The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 29, 2013

Milton native delivers visual effects for ‘The Butler’

By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
For The Daily Item

— Millions of people around the world have been impressed by Andrew Bly’s skills. However, millions of people around the world have never really seen his work.

And that’s just how Bly, a native of Milton, wants it.

Currently Bly’s unseen yet impressive visual effects work can be found across the nation at theaters screening the number one film at the box office, “The Butler.”

This technology whiz and the visual effects company he co-owns, The Molecule, have also enhanced and energized such prime time TV shows as “Smash” and “Moonshiners” and the highly anticipated premier of NBC’s “Black List.”

Not bad for someone who left Milton in 2002 with little more than a junk car, a hunger for success and a ton of determination.

Recently the New York City resident headed back to his roots, his family and friends to watch for the first time a screening of “The Butler” at the Digiplex Cinema Center at the Susquehanna Valley Mall.

“Seeing the film at the same theater my friends and I would go to while growing up was amazing and so surreal,” said Bly during a late night interview from his office in Manhattan.

“It was so surreal seeing my name at the end credits for a film that is number one at the box office and is being screened across the country. It was a great feeling of accomplishment and an amazing experience I will never forget.”

The son of Terry and Esther Bly, of Montandon, and a 2002 graduate from the Milton Area High School, he first became interested in the magic of cinema while recovering from a childhood illness which found him passing the time with his parents’ camcorder, a humble start that laid the foundation for Bly’s future career.

After earning an associate degree in film in one year from the Full Sail University in Orlando, Fla., Bly moved to New York City and started chasing his dream.

With limited experience but an impressive array of skills and a strong determination, Bly landed an internship with a well-known music video production company before moving into a year as production coordinator with the  hip-hop trio The Beastie Boys and their own production company where he honed his skills and worked long hours.

In 2005, a mere three years after graduating from high school, Bly joined forces with Chris Healer, Luke DiTommasoa, two tech experts, to found The Molecule, a visual effects company specializing in TV and independent films.

“We go in  and enhance a lot of the scenes to make them look more impressive or to add certain elements that could not be done in real life,” Bly said. “An example of what we do would be a shot we worked on for the TV show ‘Rescue Me’ where the lead character is falling through a warehouse that is on fire. Since the actors and the budget could not involve a real building on fire, we added those segments in and when we were done, you really think this guy is crashing through this warehouse that is a blaze of fire and smoke.”

Other shows Bly and the company have worked on include “Louie,” “The League,” “Damages,” and many others.

“For some shows the production company sends us the work and we add in the visual components they want and for other shows we’ll have someone on set during the filming to help us be able to get the right setting or angels,” he said. “Our job is to make it appear as if we never did anything and the visuals we added were always there.”

For their work on “The Butler,” Bly and his crew were recommended by someone they had worked with before who knew the company had high standards and an impressive list of accomplishments.

“We were originally supposed to do a few shots and when we were finished, they had asked us to do 209 shots.”

An example of The Molecule’s work can be seen in a shot that takes place in a cotton field that had a limited number of mature plants ready to be harvested.

Using high tech computers and cutting edge software, the company digitally created a cotton field filled with snowy white cotton waiting to be harvested.

“We spent a lot of hours on ‘The Butler’ and in the end everyone was very pleased with the work,” he said. “For the company it was a huge step up to the next level since this film is being screened across the country and around the world. So we’re very excited to have been a part of it.”

The Molecule received the raw footage of the film and spent three months enhancing scenes and creating the right appearance for a film that spans several decades.

Although he was invited to the premier, Bly had given his tickets to someone else since he was involved with a major project that required his input.

“I still can’t get over it, that we worked on this film that is now number one at the box office.”

Bly credits his family, friends and his education at Milton for his success and involvement with visual effects.

“When I was going to high school, Milton has a vocational program where the students worked on different areas, including technology-based careers. I was never a great student in high school.

In fact, if I came home with grades of a high C, my parents were happy, but with the vocational classes, that was the stuff that interested me and that I did really good at. So I feel very fortunate to have had that experience and the teachers who saw what my strengths were.”

When he’s not busy at the company’s New York or Los Angeles office, Bly heads back to this area when time allows and recently earned his pilot’s license in Selinsgrove.

At 29 years of age, Bly, whose voice is filled with confidence without being arrogant, has accomplished a level of success he never dreamed about when he was a kid in grade school — where he would often form production companies with his friends who would then shoot homemade films and edit them.

Now he is making a name for himself in the visual effects world and already has a host of new projects lined up for the coming months.

“It’s a crazy life and I am always on the go and always busy. But I would not have it any other way,” he said. “You have to get out there and try. For someone right now going to high school in Milton, I would tell them to follow your dreams and don’t give up. There will be times you fail ... but if you never try, nothing will ever change. Failing is just one of the steps to success.”