Marblehead native credits Glover School teacher with start in movies

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Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.

Marblehead native Ethan Feldbau may have been at an Oscar watch party in Los Angeles when his movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won seven Academy Awards, but he was thinking about his hometown and former Glover School teacher Jane Graham.

“I owe a lot to my third grade teacher. She took our class to the magic show ‘Le Grand David’ in Beverly and I became infatuated with magic and special effects. She started me on a path toward theater, movies and art.”

Ethan Feldbau grew up in Marblehead making movies with friends.

Feldbau was the lead visual effects artist and visual designer on “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a sci-fi multiverse movie that dominated the Oscars, winning Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Director and several other top awards.

“This was a very scrappy, low-budget film with only seven people working on special effects,” Feldbau said. “We were up against ‘Avatar’ which has 1700 visual effects artists.” (“Avatar: The Way of Water” won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.) 

“We shot our movie up until lockdown occurred and then we all had to figure out how to finish it from home,” Feldbau said. “There are 500 visual effects shots and 90% of those are done by just five people.”

Feldbau knew “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was special, but he had no idea it would be so successful right away.

“I saw it sort of snowball and get bigger and bigger. I thought the film was going to eventually find an audience, but I thought it would be like ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ — that it would come out, disappear and college kids would find it a few years down the road.”

Making films with friends

Feldbau graduated from Marblehead High School in 2003. “I was very into making films with friends. I used to make horror films and took all the video and TV production courses I could.” He also worked at Marblehead TV, helping with the weekly newscast. “MHTV was my foray into more professional video tools. I used to use their equipment.”

Feldbau attended Emerson College in Boston, where he met several people who went on to create “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” including directors Dan Scheinert and Dan Kwan.

“We saw each other’s work at an Emerson film festival and liked it,” Feldbau said.

He credits the directors for the magical realism in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

“They’re very interested in exploring their humanity,” he said. “The movie uses a visual grammar in which visual effects are important in communicating emotions. I haven’t seen a film that is this expressionistic. I really saw this as a new type of cinematic language, making the internal externalized.”

In fact, Feldbau sees a link between the Oscar-winning movie and “Le Grand David.”

“You’re watching this film play out and the most extraordinary things happen. It does feel like watching a magic show.”

Feldbau has worked on other movies, including Oscar-winner “American Hustle.” He has also worked on TV shows (“Better Things,” “Comedy Bang! Bang!”) and music videos (with Kesha and Childish Gambino).

His next project is with Netflix. “I’m working on a documentary about our own universe and cosmology. We’ve done the multiverse now we’re going to do our universe.”

Feldbau, whose parents now live in Salem, hopes to come back to Marblehead this summer.

“I used to have paintings in the Festival of Arts, back in high school and college. I would love to come back for the Festival.”

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