Turning on the Spotlight

by Graham Edwards

Cinefex VFX Spotlight Q&A

At the end of January 2018, we started posting quickfire interviews with leading effects professionals, in a new blog series called Spotlight Q&A. Nearly two months on, we’ve got 15 interviews online, and more lined up in the wings.

The Spotlight format is simple. We ask everybody the same 10 questions, inviting them to be as candid in their responses as they like. We also encourage them to pepper their answers with the two ‘A’s – anecdotes and attitude!

Glancing back through the first 15 Spotlights, we’ve chuckled at some of the wonderful behind-the-scenes stories that our interviewees have shared. We’ve also spotted a few interesting trends – for example, here are three topics that recurred when we posed the question: “What changes have you observed in your field over the years?”



LINDY DE QUATTRO: Certainly the globalization of the industry has been the most dramatic change. In the early ‘90s, when I entered the industry, all the visual effects companies were in LA with only ILM in Northern California. Now, a lot of those early companies are gone and there are hundreds of companies that have taken their place all over the world.

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.

MARK BREAKSPEAR: Now, our teams are huge, remote and unknown half the time. I try to connect with everyone on a show because, for me, the best learning moments used to come when a client leaned over and pointed something out and I went: “Oh, of course!”



CHARMAINE CHAN: There’s been a nice influx of women coming into our industry, whether that be entry-level positions or other artistry roles. I think there’s a need for a higher inclusion of diversity overall, but the more we educate younger diverse generations about our industry, and teach them that they can thrive in such environments, the better we can make the future of our industry.

OMAR MORSY: When I first started animating back in 1997, it really was a male-dominated field. Things have changed so much now. The animation team has never been closer to 50/50. MPC is one of the studios that is really trying to address diversity imbalances.

LINDY DE QUATTRO: I would like to see equality for women and minorities. That not only means equal pay, but it also means equal opportunities in terms of hiring, crewing, and promotion. I’m not seeing any of that right now. I would like to see all the major studios commit to quotas.

Practical versus Digital

Practical versus Digital

JOEL HARLOW: When I started out, the movie magic in character creation really focused on practical makeup effects. As the digital art form gradually advanced, there was absolutely a swing away from makeup effects. Recently, however, I’ve noticed a slight swing back towards practical makeup. The recent films I’ve worked on have been very much a collaboration between the two art forms. With an open dialogue and mutual respect, we have all created some pretty amazing cinematic moments.

HOWARD BERGER: The partnership of practical special makeup and visual effects working together. I love when we do it. I love the visual effects teams as there are things we can’t do and things they can’t do, and together we accomplish amazing magic.

KENNETH CALHOUN: When I started, most movies were moving towards digital effects, and I would constantly see articles and discussions over whether or not practical effects were dead. With movies like the recent ‘Star Wars’ films, Wonder, and television shows like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story openly talking abut their use of practical makeup, there has been such an impact on the demand for makeup artists in our industry. I really have hope that since many movies are using a balance of digital and practical we will see this wonderful harmony continue.

Those are just a few short soundbites from the wealth of opinion we’ve amassed in our Spotlight series so far. Hit the link below to browse the 15 interviews we already have online. When you’re done with those, don’t worry – there’s plenty more to come!

Stock images by Pexels. “Creature from the Black Lagoon” photograph by Florida Memory, via Wikimedia Commons.