Ryan Mc Donnell talks to Andrew Rea, a freelance filmmaker visual effect (VFX) maker on some pros and cons to the word of visual effects and how to make it as an artist in this line of business.
A question on many people’s minds is how stable is the life of a visual effects artist? And the answer is not massively. Andrew Rea is a freelance compositor. He’s worked for several companies including Windmill Lane, Boulder Media, Screen Scene VFX. This is his life as a freelance VFX artist in Ireland and advice from him for aspiring VFX artists and students.
Pros and Cons of Working in VFX:
"You have freedom and flexibility. Between jobs, I tend to take a week or two off. Sometimes I plan that, sometimes I don’t, that can be nice. Generally, on a contract you’re going to get more (time off) than you would on a full-time contract. You can afford to take a little gap between projects. Freelance life is Ireland is reasonably paid and is open to a little bit of haggling."
Rea describes his enjoyment for his work, which can be interpretted as VFX being fullfilling work. After talking with Rea, it can be seen how modern VFX work in Ireland is essentially entrepreneurial work. Rea discusses how you need to stand out by talking to people at events and network informally to help get more contracts. The opportunity to be in a creative environment is the dream for many in this field, but to be your own small business is an opportunity many fail to realise.
There’s little to no job security. Much VFX work in Ireland is precarious and temporary contract based. "You’re always thinking about the next contract. (Work life is) not particular stable in Ireland. There’s not that many companies in Ireland you’re gonna work with," Rea states.
It’s a small industry so you’ve got to stand out. The notion of ‘it’s who you know not what you know’ doesn’t apply too much to this field. However, "just being recomended by somebody can get you into a job." Rea uses an informal style of networking by meeting people from different companies at 3D meet ups usually at bars. There are no work benefits. Sometimes you’ll work crazy hours to meet deadlines and most places won’t pay overtime but most days will be 9:30am to 6:30 pm.
Advice for VFX students:
Informal networking outside of work is essential. Rea goes to 3D meet ups which are usually at bars to mingle and meet people from other companies. "If you want to get into the industry, these are the things you need to be going to."
Only put your best work in your show reel and keep it short (about 45 seconds). A show reel is a short video with highlights of your work. "Usually in VFX that will include a break down of that work to show the work you put in."
Keep learning and upskilling yourself. "I spend money on effects PHDs constantly because if you don’t keep on top of stuff, you’re going to fall behind. You’re not going to be any good to studios very quickly." The training never ends because new software is always being released.
Doing what you love is a precarious way of life and VFX appears to be a prime example. Living this precarious work-life will hurt to achieve a fulfilling work-life. It’s not a comfortable or stable life but it allows you to overcome yourself, to become a psychological Superman. Living a precarious work life offers Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy:“How little you know of human happiness - you comfortable and good natured ones!”
“The secret of a fulfilled life is: live dangerously!” “Build your cities on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius!”