We are excited to share another amazing journey from one of our talented artists living in New Zealand. From London to Spain, Turkey and New York, Amber Wilson talks about her inspirations, biggest challenges and why working remotely is so important for the VFX industry. Can you tell us about how you became apart of the VFX industry?
After University I moved to London with the aim of finding a job in a creative industry where I could apprentice or train in a more specialized field. That was MPC for me and at that time I didn’t really know too much about this industry. In many ways I was very fortuitous to gain a job at MPC because they were one of the only companies that offered comprehensive training. That was where I learnt flame. It was a very exciting time, challenging for sure but also a lot of fun. I was an apprentice with two others. We worked night shifts and on some really great projects. It involved lots of music videos, prep work for major TVC’s and we took on roles for various film projects.
From there I had a short period of freelancing in London, Spain and Turkey and was planning on heading back to New Zealand when I got offered a job in New York. This opportunity was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time because I was still comparatively new to this work, but it was far too good an opportunity to turn down. I resolved to go for one year but ended up staying for 11! I joined a leading New York editing company that wanted to build a VFX branch. This meant that I was initially their only VFX artist – well myself and Discreet Logic (Autodesk) help desk! This was an exceptionally busy time and it’s where I really got up to speed on both Inferno and Fire, which I was using interactively. It was a luxury to have both, but an amazing set of combined tools, very similar to what we now have with Nuke studio.
We grew quite quickly and after I had been there for a few years I started being approached by other VFX houses. The timing was perfect for me as I wanted more experience working collaboratively with other artists and desired more shoot supervision experience. I ended up joined the Nice Shoes VFX company and stayed with them for the rest of my time in New York. I moved back to New Zealand and made the transition to long format work in film and tv. I found it better suited the stage my career had reached. The transition included learning Nuke, which I have come to really enjoy. Which films, television shows, and animations really got you interested in the industry?
I was inspired by some of Vincent Ward’s earlier work, especially considering the obstacles he had to overcome to work as a film director in a country that didn’t really have a film industry at that stage. I also loved the early work of Pixar and was fascinated watching them master the realism of body and hair movement through their films. Although stylistically very different, Hayao Miyazaki is definitely one of my heroes. I’ve always been drawn to beautiful cinematography and seamless, invisible effects, so I also found Wong Kar Wai’s early work really interesting – and in that vein I also have to appreciate filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Satyajit Ray. It may not be big VFX, but they do create epic and stunningly beautiful film work. When I was working in London there were a lot of very cool music videos being produced, particularly for artists like Bjork. Again a lot of this VFX was seamless 2D that was very cleverly orchestrated.
What are some of the biggest projects you have worked on during your career?
It’s hard to say. Most of my career has been in tvc and there were certainly many big projects, but what working on tvc’s for so long has given me is a large amount of work – the experience of working with several A-list directors and the ability to problem solve. I’m really happy just compositing, no matter the challenge. What drew you towards working with the Legion team?
I work remotely with Kim Fogelberg and Jean-Luc Azzis and the contact came through Jean-Luc. I was really excited to learn about the remote workflow VFX Legion were creating and it seemed my connection with them was very timely. I really like their working methodology and vision to reshape the industry with a new working model, and their artist-driven mindset. Not many others are thinking about the industry in this way.
What is your favourite thing about working with VFX Legion?
Our co-founder James Hattin and the opportunity to work remotely and with other artists based around the world. I enjoy having zoom chats with James when there’s time! His regular email updates bring us all into the fold so we feel a part of what they are building. Remote work is becoming much more viable and I think Legion have a good working model for this and also understand what is needed in order to make that a legitimate resource for the bigger VFX projects. These are interesting times for our industry and the changes within it has forced a different way of thinking about how to best make it workable, which I believe Legion has embraced.
Where are you based in the world?
I live in New Zealand, just by the beach. When I need to take a break from the computer I’m able to walk the dogs by the beach or take a dip in the sea. That’s a huge benefit, and one totally unique to Legion. I prefer managing my own time, I know my limits and best hours for productivity, and if I need to clear my head to solve a challenging problem I just head down to the beach. More often than not the solution comes while I’m walking! Working remotely is something I have been wanting to do since I was living in New York. I came close to making it a reality with the company I was working with there, but it wasn’t until I met my now colleague Kim Fogelberg that I was able to make it a reality. Working with both her and Jean-Luc Azzis is a wonderful experience all around. I couldn’t have asked for two better, more like-minded people to work with. I love that I can be living by the beach in NZ and working for an LA based company with artists from all around the world. What would you say are the core skills that you bring to the VFX Legion team?
I really enjoy getting stuck into a composite and bringing it to life. I also have a good work ethic and a lot of experience working on a variety of different projects. Although I definitely lean more towards the creative side than technical, I won’t shy away from a challenge either! I think one of the most important things for remote workers in particular is reliability, and I certainly aim to foster that.
Which projects have you been most proud to work on at VFX Legion?
Probably Stephanie (in production), because the shots were more involved and challenging than other shots I’ve worked on for Legion to date. It was also an opportunity for us to advance on how we work best as a group. For this job Jean-Luc was the lead and main contact person for Legion, establishing the overall look of the shots and streamlining any redundancy, so it let to a more efficient way for us to work.
What are the challenges facing compositors today?
The work doesn’t seem to be valued as fairly as it used to be. Many in the industry are forced to travel for work and be away from home for months at a time, which really isn’t as glamorous as it may sound. But there are people carving out new ways of working in this industry and adapting to the changes we are experiencing – such as Legion. Adapting is the path of least resistance so this will always get my vote.
Why do you think remote working is so important for today’s VFX industry?
Technology has driven this trend, so why not embrace it. There are talented people the world over who are now accessible like never before contributing to an ever-growing shared knowledge base. How can this not be a good thing? VFX Legion is able to make sure they are working with the right people for the job, rather than restricted through tax incentives. The trust and relationships built through this remote working pipeline creates a smoother workflow and better results. A new working model like Legion’s is visionary to the future of this industry. Working remotely drives me to want to do better and sustain a lifestyle that fulfills me completely.