VFX Supervisor, UK
Please describe your background in VFX?
I took a university course in 1995/1996 and one of the guest lecturers was Paul Franklin, who at the time was working at MPC. That’s how I ended up in London and a year in a half later I signed to help set up Double Negative (DNEG) and stayed there for a little over 10 years. Eventually I ended up going to Vancouver to Image Engine VFX and spent 5 and half years there. Finally, I came back to the UK and worked for several smaller boutique facilities; most recently at Outpost VFX.
I started as a 3D Generalist. That’s how the industry was 25 years ago, you didn’t do a task, you did a shot. I then progressed to CG Supervisor and then VFX Supervisor. Quite early on in my career I ended up attending film shoots to learn the production side of the business. The first production I was a part of was for Enemy at the Gates (1999).It’s a different beast being part of a film shoot, and it can be very rewarding.
In your own words how would you describe what you do?
Generally, I will work either in the facility or as part of the production team. To me, at its core, the job is to try to get the best out of the team and to support the team while keeping the momentum up. I see the artists as the experts at what they do. Many of them love the work and do visual effects as their hobby as well. I enjoy finding the right tasks for the right artist and keeping it fun while delivering great looking work.
What part of the job are you most passionate about?
I always try to keep things fun for everyone, which isn’t always easy. We are so privileged with what we do – creating pictures. It should be enjoyable for everyone, and I think as long as you have the right amount of people for the workload, it can be a positive and fun experience for everyone.
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?
Lone Survivor is an absolute highlight for me. It was a fantastic story. The whole crew was really passionate about the project and telling the story. Peter Berg was the director, and everyone was working to put their best work they could into it to tell this story and fulfill his vision. We had to come up with quite radical solutions for the visual effects… We shot our own plates when editorial needed something – a helicopter through some trees for example, it was a very collaborative project. Everyone walked away very happy with it and was very proud of the result. We had to respect this story and the real life individuals who actually went through the experience.
Any advice to others looking to break into VFX?
It’s important to develop personal contacts, which is hard, but always very helpful on every level in the film industry, not just visual effects. If you work on a film crew, you’ll meet people and establish relationships for the next project. If you go to film school for example, you’ll figure out what area of filmmaking you enjoy. For some people they prefer being on-set, others in an office… You’ll figure out what you’re passionate about. Reach out and be proactive about connecting with people and asking questions. And don’t be shy if you can, be a little bit vocal. If you ask, you’ll be surprised that people will usually respond and be willing to help. Everything has so much to do with timing, you need to get on the radar, so you’re not easily forgotten when opportunities come up.
Where do you see the VFX industry headed in the next 5 years? What excites you about the future?
I think AI will play a large role. I don’t think it’s going to take jobs away, but I think it will become another tool that might not solve your problems and do your shots for you, as that will still need to be directed by someone artistic, but it could really help the process. I can already see that in terms of using Mid journey for concept art and getting variations of the art so when you’re in the planning stage and speaking to a director or client you can have multiple iterations. In terms of labor heavy tasks, I think AI will be the next big thing.