From Brazil to the UK: an artist’s journey into VFX

Outpost’s Roni Rodrigues on his big career change, and tips and tricks for VFX job interviews.

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Here’s a story of one artist, Roni Rodrigues started out in the film industry in Brazil, had a life change that brought him to the UK, and who eventually moved into visual effects.

He’s now a senior compositor at Outpost VFX in Bournemouth.

Read along to hear his journey, and get some very practical advice about how to look for and get work in the industry.

b&a: Can you describe the moment you decided to get into the VFX industry? What had you been doing up until that point? Why did you make the move?

Roni Rodrigues: I’m originally from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. I had been working in the film industry since 1999 and was originally working as a Film Editor for several years. When I moved to the UK, I literally restarted my life and this took me to a different path from film-making for a few years. I started missing the film industry but I wanted to challenge myself if I was going to go back to it. I went to an open day at the NFTS and at the time, they had a masters course called Digital Post Production (it’s now called Digital Effects). So I went there on an open day and completely fell in love with the industry. A few weeks after that, I left my old job and joined the course! Ten years later and I’m here at Outpost doing amazing projects.

b&a: What did your studies provide you, in terms of getting ready to work in the industry? Looking back, what did it perhaps not include (ie. what have you gained from on the job experience)?

Roni Rodrigues: I think the studies and job experience were both very important in very different ways. The studies provided you with an artistic eye and help train your eyes. You learn about the history of the arts, artistic ideas and how to develop them. Most importantly, you learn to gain the right attitude and work in collaboration not only with other artists but also departments like writers, producers, supervisors, DOPs.

Once you’re in the industry, job experience gives you industry-level work quality. You’ll get the chance to work on more varied types of work once in the industry, which gives you more confidence and visual effects experience.

b&a: Can you talk about your first job in VFX, and what your memories are of how you got that job (what was the interview like, was your first work at the studio daunting, what were you excited/nervous about)?

Roni Rodrigues: Within six months of doing my masters course, I was desperate to work in the industry. I wanted to get my hands on something bigger than a student project, my course co-ordinator already told me that work experience is only available in the second year, but I was only in my first year. So I pulled my sleeves up, and contacted every single company in Soho all by myself and started to apply for work experience. So on the first day, I literally went to every single studio and handed out my CV. I immediately got a call back to work at Bluebolt on The Iron Lady and there was a lot of prosthetic fixes, a lot of digital make up, DMP. So I went there for an interview and they really liked me. I started working there the next day for two-and-a-half month on my first high-budget feature film.

I was very nervous. I’ve always been a perfectionist and I always want to deliver the best work. I like going to bed with the feeling that I did my best, so I do put a lot of pressure on myself and I also wanted to impress the company. I was in the beginning of developing a good attitude: where you work hard, where you are positive, and most importantly, you are always open to good criticism. I used to go to the dailies in the morning, not just to see my shots but to see everyone’s shots. I paid a lot of attention to everyone’s shots and the VFX Supervisor’s comments, so I could then apply his comments to a future shot and know the look that they were looking for. I felt very lucky and ended up doing 30 shots myself for the show and it was a massive learning curve.

I think sometimes with new artists, they can be too nervous when they could actually use these nervous feelings to their advantage. It’s a very thin line; if you are too nervous, you could jeopardise yourself as you’ll let your nerves affect your quality of work. A little bit of nerves is good as you actually care, which means you’ll give your work more attention and make it the best it can be. But if you don’t care, then you will just think your work it’s good enough, and the word ‘good enough’ is not good enough!

b&a: What things did you do day to day very early in your VFX career?

Roni Rodrigues: I still do this now, but early on, I tried to learn every day. So I still watch tutorials, still watch showreels and breakdowns, reading and researching VFX, check other people’s scripts to take a look at how they achieved certain techniques.

There’s also nothing more valuable than a coffee break with a fellow artist, so you can discuss and debate new techniques and just hear from their point of view. You could have a thousand ways to complete the same job as different people take different approaches. Sometimes, the approaches might be something you didn’t consider and be a smarter way to achieve something.

b&a: Can you compare that first interview with the process for getting a job at Outpost, by which time you’d had a lot more experience?

Roni Rodrigues: In your first interview, you need to tell people your passion and prove yourself. As soon as you have more experience in the industry and you’ve developed your skills, you tend to know people and they in turn will know your work – your work will end up speaking for itself. The industry is very small, everyone knows everyone. So instead of a classic interview, you’re more likely to have a friendly chat with someone you’ve previously networked with.

I think networking is incredibly important, not necessarily as an artist, but as a professional looking to develop your career. Through networking, you can get contacts to other companies, information about interesting projects and advice from other artists.

This week at befores & afters is #gettingavfxjob week. Explore various tips and tricks for searching for, applying and landing your next VFX job.

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