“Noob No More!” : 5 Tips For Climbing the VFX Ladder

One question a lot of people have been asking me about VFX jobs lately is this :

I’ve landed my first junior job working as a Compositor / Tracker / Roto-Artist / Matchmover at Company X; while it’s great to be working on movies now, how do I move to the next level?

This is the sort of thing everyone faces in any career when they’re starting out, and our industry is no exception. However when it comes to a career in Visual Effects, there are definitely a few things you can try to ensure you’re not slaving away at the bottom of the food-chain forever :

1. Choose your friends, wisely

This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often people get it wrong on their first few VFX jobs: when lunchtime rolls around, try to befriend the seniors, supervisors, and the people that matter. Not only will you probably learn a thing or two from just hanging with them, but when the time comes for them to be looking for an extra mid-level person to swing a few shots to, they may just favour you. It’s so easy to just get lost in the crowd of eager juniors in their mind. Get to know the guys at the top, and you’ll stand out from the rest when it counts.

2. If you can cut it, push hard and sell yourself.

If you’ve got awesome visual effects skills, no matter what your discipline, don’t be afraid to show it. If the work you’re doing is consistently too easy, let someone know. Within a short time you’ll find yourself being given harder shots to work on, and hey, isn’t that where the money and awesome showreel material is? :) Just be careful not to oversell yourself or appear to have a big ego – nobody likes that!

3. A little self-sacrifice goes a long way…

When you’re starting out, it won’t hurt to put in a few extra hours than every one else, spend that little bit of extra time perfecting your craft, and turning out some stunning visual effects quality, regardless of your current role. An important thing for your bosses will be to know they can count on you have a good, proactive attitude towards your work and your shots, and even if you don’t brag about it, they’ll notice. Even if they don’t, you’ll at least appear to be working faster (or better) by producing more finished stuff in apparently less time than your peers.

4. Know the pecking order and repect your betters.

Nobody likes a smartass, especially if that person is a junior. Be sure that when you’re starting out at a visual effects company you’ve never worked for that you know exactly who is who, what everybody generally does, and who the “big fish” are. Similar to point 1, knowing this stuff will stop you from looking like an idiot in front of somebody important at the wrong time, and also so that you can project the right type of confidence in front of these guys. The VFX industry is a bit of a knitting circle, and everybody talks to everybody – making sure you’re showing the right level of respect to the right people will go along way toward giving everyone the impression you’re a good “team player”.

5. Ask for help when you need it.

When you’re starting out, you certainly won’t have the same level of visual effects skills as the top people. Everybody knows that you’re going to learn most of what you need to know about VFX on the job, so when you’re in a situation where you’re stuck on something, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Or, if you’re friends with someone and you notice them working on something quite tricky over their shoulder, pick the right moment and ask them about it. Most people are quite willing to help out and share their knowledge, since it only makes the team stronger. Of course, watch out for those prickly nerd types or stressful deadlines – pestering someone too often is not a good idea.

 

The important thing to remember is that you’re not going to stay a junior forever. The faster you can bone up on your skills and move onto the next level, the better it will be for you, your company, your reel AND your bank account.

Of course, you’re still going to need to find yourself that first big break and your first visual effects company to start off with. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out “How To Get That Visual Effects Job : An Insiders Guide To Making It Big Working For Hollywood”. No matter how many skills you think you have at your chosen vfx path, none of that matters if you don’t have a great job history to go along with it, and this great new e-book certainly has many of the answers to help you get there.

How To Get That Visual Effects Job:
An Insider’s Guide To Making It Big Working For Hollywood

Digital Edition (PDF/ePub) only $12.95
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