Without a doubt, being a VFX student is hard. There’s a ton of specializations to choose from, you’re bouncing back and forth between creative thinking and technical specificity, and you’re almost always participating in teamwork (which is at times, more challenging than others). And yet, the biggest challenge may feel as though it's still to come; When you inevitably finish school and realize there may be a few things you haven't been prepared for.
But don’t fret! We spoke with this year's Visual Effects Society's (VES) Student Award for Outstanding Visual Effets nominees, to provide you with their top tips on how to succeed through this transition (and to keep you from having an existential crisis).
These are the incredibly-talented VES student nominees we spoke with:
The creators of the action-war film Chocolate Man; David Bellenbaum, Aleksandra Todorovic and Jörg Schmidt, *Martin Boué could not be present for the interview. The creators of the sci-fi film PROXIMA-B; Denis Krez, Tina Vest, Elias Kremer and Lucas Löffler. The creators of the animated film Ratatoskr; Meike Müller, Lena-Carolin Lohfink, Anno Schachner, Alex Berweck and Lisa Schachner. Winners of the 2019 Student Award for Outstanding Visual Effets for their historical film Terra Nova; Thomas Battistetti, Mélanie Geley, Guillaume Hoarau and Mickaël Le Mézo.
And here’s the advice they had to share...
Let Your Passion Drive You
"People have really different backgrounds in our profession,” the team behind Terra Nova shared, “some have gone to VFX schools like ArtFX, while others have gone to architectural schools, and some have been self-educated. They all have a passion for the work they do though. So, if you want to work in the VFX industry, it takes work and involvement."
It's true that making it in the VFX industry isn’t always easy. But one thing’s certain, and that’s that VFX is field brimming with people who adore what they do. So, if you’re passionate about VFX, and you’re willing to back that passion up with some hard work, you’ll likely succeed.
"If you want to work in the VFX industry, it takes work and involvement."
Terra Nova Still
Tina, who worked on PROXIMA-B, explains that building a network with professionals in the industry is advantageous because it, "can make you understand the business better."
Further, the team behind Terra Nova adds that because VFX is a relatively small industry, it is surprisingly easy to meet and connect with professionals.
Networking can sound intimidating, but it can be as simple as engaging with others at a VFX event or reaching out to people in your field by email or LinkedIn. By asking professionals about themselves, their careers, or even basic advice, you could open a number of doors for yourself that you didn’t even realize were there. 9 chances out of 10, professionals will be happy to chat with you. They were once in your very position after all!
Don’t Be Afraid of Failure
The creators of Ratatoskr warn that a profession in VFX is, "a never ending cycle of trying and failing every day over and over again. This process can get you frustrated and sometimes overwhelmed, but it will make you stronger."
It‘s no secret that we tend to be our own hardest critics. But it’s important to remember, that failure is a relative concept. The more you "fail", the more you learn how to adjust.
"This process can get you frustrated and sometimes overwhelmed, but it will make you stronger."
Become a Generalist
Denis who also worked on PROXIMA-B, explains the value of taking on different types of VFX opportunities. During the six years of his VFX education, he contributed to over 30 projects, many of which were vastly different in nature. This built him up as somewhat of a generalist.
Developing a generalist skillset is a smart move. It allows you to navigate through a number of different VFX specialties with ease, thus being more hire-able for a wide range of VFX positions.
Likewise, because VFX technologies are quickly-evolving in nature, becoming a generalist will better allow you to adapt to inevitable changes in the field.
So of course, it’s great when you can discover your VFX preferences early on. But if you can't quite decide how to specialize, don't get discouraged! Acquiring different types of VFX skills can be a hidden advantage.
David, one of the artists behind Chocolate Man, suggests experimenting with as many aspects of VFX as possible while, most importantly, enjoying the ride.
This is particularly invaluable advice early on in your career, when you’re juggling more on your plate than a Victorian performer in a circus act. We know that it’s a hectic time in your life, but don't forget that it’s also an exciting time. One that will fly by before you know it. Make the most of all the messy and awkward first steps in your career so that you can look back on them with fondness.
Do Your Research
Denis from PROXIMA-B, suggests utilizing the internet in order to teach yourself things you haven’t learnt in class. His main go-to’s are studying photography and design principles. He says,“storytelling is all about readable shapes, the right colours and good composition. Get an account for an online training platform like fxphd or Pluralsight.”
We couldn’t agree more. A big part of becoming successful professionally, is about putting in that extra work. So if there’s something you’d like to learn, do a quick internet search and check out the countless tutorials available online.
“Storytelling is all about readable shapes, the right colours and good composition.”
Chocolate Man Still
So, next time you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed about transitioning out of school and into your career, don't panic. Consider these true-and-tried tips from people who were just recently in your shoes, and begin paving the road to your bright future!
Want to see the VES student nominees' film trailers?
For more on Terra Nova.
For more on Chocolate Man.
For more on PROXIMA-B.
For more on Ratatoskr.