(written from a Production point of view)
Yuricich was initially ordered onto the movie in late July 1978 by Paramount Pictures CEO Michael Eisner, to serve as an unpaid liaison between the studio and visual effects company Robert Abel & Associates (RA&A), as RA&A's budget requests started to spiral out of control, and his primary responsibility was to appraise the situation for the studio, essentially to serve as a studio spy. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 203-204) Due to contractual obligations, a somewhat unmotivated Yuricich was forced to do this. An insensitive Eisner had actually tried to shut down his own company, Future General Corporation (FGC), of which Yuricich was co-founder as well as co-CEO nearly two years earlier. At the time, Yuricich himself has stated, "I took a week or two to look around at what Abel had been doing, and I could see areas where his group could have avoided some pitfalls if they had had some feature film experience, but then, that was on of the things that I was supposed to provide. You see, Bob Abel does wonderful commercials and marvelous work, and he would have done a good job on Star Trek as well. I sent a memo to Paramount Pictures to that effects. However, I didn't think that the release date that they had, for various reasons and problems, would have ever been met. I was just kind of an answer man; when Paramount had a question, I would give them an answer. I also hired some more people. I brought in a bunch of people from the Close Encounters crew. Dave Stewart was a camera operator at the time, and I hired him to look after the large amount of 65mm effects shots that we had to do." If Yuricich ever thought that was to be the extent of his assignment, he soon found out that he had to think again, "I think it was a few months before December when I got another call from Paramount. This time, I agreed to go to work on the matte paintings, since there were going to be lots of them, so I was hired as the matte painting cameraman, working for Paramount with Bob Abel; in other words, I was a Paramount employee, not an Astra Image employee. On the set, Abel did most of the work. I was around, answering questions and kind of advising." His somewhat noncommittally statement belied the chagrin he actually felt as was evidenced by Production Illustrator Michael Minor at the art department with whom Yuricich was to cooperate closely but did not always see "eye-to-eye" with, "Dick Yuricich, the nuts-and-bolt man who had worked Close Encounters with Trumbull, was on the picture practically from the inception of it as a feature, and I don't think he was very happy about it. Frankly, he was there to keep an eye on Astra for Paramount, and there were other post-production supervisors, like John James, who were doing the same thing.", having added that Yuricich, "(...) hating every day of it, (...) really knows how to get the job done, but I locked horns with him occasionally and so did the rest of the art department. We didn't have words too often, but there were a couple of instances." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 166, 174, 303, 349)
The VFX situation came to a head on 20 February 1979 when studio executives and producers came sizing up the visual effects situation at RA&A. The company reportedly had only a single completed effects shot to show for all the time and money spent, already four million dollars over budget at sixteen million dollars by December 1978. As it turned out, Yuricich was one of the people present at the screening on that fateful day, "I was present in the screening room, but you know, I honestly don't remember exactly what was screened. I just of tuned out and forgot about the whole thing. I can tell you that it was a screening with Robert Wise, Gene Roddenberry and Robert Abel. Wise told you that he blew his cool? Well, he's not lying to you. I can't remember what he said, but I do know that Mr. Wise shouldn't take all the credit for blowing his cool, Mr. Roddenberry was also there." Two days later, in an acrimonious atmosphere, Abel was fired and his company released , effective immediately, starting a frantic search for a replacement, as the studio now unexpectedly found itself extremely pressured for time since the release date for the movie was a given. It was then that Yuricich's own company, FGC, was contracted for the visual effects and that his participation became formal. (The Special Effects of Trek, pp. 29, 31) Together with FGC co-founder Douglas Trumbull, Yuricich used the problems the studio were in as leverage to secure a proviso that they would be released from their contractual studio obligations if they accepted. For the work, Trumbull and Yuricich, now paid, were able to partly reassemble the team they previously had on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but was forced to let go by the studio over a year earlier, not few of them, ironically, hired by RA&A when the studio started to close down FGC, but now rejoining the latter. Actually, it was Yuricich who was tasked with re-initializing FGC by reassembling the team and finding new, suitable filming facilities. "I was officially "producer of effects", Yuricich explained at the time, "I think the designation came along later on. It was just aa way tho handle the credits. It was more or less my function doing that anyhow, really; Doug is totally creative, I just took care if the technical end, the optical cameramen, getting the equipment together, getting it all to work. I like that credit, it's the same job I had on Close Encounters." Yuricich had the filming facilities up and running by June 1979, when effects photography was started by FGC. (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 348-350, 374, 411) Both men left FGC upon completion of the project.
Years later, in 2001, Yuricich was interviewed on his contributions for the DVD release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition). Until then Yuricich had been loathe, understandably perhaps, to publicly divulge any information on his involvement in the production of the movie. As it turned out however, he had talked indepth – already occasionally venting his frustration with the studio in veiled wordings – about his work for the production in late 1979, while he was still working on the movie, to Cinefantastique reporter Preston Neal Jones, but the latter's copy was only published 35 years later in the title listed below.
Matte painter Matthew Yuricich was Richard's older brother, having worked together with him on several projects, including The Motion Picture.
Career outside Star Trek
He first served as a Rostrum animation cameraman for the 1968 sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, starring Gary Lockwood. It was on this occasion that he met Douglas Trumbull, forming a long association and friendship. In 1971, served as part of the special photographic effects team for Douglas Trumbull's film Silent Running (1972) which built upon a number of special effects techniques developed for 2001. In 1979, he had proudly stated, "I am definitively Trumbull-trained and glad of it. You might say I'm one of the graduates of the class of 2001. I've worked with Doug so long now that I understand what he wants to get done and it's just an easy working relationship." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 374)
In 1975 both men founded FGC and served as effects photographic producer/director on that company's first full-blown theatrical movie for which the company provided the VFX, the acclaimed science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1979, starring Terri Garr). Yuricich followed his friend after leaving FGC and worked, now employed at Trumbull's new company Entertainment Effects Group (EEG) on the equally acclaimed science fiction film Blade Runner (1982, starring Joanna Cassidy). During this period, he shared Academy Award nominations with the rest of their special effects team for all three films. His work on the Star Trek film helped win the team the Saturn Award for "Best Special Effects." Shortly thereafter, he later served as associate producer at EEG for the 1983 sci-fi thriller Brainstorm, which was also directed by Trumbull, and starred Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actress Louise Fletcher.
After Trumbull had sold EEG in 1984 to Richard Edlund, for it to become Boss Film Studios, Richard Yuricich became an independent contractor, consistently continuing to work in the motion picture industry as a VFX director of photography/supervisor throughout the subsequent decades.
In 1997, Yuricich worked as visual effects supervisor on the Paramount Pictures production Event Horizon, filmed in the UK. Three scenes of this science fiction/horror film were re-used for the Star Trek: Voyager fourth season episode "Random Thoughts".
Star Trek awards
Yuricich received the following awards and nominations in the various Special/Visual Effects categories:
- 1980 Academy Award nomination for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, shared with John Dykstra, Douglas Trumbull, Robert Swarthe, David K. Stewart, and Grant McCune
- 1980 Saturn Award win for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, shared with John Dykstra, and Douglas Trumbull
Star Trek interviews
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition) DVD special feature, "A Bold New Enterprise", 2001
- Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, December 2014