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Breaking Into VFX

Steven Mirkin gets a few helpful hints from vfx houses about what theyre looking for in new hires.

Where do budding digital artists go to earn a living? Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com.

The last notes of Pomp and Circumstance are just a memory, the cap and gown have been neatly folded and stowed away and the diploma is still not back from the framers. Which means the streets are filled with former students looking for a job in digital effects. Whats the market for an intern or job seeker like these days, what can prospective employees expect when they start looking for work and, most important, what do the effects houses expect from a prospective employee? VFXWorld called on some of the busiest companies to answer these questions.

For starters, not every door is open. New Zealands Weta Digital, responsible for the acclaimed effects on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the upcoming I, Robot, doesnt have an internship program. Instead, Georgina White, the companys publicist, says they hold occasional trainee sessions to check out local talent. Their hires are always locals, White explains; any outsiders must have three years professional film experience in order to meet New Zealands immigration laws.

Foreign trainees need not apply to WETA Digital. The award-winning effects house has no intern program and applicants must be local and have three years’ experience.

Closer to home, Jeff Ross, evp at Eden FX, best known for their work on the UPN TV series, Star Trek: Voyager, and the recent Sony feature, Hellboy, also eschews interns. The small artist-based company does almost all of its work in-house, and if their workload demands bringing on extra hands, they have a base of experienced freelancers we can call in.

But there are still opportunities for neophytes looking to break into the industry, if they are willing to work hard. Lala Gavgavian, recruiter at Lucas Digital, says the company actively looks for interns at Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound through campus visits, portfolio reviews, advertising outreach at industry events and through referrals. Applicants must currently be enrolled as a junior or senior at an accredited college and scheduled to return to school following their term at Lucas. And given their status as one of the elite in the industry, its no surprise they also have Ivy League requirements for students: an overall GPA of 3.0, with a 3.5 in their major.

As important as grades, Gavgavian adds, is the presentation of their application materials. Making certain that something as simple as the correct spelling on their resumé and cover letter goes a long way.

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