Executive Vice President of Visual Effects at Marvel Victoria Alonso speaks onstage during day 2 of Variety’s 4th Annual 3D Entertainment Summit at Hollywood and Highland in Hollywood, California. (Photo/Getty Images)

Latina executive behind “The Avengers” special effects talks challenges, “Iron Man 3”

If you were one of the movie goers that made “The Avengers” one of the highest-grossing films of all time, you’re in good company. “The Avengers” – headlined with stars including Samuel J. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. – brought together a cast of adored superheroes within a story line that included plenty of surprises and lots of jaw-dropping, groundbreaking special effects, making it every second the big budget action film.

And helming the film’s production of those oh-so-cool-visual effects? Marvel’s executive vice president of visual effects and post production, Victoria Alonso – whose impressive resume includes franchise favorites “Thor,” “Captain America,” “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2.”

“I started in this industry years ago,” said Alonso, who executive produced both “The Avengers” and “Item 47,” a special short film released exclusively with the Sept. 25 DVD release of “The Avengers.” “I got my theater degree and realized I couldn’t put up with the ‘too fat,’ ‘too white,’ ‘not enough accent,’ ‘too much accent” stuff and would rather make decisions as a producer.”

Starting over in the entertainment industry, Alonso worked as a production assistant (“I picked up a lot of garbage, literally,” she recalls) and worked her way up to visual effects producer, traveling the world on film after film. She joined Marvel to work on “Iron Man” and with that film, a career Alonso calls “pretty phenomenal” began.

“Marvel is actually a pretty small movie studio and there aren’t many of us,” confesses Alonso, who says her executive office is “really tiny.” “We make big movies but we operate under the assumption that each could be our last and don’t take any piece of that for granted.”

As the executive vice president of visual effects, Alonso is charged with bringing that special big-action movie experience to each of her projects – no small challenge given Marvel’s reputation for producing films based on America’s most beloved comic book characters.

“The best visual effect is the one you don’t see but moves the story,” says Alonso, who grew up in Argentina. “We don’t try to define the story with special effects. Iron Man has to fly from point A to point B, and it’s my job to make sure he does that in the coolest way possible.”

And while viewers may have enjoyed the 143 minute-long treat that was the “The Avengers” (the longest Marvel Studios film to date), Alonso says the project wasn’t without headaches.

“The biggest challenge was to give every character a certain amount of time in the story so people didn’t feel cheated that their favorite character didn’t have enough to say or do,” says Alonso, who first began working as executive producer with Marvel in 2005. “And scheduling-wise, to get all these wonderful actors together at the same time and place was nothing short of challenging.”

For Alonso, who counts 18 hour-long workdays six times a week as the norm, says that the most rewarding aspect of her job isn’t seeing her name roll as one of the credits on the big screen; rather, it’s about the joy she’s able to give people.

“I love to hear people say, ‘I don’t like superhero movies, but I love it; I laughed and cried,” says Alonso. That’s great. It’s something you hope for and dream of.”

Even so, says Alonso, there are occasionally glamorous parts of the industry.

“We had a dinner in New York City with the entire cast and director to celebrate the end of filming,” says Alonso. “And there I was, with Mark Ruffalo on one side, Robert Downey Jr. on the other, staring at Chris Evans and sharing sushi rolls with Scarlett Johansson. All I could think of was how far I had come – wow!”

With the upcoming DVD release of the “The Avengers,” Alonso has officially begun work on the latest installment of the “Iron Man” franchise – the highly anticipated “Iron Man 3.”

“This is a franchise I love – it’s my baby,” says Alonso. “It’s going to be a better film than the others and I’m working every day to make sure I do right by the fans who are looking forward to seeing it in May 2013.”

“To bring superheroes to life is a constant challenge, and one that I’m honored to have”

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