Spotlight – Sara Mustafa

by Graham Edwards

To create cinematic illusions, you need conjurors. In this series of spotlight interviews, we ask movie magicians what makes them tick.

Sara Mustafa is head of global operations and resources at Pixomondo. Her job entails examining and building global capacity, and overseeing resources both creative and technical. In November 2016, Sara launched the company’s new Vancouver office.

Sara Mustafa

CINEFEX: How did you get started in the business?

SARA MUSTAFA: I’ve always worked in the creative and digital space. I was fascinated by moviemaking and effects, so I actively looked for a career in one of the biggest companies in Toronto – Pixomondo I started working in the Toronto office as a human resources manager, and held different positions, then after a year I moved to the head office in Los Angeles to take on a more global role. Little by little I became a visual effects addict! Now I direct global operations and I cannot ask for a better space to be.

CINEFEX: What aspect of your job makes you grin from ear to ear?

SARA MUSTAFA: Watching artists so intensely figuring out shots and getting excited about it. Also, delivering shots and watching ‘making ofs.’ The adrenalin rush makes me very happy.

CINEFEX: And what makes you sob uncontrollably?

SARA MUSTAFA: Clients – no, I’m kidding! I don’t think I ever sob, at least not at work. I might get sad occasionally about losing a show, but it’s all a fair game. Also when I see good talent being wasted or misused in some way. As you have figured by now, I’m very pro- artists, and if they are sad I get a little sad too.

CINEFEX: What’s the most challenging task you’ve ever faced?

SARA MUSTAFA: Opening a new facility in one of the most competitive cities for visual effects – Vancouver. That was exciting and a little terrifying. It was challenging because we 100 percent needed to open a new office, and it made the most sense to open it in Vancouver, but we were gambling on a very strong market. But guess what – we now have a full-on office in Vancouver and are expanding.

CINEFEX: And what’s the weirdest task?

SARA MUSTAFA: We needed to do a same-day delivery from Los Angeles to Toronto. I was the only person who had their passport in the office, so I flew from Toronto to L.A. and back in the same day. I also bartended in one of our parties once, but I’ll tell you about that some other time …

CINEFEX: What changes have you observed in your field over the years?

SARA MUSTAFA: The migration of artists from region to region every three to five years, based on production and postproduction tax incentives, and on where the work lands. As for changes in the technical arena – shifting to remote working, also GPU- and cloud-based applications.

CINEFEX: And what changes would you like to see?

SARA MUSTAFA: I would like to see more artist appreciation. People easily forget that behind the machines and software are great artist who make the impossible shots happen. I want to see it recognised that people matter and artists are very valuable.

CINEFEX: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the business?

SARA MUSTAFA: Get an internship and be current with all the new trends. Also, train yourself on work-life balance from the very beginning, so that you work hard and enjoy life too. Most importantly, you are responsible for your own career, so don’t hesitate in exploring new avenues, shorter contracts on cool projects and, if the situation allows, new cities and adventures! It will all be worth it.

CINEFEX: If you were to host a mini-festival of your three favorite effects movies, what would you put on the bill, and why?

SARA MUSTAFA: That’s a tough one! I’m a fan of the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies because I love fire and car crashes. Hugo, with its CG effects in the opening shot, is fascinating because of all the optimization that went into it. The Jungle Book, because the amount of work and tenacity that goes into creature effects is fascinating to me.

CINEFEX: What’s your favorite movie theater snack?

SARA MUSTAFA: Popcorn and Maltesers!

CINEFEX: Sara, thanks for your time!

3 thoughts on “Spotlight – Sara Mustafa

  1. A couple of typos here: presumably she opened the Vancouver office in November 2017, not 2018.
    And when you say she ‘overlooks’ I think you mean ‘oversees’.

    • Thanks, Simon! I could argue the Merriam-Webster definition of ‘overlook’ ie ‘to look down upon from above.’ But ‘oversees’ does sidestep the potential double meaning. As for ‘2018,’ *sigh* I have no excuse …

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