STARTING OUT IN VFX
We chat to next-gen VFX artists Evan Jenkins and Damien Rogers about their placements at Method Studios
A joint initiative from Creative Victoria and Film Victoria, the VFX Placements program is designed to foster Victoria’s next generation of visual effects artists and ensure our sector can meet the growing demand for skills and talent.
Damien Rogers and Evan Jenkins are midway through their six-month placements with leading Melbourne VFX studio, Method Studios, so we spoke with them to find out what they have gained so far, their ultimate career goals, and why fellow artists who are looking to get a foot in the door in the industry should apply for the next intake.
Tell us a little about your background – what drew you to visual effects/animation?
DR: I started out making live action short films in high school with my friends. I always enjoyed the storytelling aspects of it. I was drawn to visual effects and animation at university when I undertook a Bachelor of Animation at Swinburne. Over the years, my friends and I had tried our hand at our own little bootleg green screen effects and simple stick figure animations. Being given the chance to learn these things from professionals [at Swinburne] made me realise I had a passion for them.
EJ: I grew up in a small country town in central Victoria. I knew nothing about the VFX industry, I didn't even know we had a VFX Industry in Australia. When I finished high school I had no idea of where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, but I've always been creative so I started looking up short creative courses. I did a six-month Certificate 4 of Interactive Digital Media. I didn't get much out of this course, but I did learn about the games industry in Melbourne. I went on to complete a Bachelor of Animation at SAE Institute, with the intention of getting a job making games. I met some great people and the course gave me a broad knowledge of both the film and games industry. It was during this course I discovered a love for VFX, particularly blowing things up (digitally of course). Immediately after I finished my bachelor I tried (and failed) to get work. I attended networking events and tried to make connections in hopes of increasing my chances of finding employment. Through CG Futures I found out about Rising Sun's Graduate Certificate in Dynamic Effects and Lighting. A few months later I was in that course being taught by industry professionals and trying to stop my brain from exploding due to the amount I was learning. Six months after finishing my Graduate Certificate, here I am, a FX Intern at Method Studios.
What have you been working on at Method Studios and what new skills have you learnt?
DR: I’m posted in the rigging department at Method. I’ve been working on various props and supporting tools for a few of the projects we are on, including Jumanji: The Next Level and Peter Rabbit 2, while simultaneously learning Method’s pipeline and workflow. I’m just now moving into characters. The internship program has allowed me to take my time before having to dive into production work. The first month or so felt more like education than employment. This really made a difference for me. I had time to experiment, fail and improve all the while receiving all the support I needed from the rigging team.
EJ: I’m in the amazing FX department at Method Studios and have been working on Jumanji: The Next Level. During my first few weeks I got an introduction to each of the departments to learn how the pipeline works and how assets and shots will flow from one department to the next. I have learnt the process of being assigned a task, setting up a files, bringing in the required assets, creating the effects from existing set ups, adjusting them so they work for each shot and publishing them so the next department can pick it up. I have learnt how to troubleshoot scene files to try and find out why things are not working.
What has been your favourite or most interesting moment so far?
DR: For me it’s been getting to know all the interesting tools and techniques used behind the scenes at the studio. It became clear very quickly that I had a lot more to learn about rigging and Maya (3D computer animation software) in general.
EJ: My most interesting moments were being given an FX task for a shot and having my work be approved and progress all the way to the final shot. It felt like a big achievement, knowing that my work would be a part of the film and seen by many viewers. I also got to experience the opposite, where I worked on an effect for weeks only to have it cut from the shot. That experience taught me not to get too attached to the effects I work on.
What are you excited to learn during the remainder of your placement?
DR: Working as part of a larger pipeline has given me a better scope of how rigging fits into the big picture. I would like to learn more about Method’s animation, modeling and FX departments and increase my understanding overall.
EJ: I’m excited to start working on the next film because I will be learning how to do character FX (such as fur, hair, clothes and muscles), and to see how it is different from the tasks I have been working on. Jumanji: The Next Level has been my first film and I’m interested to find out if any of the pipeline will get adjusted when we switch to working on another project or if it will stay the same.
What prompted you to apply for the placement? And why should others apply?
DR: Like many fresh VFX graduates I desperately wanted to break into the industry. Method Melbourne seemed like the best fit for me. Luckily I was already in the process of cutting my showreel when I heard about the placement. It seemed like the perfect opportunity. You should apply for this placement if you’re coming to the end of your education in VFX and feel you’re ready to begin your career. There will always be a learning curve along the road from student to professional but this placement provides a supportive and exciting environment to help you on your way.
EJ: After studying I was searching everywhere for job opportunities: online searches, LinkedIn, Facebook groups, networking events and company sites. As soon as the internship was advertised I saw it. I didn't apply immediately, instead I researched a bit more into Method Studios and Luma Pictures. I wanted to learn more about the companies to see if I would be a good fit and so I could tailor my demo reel towards them, and Method really appealed to me. I then took a few weeks to fix up my demo reel before applying. I recommend this to anyone and everyone who is interested in working in VFX and who qualifies, apply! I have learnt so much in the short time I have been here, everyone around me is so talented and willing to answer any questions I have. I was immediately welcomed into my department and gained mentors that check in on me regularly and help to solve any problems I've encountered.
What are your ultimate career goals?
DR: I’m still figuring things out. Right now I'm trying to improve my skills and learn as much as possible from the veterans around me. I really love the work that I do and plan to stay in the VFX industry for the foreseeable future.
EJ: My career has just started and I have a huge amount to learn. Some advice I've been given recently is to travel, work at a variety of companies, experience as many different projects and pipelines as I can, try working on games and advertisements to see how they differ to the VFX industry, meet artists from all over, make connections and grow your network. I plan to follow that advice, with the aim to continue learning and gaining skills to become a highly valued FX Artist. I hope to progress to a senior FX artist and to mentor people that are in a similar position to where I am now.
Applications for the second intake of interns for the VFX Placements Program, which will commence in March 2020, close at 11pm Monday 9 December 2019.