Should CG/VFX Artists aim to work for massive studios?
Do you want to work for ILM? Do you want to work on big feature movies? Keep reading.
What I hear most of the time is, people, especially beginners aiming for the biggest VFX houses the day they watch their first tutorial or launch their first 3D/2D software. I was like that before I dived deeper into the industry. Having goals and aiming high is great, everyone should do so. However, sometimes it might be the wrong or unnecessary move.
Why do you want to work for big companies?
When most beginners think about VFX and movies they mostly think ILM or MPC or Animal Logic or Pixar etc. Those are massive VFX companies that get tremendous amounts of applications everyday. So if you are planning on working there, get ready to make a CV or a showreel that can shine through all those others. Here, a question arises which is “Why does everyone try to get accepted to these big companies?” Do they want to work there because they pay a lot or because they want to put their names on the credits of big movies? I’ve never worked with a big VFX house, but my research and the people I talked with showed me that the salaries are not exceptionally high.
Check out the reviews on Glassdoor.com, most reviews state that the pay is low and the workload is high. Check Pixar’s reviews on Glassdoor HERE, mostly low payment problems. Animal Logic looks a bit more fulfilling with payments, link HERE. Anyway, this is not about which company pays the most.
On the other hand, if you want to see some super high level innovations/development, get to know amazing, talented new people and a high level of knowledge sharing then these places are superb. Of course this doesn’t mean that smaller VFX houses do not have talented and experienced people. I met a lot of people here in Turkey (where the industry is not that developed) that were amazing artists. Some have worked in big companies and got back to Turkey. Some decided to do their own thing like starting their own business or making tutorials.
Now, instead of salary, if you want to put your name on those big movies, you do not have to go to MPC or Disney or DreamWorks. Have you ever seen the credits for post production of those big movies? Check the number of VFX companies that worked on Lord of the Rings HERE or Star Wars HERE. You can show your name in the credits and put that scene you worked on for months (years?!) on your demo reel by working for any of these companies. Why decrease your chances by sending your CV to only the most famous huge VFX company?
Another thing to mention is the tight deadlines and hard work. The companies I am talking about need splendid work from artists. You might say “of course they do, everyone wants the best possible work”, you’re right and you should do your best to deliver amazing shots. However, picture this, if I did 90–100 revisions on some of my scenes on some small local post production house in Turkey, imagine how many versions there will be for big movies or shows like Game of Thrones. (The high revision numbers here might be linked to many reasons like my skill level, the team, management, the customer and many more which might be another topic for this blog in the future) But one way or another there will be revisions so you are going to have to work on the same thing for a very very long time. Check out the interview HERE with Mohsen Mousavi who is the VFX Supervisor of Scanline VFX for Game of Thrones. He says “We sent a lot of different versions and the feedback was always -it needs to be more forceful-” And they made 615 shots just for the last three episodes of season 8, so imagine the version numbers on that show. One other example is from Brian Mendenhall who is the animation supervisor of Tippett Studio. In the blog post HERE, after delivering the shots to the client, he put a title called “Change it all!” Then said “there we go again changing the whole shot. Try hard to not get hurt or upset by large changes.”
How to get accepted and Conclusion
If you want to be a part of the big VFX houses, you have to prepare a CV or a showreel that is suitable for them. For instance, if you send a liquid simulations showreel to Image Engine, you might not get a positive answer from them. Not because they do not do any simulations but because they are mostly focused on character and creature animations. In other words, each company is proficient in some aspects of VFX, so try to show them that you do what they require. You might also try to replicate some of the previous work they did to show them what you’re capable of and that you have the skills they need.
I am not trying to scare artists or tell you that working in big companies are bad. I am just trying to show that they are not the only and the best option. There are other ways to work on big feature films except in big post production houses. So go for it, try ILM but also try the smaller ones.