Friday, November 04, 2005

Lessons from a VFX Supervisor

Last night I went to the Gnomon School of VFX where I saw a VFX Supervisor tell funny stories about his life and career. Interestingly he didn't mention special FX that much. The main lesson I grokked from what he said was that people in our industry are insane, and the easy part is making FX. The challenge, he says, is keep everybody -- producers, director, actors, crew -- happy enough through the birth of the movie. In fact, he said that everyone generally is really happy and making lots of money (at least at his level) until it comes down to actually getting the movie finished.

I could not help but wonder though, why for the most part, this particular FX supervisor has consistently worked on fairly, if not god-awfully bad movies. Red Planet, Stargate, Sphere, The Last Starfighter ... (To his credit, he turned down Red Planet 37 times!) So I asked him "Ok, so you've made some interesting movies." He laughed. "But what sorts of movies would you really like to work on?" His response was something like "Oh, well that's a good question. I guess any movie. I love working in this business."

Well, at least he's honest. And he has a good point. In my relatively short career in entertainment I have always been concerned about what project I'm on. Maybe that's arrogance, that I don't want to work on something horrendous. Or is it pride?

One thing he and I do seem to have in common is that we deal with the craziness much like a psychiatrist would, listening and translating amongst the different skillsets and personalities of people. Another is that he loves the surreal moments when you find yourself chasing after a celebrity in a golf cart, or telling 400 Chinese extras to bow for a scene. (Although as a FX technician, we don't get this sort of opportunity very often. Ah someday).

That is what I think he loves about the business. At the end of the day, it's not the movie, it's the experience of making one.
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posted by Brian at 8:43 AM

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