To create cinematic illusions, you need conjurors. In this series of spotlight interviews, we ask movie magicians what makes them tick.
Rosa Behrens Camp works at Sony Pictures Imageworks as production services and resources tools developer. Her career highlights include Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Amazing Spider-Man and Storks.
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: After spending 11 years as a software developer in the defense industry, I wanted a change. My husband, who works as a creature effects artist, told me about an entry-level position at Sony Pictures Imageworks that could utilize my skillset and also allow me to explore options in the industry. I became a production services technician, which encompasses being a render farm wrangler, dealing with data management, client/vendor ingests and deliveries, production requests and artist support. It was a great way to dive into the various pipelines involved in making visual effects and animated movies, but with a more technical emphasis. After a couple years in this role, a position opened up to move into a more software development-oriented role in the department.
CINEFEX: What aspect of your job makes you grin from ear to ear?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: I definitely enjoy the team camaraderie we have in our department –the laid-back environment is a lot more comfortable than my previous job and we have a lot of fun working together. It’s also nice to be able to exercise a bit more creativity, and have more freedom and flexibility in design and implementation of the various tools we build.
CINEFEX: And what makes you sob uncontrollably?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: A lot of times – because we are behind the scenes – we tend to be forgotten. I think a lot of the artists and production staff don’t realize how much support we give the show-specific members of our department. So, when we see the credits roll by and our team is completely left out, it’s like a tiny little dagger in my soul.
CINEFEX: What’s the most challenging task you’ve ever faced?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: Currently, I’m working on designing and implementing a tool that will automate archiving all the necessary data for re-creating a finaled shot. It’s pretty elaborate, and it’s crucial that all the components work as expected. If something doesn’t go right and data is lost, that’s time and money lost as well.
CINEFEX: And what’s the weirdest task?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: I don’t really have a ‘weird’ task that stands out in my mind, but I know that our department has had to bring some interesting reference images and videos online, including a huge chunk of monkey butt pictures. I think a disk volume filled up because of those butts!
CINEFEX: What changes have you observed in your field over the years?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: Being on the tech side of things, and having only been in the industry for six years, I haven’t noticed huge changes. But I know a lot has changed for artists and on the corporate and business levels. Production schedules are becoming shorter and more demanding, and it feels like it’s becoming more brutal trying to win work for the visual effects houses, especially since studios have changed how they hand out shot work. When I first started, we’d have pretty much the entire movie awarded but now it’s just a few sequences split across multiple studios. This, along with the grueling schedules, ends up putting a lot more stress on everyone. Less room for mistakes, less time to address any bugs or issues in the tools used.
CINEFEX: And what changes would you like to see?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: Maybe more emphasis on work-life balance. Since we’re not artists or production, we have a little bit more leeway regarding working normal hours – at least we do at SPI – but I know a lot of people on the show side who suffer the ill-effects of a demanding schedule. While making movies has never been an easy job or one that fits a nine-to-six schedule, it feels like the hours are getting longer and harder, and there’s less happening to counter that.
CINEFEX: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the business?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: Don’t be a jerk. It’s a small industry so you never know who around you will end up becoming your future lead or supervisor at a different studio. Just treat your co-workers with civility and respect.
CINEFEX: If you were to host a mini-festival of your three favorite effects movies, what would you put on the bill, and why?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: Avatar – the sheer amount of work and detail that went into creating the environments and models, the advancement of mocap technology, all of the visual effects – it was just amazing to me. I’m a huge sci-fi fan, so seeing an alien world brought to life on the big screen and looking photoreal was a real treat. Probably one of my favorite shots was the first time you saw the floating rocks.
Tron is a classic. I was only two when it came out, so I didn’t see it until a few years later. But that movie is a great starting point to show just how far CG has come.
Jurassic Park – because dinosaurs! That movie was a staple of my childhood, and I must have watched it hundreds of times since it was released. The visual effects still hold up in most places, too. And that movie is a good blend of both CG and practical. I think sometimes people get over-enthusiastic trying to do everything with CG and forget that practical effects can still be just as good-looking on screen.
CINEFEX: What’s your favorite movie theater snack?
ROSE BEHRENS CAMP: Almond M&Ms! Or maybe Peanut M&MS …
CINEFEX: Rosa, thanks for your time!