Compositor, Los Angeles
Ghost VFX is an award-winning visual effects house with innovative talent and technology that brings creative visions to life. Our dedicated teams around the globe make the impossible possible, fulfilling the demands of studios and independent creators alike. In our “Ghost VFX Spotlight” series, we showcase the team members behind the projects to find out what they’re passionate about, how they see the industry evolving, and their creative insights into the art and craft of visual effects.
Tell me a little about your background in VFX?
Surprisingly, my journey in the VFX industry stemmed from my experience as a makeup artist. I attended Make-Up Designory Los Angeles after a couple years of college and worked part time in the industry before finding my way to VFX. Tom Kendall believed that my background in make-up may be a good starting point in doing beauty work in the VFX world. I was introduced to Carrie Smith (Beauty Supervisor at Ghost VFX) and started going to the studio twice a week on my days off to sort of shadow and learn what a beauty artist does day to day. I want to say it was probably about a year or so of “interning” before Tom so kindly offered me a full-time position. Within a month or two, I left my previous job and dove full force in VFX. In the beginning I worked mostly on beauty with a couple of comp shots here and there to introduce me to what else the job has to offer. The pandemic proved to be a bit of a transition period, but by the end of the first year I had made my way to working in comp full time with little to no beauty work. It was definitely a great way to learn the tools and have a foundation for shots with different kinds of challenges and I am forever grateful to Carrie, Michael DeLorenzo (who also helped mentor me), and the many other compositors that have helped me grow along the way.
In your own words how would you describe what you do at Ghost VFX?
I’ve honestly always had a bit of trouble explaining exactly what it is I do as a Compositor. The simplest way I can say it is that I basically take a shot and different elements (that were either made specifically for that shot or are just sort of stock) and I compile them in a way that makes the shot look photo real. Examples range from replacing green screens with backgrounds, filling empty monitors, adding muzzle flashes to guns, integrating CG elements, etc. The job is truly about problem solving and finding different ways to make things work.
What part of the job are you most passionate about?
I would have to say I truly enjoy being able to see different creative ideas from different people come together into one cohesive vision. When you don’t work in VFX (at least for me), you don’t realize the amount of time, work, thought, and creativity go into just a couple of seconds of a show or a movie. I love that now when I watch anything, I have a newfound appreciation for all that is happening behind the scenes. That being said, I also find the most happiness when I’m given creative freedom to make something look how I envision it, rather than just being instructed to have something look a certain way.
Is there a particular project you worked on that you can discuss? If so, what was the project and what was the work you contributed?
One of my favorite shows to date to watch has been Shameless and I was extremely excited when we got awarded work on the last Season especially. At first, I must admit I was worried about the spoilers because I’ve been watching from Season 1, but being able to say I was a part of the show in any way has been quite rewarding. The last Season ran into issues due to the pandemic and many exterior shots that were previously filmed on location in Chicago had to be done digitally. This means that many episodes were shot in front of a blue screen and our incredible artists recreated the Chicago neighborhoods that I would then replace the blue screen with. When you are a huge fan of a show you work on, it makes it all the more fun to be a part of. I even got to work on one of the last scenes of the series and I have to say that opportunity to do that has been one of the highlights of my career so far.
Any advice to others looking to break into VFX?
My advice would be that the first couple of years are going to really test you and you’re going to struggle, but not to give up because things do become manageable. It takes more time than you’d think to get into the swing of things, but there is a ton of a support in the industry, and you should never be afraid to ask questions. When I was first starting, I thought it wasn’t normal to stress out about the problem-solving aspect, but with the help and advice from other compositors I learned it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed at first and it’s something you’ll get used to. There will always be new problems you’ll run into, but there’s always solutions. The community is super supportive if you allow it to be and are open to what others have to offer.
Where do you see the VFX industry headed in the next 5 years? What excites you about the future?
Technically speaking, I can’t even wrap my mind around what is likely to come in the next 5 years. I imagine there will be new and improved programs that will be able to do more of the “heavy lifting” routine aspects of VFX work which would allow even more creativity to be focused on. As far as for me, I can’t wait to see what projects come in. I know there is so much more I have to learn, and all of those new things will bring me more complex and rewarding projects to work on.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention or add?
I am just truly grateful for the opportunities I have been given and I can’t thank the Ghost VFX Community enough for helping me along the way in this still somewhat new journey I’m on.