Chemist Creates Films’ Ambiance

Beverly Wood uses her background in chemistry to bring filmmakers’ visions to life on the big screen. Executive vice president of technical services and client relations for Deluxe Entertainment in Los Angeles, Wood recently worked her visual magic on the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. In nearly two decades with Deluxe, she has helped put the finishing touches on a myriad of movies, including True Grit and The Hours. Photo by Henner Hofmann, ASC, AMC.

When James Bond needs the latest in high-tech gadgetry, he turns to Q.

And when the cinematographer for the latest Bond film needs technical advice, he turns to Beverly Wood ’78.

Wood, executive vice president of technical services and client relations for Deluxe Entertainment’s digital arm, EFILM, was on her way from Los Angeles to London recently to help director of photography Roger Deakins put the finishing touches on Skyfall, the 23rd and latest Bond film.

It’s hard for Wood, 56, to describe the behind-the-scenes magic she and her colleagues specialize in. But you can see it for yourself in the moodiness of Seven, the old Western-style patina of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and the deep blacks and crisp look of The Man Who Wasn’t There, just a few of the thousands of films she and her team at Deluxe have worked on.

The Man Who Wasn’t There − shot in color but transferred to black-and-white reels by Wood’s crew − earned Deakins a best film award from the American Society of Cinematographers in 2001. He was in the middle of shooting another movie, so he sent Wood to the awards ceremony in his stead.

After Wood read the speech Deakins had prepared for her, she added a thought of her own.

“Who would’ve thought a little black girl from Virginia would end up in this room?” she asked the crowd of Hollywood elite. “I got a standing ovation.”

Perhaps no one was more surprised Wood was there than she was. Raised on a farm in rural Southside Virginia, she’d come to Mary Washington to study biology and pursue a career as a medical technologist.

Instead, Wood graduated in chemistry and, after earning a master’s degree at the University of Georgia, she all but decided to take a job with an oil company in Texas. But one last interview, with Kodak in Rochester, N.Y., changed her life.

Wood ultimately accepted a job with Kodak’s motion picture division. She moved to California to work with movie laboratories, fixing everything from radiation fog to pressure marks on film. The job combined her chemistry expertise with her people skills.

“I didn’t want to be a mad scientist for the rest of my life,” she said, laughing. “I like outside stimulus to stimulate my thinking and how I look at a problem. Analytical chemistry taught me how to solve a problem, no matter what kind of problem it is.”

Wood has been solving problems for filmmakers big and small at Deluxe for almost 20 years. Her job often entails listening to filmmakers describe what they want a movie to feel and look like and then applying her technical skills to deliver that vision.

“It’s not about me. These people entrust their images to me. I help them make sure their vision is intact from beginning to end,” Wood said. “They already know what they want. I just help them get it.”