The importance of teamwork in VFX

by Alessandro Ongaro, VFX Supervisor at DNEG Vancouver

When I was younger, working in Italy, I was most excited about the projects, and about working with the latest technologies. But then you come to realize that that’s not what’s most important. You can work on the most fantastic project, something that wins an Oscar, but if you don’t get along with your team, you’re going to have a horrible experience. Yes, the project has to be exciting and challenging, but the most crucial aspect of it is the people I get to work with.

 

Yes, the project has to be exciting and challenging, but the most crucial aspect of it is the people I get to work with.”

 

Building the team

When it comes time to build the team for a new project, I’ll ask for certain people because I’ve worked with them before and know their skill set. Sometimes I’m asked by certain people and I’ll try to accommodate. But I also trust that DNEG will give me the right people for the job. And really, when you get people that you've never worked with before you discover a lot. For me, the best part of my job is when I see beautiful images come up and I ask who did the lighting, the modeling, or the animation. I remember those names and then on then the next project, I’ll say, ‘I would love to work with so-and-so because they did a great job with their department.’

 

You can work on the most fantastic project, something that wins an Oscar, but if you don’t get along with your team, you’re going to have a horrible experience.”

 

As a VFX Supervisor, I could detach myself from my team somewhat, and put myself squarely in the driver’s seat - an “I’m the boss; you do what I want” sort of thing. But that’s not me. I want everyone to feel like they’re part of a team, and that their ideas and their contributions matter. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes, especially when I was younger, but I always try to put myself in my team’s position and ask myself how I would want my supervisor to handle things. Sure, there are moments when the tension is high, and you have to be the boss, but there’s almost always a better, more collaborative way of doing things.

 

“Sure, there are moments when the tension is high, and you have to be the boss, but there’s almost always a better, more collaborative way of doing things.”

 

 


The right attitude

Talent is important, and let’s be clear, you either have it or you don't. If you have it, it comes through. The rewards of teamwork, though, is why my advice to those getting their start in the VFX industry has more to do with their attitude than anything else. Nowadays, if you’re not a team player, you won’t get anywhere. You have to listen to the people around you, who have more experience than you, and you have to check your ego constantly. You may be given advice that, in your head, doesn’t make sense, but if it’s coming from a good, experienced supervisor, it’s almost certainly what you need to hear. And learning to take that advice will help you grow and help you move forward in your career.

 

“You may be given advice that, in your head, doesn’t make sense, but if it’s coming from a good, experienced supervisor, it’s almost certainly what you need to hear.”

 

I’ve been fortunate to have been surrounded by amazingly talented people throughout my career, and that has enabled me to learn a lot, but I was also able to collaborate with them, to work efficiently in a team setting, and without that, I never would have made it this far. If you come in ready to listen and learn, your supervisor and your team will appreciate you; they’ll notice your hard work and your contributions. But if you come in with an attitude, thinking that you always know best, no one will want to spend time with you, and you won’t be able to learn from the people around you. I’ve seen that many times.

Now that I’m a supervisor, I can honestly say that my goal is to see the people around me grow, improve, and eventually get promoted. There’s a strong mentoring aspect to this industry, and we love to see the younger artists succeed.




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