth—visual effects.

While at Bethel, Wiese dabbled in computer graphics, and shortly after graduation he decided to continue down that path. “Sculpting characters, creating assets—it’s a whole other world of artistic pursuits,” he says.

“When I go to the theatre to see the movie I worked on, I’m like, ‘that is exactly my shot. I did that animation. I did that camera work.’ That’s a cool feeling when you see that on the big screen.”

— Robert Wiese '12

Wiese stayed in LA and attended Gnomon School of Visual Effects, where he specialized in character and creature animation. Upon completing the program, he landed his first job doing pre-visualization work for a theme park ride in Dubai. Shortly after, he started working for The Third Floor Inc.

Having the ability to be creative in his work is Wiese’s favorite part of his job, and that creative passion influenced his decision to go into pre-visualization rather than full animation. “On the pre-production side of things, I get to be part of the planning. It’s more collaborative,” he explains. “When I go to the theatre to see the movie I worked on, I’m like, ‘this is exactly my shot. I did that animation. I did that camera work.’ That’s a cool feeling when you see that on the big screen.”

Wiese’s end goal is to become a director and make his own films, but for now he’s enjoying where he’s at on the journey. “The visual effects industry is just full of artists who want to create good work,” he says. “It’s different than the fine art world. It’s commercial, and I get to ask, ‘Does the work convey what we want it to convey?’ The people I work with are also in that mindset. It’s very artistic and very collaborative. And we all love good stories.” 

At The Third Floor Inc., Wiese works full days from 9 a.m.–7 p.m., but he also fills his free time with film- and visual-effects-related projects of his own design. In addition to creating and developing stories, he researches new technology and refines his skillset based on where he sees the industry headed. “Every year there’s new software, new techniques, new methods,” he says. “Every year there’s something that could flip things on its head, so I try to stay on top of it.”

And his advice to others who have career aspirations in film is similar: “The biggest thing is to always keep learning. Be curious, keep learning, and don’t stop practicing … ” he says. “Expect to work a lot and work hard—but it’s also very rewarding.”

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