9 things they never taught you at VFX school

We ask leading VFX supervisors and artists, animators and directors to tell us the most important things they’ve learned in their careers. What they say may surprise you.

Nathan Davies 

“Youthful arrogance that often accompanies great talent is counterproductive in a team-driven industry. Your natural skill is an asset to any collective, however, asserting that your idea is paramount undermines the communal effort. You become a liability, and you will soon be sidelined in favour of more reasonable contributors, regardless of your ability. 

“Learn controlled assertion, and restrained rejection, and you will become an integral contributor to ideas that stretch beyond yourself.”
Senior FX artist, Leviathan, lvthn.com

Paul Franklin

“Perhaps the most important lesson was in how to become a team player; in art school I had focused on developing my own individual creative eye, but filmmaking is about building something that, hopefully, is greater than the sum of its parts. 

“Learning how to collaborate with others and understanding how that process can elevate everyone’s work to a different level is essential to successful large-scale VFX and filmmaking in general.”
Visual effects supervisor, Double Negative, dneg.com

Ben Grossmann

“Schools don’t teach teamwork enough. A talented individual can accomplish amazing things, but it takes a team of those people to amaze the world. If we had fewer selfish individuals, we’d have much greater accomplishments to show for it. I owe anything I’ve ever gotten credit for, to the great team of people I worked with.”
VFX supervisor, Pixomondo, pixomondo.com

Nandita Jain

“School certainly helped me develop a strong voice to express myself creatively and stand out from the crowd. However, since leaving I have had to learn how to get my ideas funded and use budgets effectively to get my projects off the ground”.
Animation director, Prime Focus, primefocusworld.com 

Chris Redding

“At Central St Martins we were knocking out short films and motion graphics for almost nothing. In the real world, you very quickly develop a sense of the cost of things, and by things I mean people’s time. 

“On complex VFX jobs where we have a whole team with different skills, we very often have to be a bit creative with how to structure the work to make it feasible within the (ever shrinking) budget and deadline.”
Visual effects supervisor and senior Flame artist, Framestore, framestore.com

Sue Rowe

“When you are a digital artist, it’s hard to listen to feedback on your work, especially when the clients ask for changes at the last minute. My advice would be to try not to take it personally. It’s best to just listen to the feedback, process the information and do your creative best to give them what they want.”
VFX Supervisor at Cinesite, cinesite.co.uk

Sheldon Stopsack

“The tools are just the craft – something that can be adopted and learned. The artistic difference comes from the attention to detail. But it’s also important to remember that this is a never-ending exercise and that there is always room for improvement. Observing the world with open eyes and improving the level of details are to the main motivators for better VFX.”
CG Supervisor, MPC, moving-picture.com

Dave Throssell

“Wider education never prepared me for a career that seems to change from day to day. The days of a job for life are long gone – most of the people I work with on a day-to-day basis are freelance. Every year, what we’re asked to do changes and the perception of our industry moves on.

“Also I’ve learned that I could be the boss!”
Owner, Fluid Pictures, fluid-pictures.com

Ben Turner

“Always keep the first version you made, as after days of experimentation, there’s still a good chance that it was the right solution all the time. And if you can’t make your mind up between version A or B then sometimes you need to make yourself a version C to clarify that B is the version you like the best.”
Lead 2D artist, The Mill, themill.com

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Read Next...