Victoria Alonso lives the dream of working on films such as The Avengers and Iron Man for Marvel Studios
Victoria Alonso’s rise to success as executive vice president of visual effects and post production at Marvel Studios didn’t follow the usual script. After working her way up as a young expat drama student to become one of the most sought-after production talents in the business, Alonso found herself constantly on the road traveling between film shoots, and realized something was off—literally. “I used to shoot out of the country—I spent years working in Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Morocco—but I owned a house in Los Angeles,” Alonso says. “One afternoon I was sitting in my LA home’s living room and the sun came down. I tried to turn on a light—until I realized I didn’t have any light bulbs in the entire house! The moment I realized I couldn’t turn on a single light at home was the moment I realized I needed a change.”
It was then that a colleague of hers told Alonso that he was going to be working on a movie called Iron Man, and offered her a position on the film. She explains, “I had a house in LA I didn’t really live in as I traveled so extensively, so the only thing I asked was where the movie was going to be shot. He told me Los Angeles and I immediately said, ‘Okay, I’m in! I don’t need to know any more!’ And I’ve been working for Marvel ever since.”
A native of Argentina, Alonso came to the United States on her own at 19 to study drama and psychology at the University of Washington, with aspirations of pursuing a career in theater. “I realized there weren’t many theaters in the West Coast that can actually pay your bills, though,” she explains. After college, Alonso made the move to California. A friend suggested she try her hand working in production in the film industry and offered to introduce her to a director he knew.
Though Alonso already had a full plate with three jobs—working at Alaska Airlines in the morning, working as a page at Paramount in the afternoon, and waitressing at night—she knew that this was an opportunity she simply could not pass up. “So, on top of all those jobs, I started working as a production assistant, as well,” Alonso recalls. She worked on a variety of films, including some for Tony and Ridley Scott’s production company RSA Films, as well as the production of high-end commercials.
She soon found herself working on the most sought-after films around for the highest-profile companies in the industry. She worked at Sony, Paramount, Fox, and even Dreamworks, where she worked on the first Shrek film, which garnered nearly $800 million at the box office.
It was in 2005 that Alonso made the transition to the top echelon of Marvel Studios, the film-production arm of the beloved Marvel Comics. “The visual-effects, post-production, and stereo departments fall under my watch at Marvel,” Alonso says, adding that she also serves as an executive producer on every film that the company produces. Alonso is one of the three executives who run the company—but she’s lucky enough to share responsibility with men who don’t treat her any differently for being a woman or a minority.
“I work with the nicest men in the industry,” she says. “There’s never been a differentiation because I am a woman or Hispanic; they’ve always welcomed me with open arms. Our team cares more about efficiency and intelligence than anything else, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.”
Alonso and the Marvel production team recently completed what they refer to as Phase One of their studio, where they introduced films centered around the comic books’ biggest characters and culminated with the smash hit The Avengers. The studios’ biggest film to date, The Avengers took all of Marvel’s original pictures—Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk—and the collision of the storylines turned into the most buzzed-about film of 2012. “That was the biggest story we’ve done to date, as well as our riskiest. We had to make sure that everyone got to tell as much of their storyline as possible so that the fans felt that they ‘had their fill’ from each of the characters they love most,” Alonso says.
With Phase Two, the company is planning to produce sequels in the Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor series, in addition to releasing Guardians of the Galaxy. Alonso says, “That will take us all the way to 2015, which we will crown with The Avengers 2. We’re very excited. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re excited to give fans what they want.”
Though Alonso’s plate now seems to overflow with work, she makes sure to set aside what little free time she has to volunteer with The Story Project, a Los Angeles-based storytelling nonprofit that provides inspiration to at-risk youth and underprivileged students through projects based in the media. “What I like about working with The Story Project is getting to reach out to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet with people like me, so that I can tell them my story,” she says. “I hope that I somehow inspire them and am able to show them that, if all of this could happen to me, it could happen to them, too. It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you know as long as you keep trying and keep knocking on doors.
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