Ekker, who went freelance to pursue a multi-faceted experience after his successful 13-year tenure at Digital Domain, was thrilled to have this ideal role specially designed for him at Zoic.
“What began as a meet and greet became a meeting of the minds,” comments Ekker. “Zoic has long been known for producing exciting visual content and in speaking with the founders I came to further appreciate their passion, creativity and integrity. When they offered me a position that spoke to all of my interests I was very excited.”
Ekker was staff employee number 27 at Digital Domain, hired by James Cameron after his contribution to “True Lies” for which Ekker co-designed various models including the bridge explosion scene, spy props for Arnold Schwartzenegger's character, and a hand-operated model mount for pyrotechnics.
Over the years, Ekker was an instrumental part of the visual effects team at DD, contributing to numerous blockbuster features including “Titanic” and over 100 high-profile and award-winning commercials for such noted brands as Lexus, Coca Cola, Target, Burger King, Sony PlayStation, Budweiser and HP. Recent and notable spots include Pacific Life “Underwater Tennis,” the Dodge “Truckville” series, Honda Accord “Power,” “Moments” and “Gree,” as well as Michelin “Lost Friend.”
In addition to an Academy Award nomination on “Apollo 13” Ekker was awarded a BAFTA and The Engineer’s Council Award for his contribution to the picture. An avowed “space nut,” Ekker was especially honored by the Engineer’s Council Award, having painstakingly researched the mission, and space physics, so that the digital imagery would be historically and scientifically accurate.
“My reputation for many years has been that of a "Walking Encyclopedia" because I love to collect facts and solve problems,” says Ekker. “It is the element of problem solving that drew me to visual effects in the first place.”
Call it problem solving on the fly: Hired as a designer on “Star Trek The Movie” right out of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Ekker was thrown a complex visual effects sequence and had to teach himself animation and direct others how to execute the sequence.
“This was the inspiration moment where I realized that my industrial design experience could translate to the realm of visual effects” Ekker recalls.
That experience in hand, Ekker turned back to freelance industrial design while working as a model maker and an effects technician and designer. He continued to work for longtime friend Mark Stetson at Entertainment Effects Group as a model maker on “Blade Runner,” and later at Boss Films on “Ghost Busters,” “2010” and more as crew chief. He was hired for stints at Walt Disney Engineering and Apogee, as well as running his own special projects team for Spielberg on "Hook," and as Model Supervisor for Coppola on "Brahm Stoker's Dracula". He also collaborated with Stetson (via his company Stetson Visual Services) on numerous features including "Die Hard," “Edward Scissorhands” and “True Lies,” the project that would lead to his staff position at Digital Domain.
Ekker steps into his new role at Zoic with on set visual effects supervision for a SeaWorld commercial directed by Zoic Studios’ partner and co-founder Loni Peristere. He is considering aspects of his plans at Zoic, among them possibly hosting industry salons and discussions on such topics as stereo photography and physics in animation.
“We are incredibly excited about Leslie joining us, and as our commercial department continues to evolve it is very important to find leaders who are not only experienced in the art of visual effects, but also in the art of mentoring and directing teams of artists to create stunning results. Leslie’s breadth of experience and knowledge, coupled with his wonderful personality, makes this an outstanding opportunity that both our clients and our artists will greatly benefit from,” says Zoic Studios Creative Director/ Co-Founder Chris Jones.