VFX Placements to Nurture Next Gen Talent

Connecting emerging VFX artists with global companies

The VFX industry is booming, with more screen productions using some form of VFX to realise their creative vision than ever before, and some largescale productions now spending up to 35 percent of their budgets on VFX.

With a global reputation for VFX excellence, and a growing demand for talent, Film Victoria together with Creative Victoria has partnered with Luma Pictures and Method Studios to offer 12 six-month paid placements with these internationally awarded, Melbourne-based studios.

We spoke with Luma Picture’s Jamy Zink (JZ) and Method Studio’s Simon Rosenthal (SR) to find out why Melbourne is securing some of the world’s most recognisable VFX work, what interns can expect to learn from their placements, and why this new initiative is so important.

What encouraged you to get behind this collaboration with Film Victoria and Creative Victoria?

JZ: Film Victoria and Creative Victoria have always been instrumental in Luma's success, and having them partner with us at such a grassroots level just demonstrates again how committed the state and the agency are in helping build a solid eco-system in the VFX industry for Victoria. We’ve always had great success at Luma in training and giving opportunities to junior talent, and the fact that we’ve been able to collaborate with Method and Film Victoria / Creative Victoria attests to how we can all help in training great talent and showcasing them to the rest of the world.

SR: We need to ensure that Industry and education work together to create the next generation of talent. The local talent pool needs to deepen, and this can only work at a collaborative level. Luma, Film Victoria and Creative Victoria are the perfect partners to ensure that, from a talent perspective, we continue to nurture and grow quality artists and technicians.

This program has been created to meet demand, with the VFX industry expected to grow from US$8.6 billion in 2017, to US$20 billion in 2024. What’s driving this growth, and how is Melbourne managing to leverage this?

JZ: I think studios and directors are relying more and more on having VFX artists and production staff to help in their craft of storytelling. With the introduction of streaming platforms and a boom in content, it is very understandable that such a huge growth is predicted. It’s exciting for companies like ours since it will mean more remarkable projects and more opportunities for artists to join our team.

SR: A combination of expectations from the audience around VFX, the ability of VFX to cover a multitude of tasks, and of course the hungry streaming services and their generation of content. Australia is well placed with its high rebates and attractive exchange rate, and Melbourne also adds a high level of facility creativity, a destination for artists and importantly has an excellent reputation for doing VFX business.

Your Melbourne-based teams are securing VFX work on some of the biggest blockbusters in the world. Why is this, and what is Melbourne’s reputation internationally for VFX?

JZ: Melbourne has always had a strong reputation for being a city which supports the arts and fosters incredibly talented crew. Having such fantastic partners like Film Victoria has allowed us to really go out there and confidently say, “We can make it in Melbourne and it will be world-class”.

SR: This is driven by both culture and exceeding client expectations. Method Melbourne is a boutique facility by global standards, yet continues to provide high quality creative with a supportive culture and a desire to deliver beyond expectations. The industry is global and geography is irrelevant. If a facility can provide a quality of excellence, the work will come.

Both Luma Pictures and Method Studios are international businesses. How does work flow between global offices and Melbourne, and how does the decision-making process work regarding which work Melbourne is allocated?

JZ: We work as one studio and split the work as evenly as possible. It means that both studios get to work on incredible sequences and also allows us to foster talent in all departments of the VFX discipline.

SR: Some projects emanate from clients direct to Melbourne, others are channeled through HQ in LA. Sharing of projects globally is paramount to the health of all sites, and as such global collaboration is always one of the key considerations when determining site splits. That being said, different strengths exist in different sites, so often both clients and our own business will determine where best to place the work. And of course strong relationships with particular clients will influence any decisions.

What’s some of the most ‘well known’ work your studio has completed in Melbourne?

JZ: A lot of familiar Marvel titles in the last two to three years have gone through our Melbourne facility. We’ve been incredibly lucky to work on projects like Spider-Man: Far From Home, Captain Marvel, Mary Poppins Returns and Alien: Covenant.

SR: Method Melbourne has recently been engaged on Aquaman, Christopher Robin and John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum and is currently working on a number of projects including Men In Black: International, an untitled Jumanji sequel and Terminator: Dark Fate.

What can interns expect during their paid placements?

JZ: A hands-on education in real time with talented artists and exciting projects they’ll end up seeing on the big screen! It’s also really important to us that they get the experience of being part of a team and have the satisfaction of knowing how they contribute to the bigger picture. We want the individual to have access to as many people as they can – to get the hands-on technical experience they need, and to be part of a creative environment that will build a foundation for their future careers in the industry.

SR: The most important aspect of the internship will be the exposure to a professional production environment. This will highlight workflows, delivery pressures, creative expectations, client expectations and ultimately an increase in skill-set and a broader understanding of the VFX industry. Practical work on productions such as those mentioned above will allow the students to develop their skills and prepare them for a career in VFX.

Apart from basic technical and software skills, what are you looking in interns?

JZ: Ambition, a good attitude and the willingness to learn.

SR: Passion, cultural fit, positivity and importantly a willingness to learn. They will need to absorb an enormous amount of information in their time with us, and our expectations are that after the six-month placement, they will be ready for employment at a junior level.

What’s the best thing about working at Method? And Luma?

JZ: We strive to be an environment that isn’t just about the work. We really believe that people who join our teams will experience an environment that will challenge them technically and creatively, but will also be a place that fosters friendships, exposure to different events and ultimately a personally fulfilling experience. We also do a good job of celebrating our crew with tonnes of fun events, screenings, providing delicious coffee and snacks all day. You might also get roped into a Mario Kart or Smash Bros Comp – there’s always something fun happening around our studio.

SR: We have a great culture led by some extraordinarily talented individuals, in an industry that, whilst challenging, can be both fascinating and rewarding.

What challenges does working in VFX bring?

JZ: Definitely the long hours during crunch periods. There’s also continual learning and sometimes lack of job stability due to project schedule changes.

SR: Long hours, indecision, changing deadlines, finding talent, keeping talent, and a competitive global market – but we deal with and embrace the challenges!

What’s your top tip for people starting out in VFX, or trying to break into the industry?

JZ: Stay hungry to keep learning and pushing yourself to be better than you were yesterday. It’s all about absorbing the advice of people who have worked in the industry for longer than you have, but also finding a voice to come to the table with your own thoughts and opinions. Network and foster relationships – you never know who’s going to be able to help you get your next gig!

SR: If you’re passionate about the industry and seek a career, make it known. Prepare well for a presentation, keep it simple, understand who you are speaking to, and have some kind of career road map in mind. And most importantly, be prepared to listen and learn.

Applications for the first intake of interns for the VFX Placements Program, which will commence in August, close at 9am Monday 10 June 2019.

Applications are now open via the Luma Pictures and Method Studios websites.


Image: Luma Pictures' Vice President/Head of Culture, Jamy Zink, Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley, Film Victoria CEO, Caroline Pitcher and Method Studios’ Head of VFX, Simon Rosenthal at the launch of the program.