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Issue: Volume 36 Issue 3: (Mar/Apr 2013)

Issue Extras: Animation Mentor’s Bobby Beck Discusses the VFX Crisis, Its Effect on Newcomers

By: Karen Moltenbrey

What kind of effect might the current situation have on a school like Animation Mentor?

Despite the current situation in VFX, the industry does indeed have work. Our hope and dedication is to be a player in helping to shape a positive change for creative filmmakers around the world, including visual effects artists. Nearly every film, commercial, and media we see has visual effects. I think we're in a really exciting time, as this issue has existed for a long time and it seems like there truly is visibility and momentum in the right direction to solve it.

Do you predict an influx of talent seeking to better themselves during this period, especially if they are between work?

That's hard to tell. At Animation Mentor we have a rigorous application and evaluation process. Part of this goal is to ensure that, despite being an online global school, we do not flood the market. We've always prided ourselves on finding students who want to become professionals versus people who want to try this stuff out as a hobby. We are not a hobbyist school. Also, we continually develop our programs to be the standout program for the industry. We do this by working directly with the studios and making the tough changes necessary to live to this standard.  

Will those who have not entered the industry yet turn away from visual effects and seek other careers due to the crisis?

The industry has historically had its fair share of ups and downs, and that is no secret to those who have been in it for a while. I can't help but think this is actually a positive dip and that we now have the visibility on this issue to truly solve it.

How will this situation affect recruitment and trying to get graduates placed?

One of the best parts of being an online school is that we do not have all of our students located in California. People are spread out all over the world. This gives us an opportunity to place them into jobs, big and small, around the world. This, in turn, gives us access to local opportunities for people, instead of thinking we could ever drive them all to LA for work. That's just not realistic.

With so many seasoned veterans out of work, will it be even more difficult for those with little or no working experience to get their foot in the door at studios?

We are simply going to be giving our students the best chance of any students in the world to get those jobs. With the launch of our VFX program, our goal is to train real production-ready artists by giving them production experience in school. We now have a fully distributed production pipeline that we've integrated into the curriculum that gives our students the production experience they need to stand out to studios that need talent.

What can people entering the job market expect? For instance, should they think more globally in terms where they end up working?

Just like with any other art, you really have to love the craft if you want to do it for the long haul. I think people entering into the field today need to think more locally instead of thinking LA. We've said this to our students for many, many years. Although many of them have aspirations to work for the top studios, it is important for them to be open to any opportunity that comes to them. Becoming a seasoned artist takes time and experience. At my first job, I was the only animator at a game studio. There were not a lot of opportunities to grow as an animator, but I took the experience to learn how to get more efficient at my craft, and that led me to larger visual effects and feature animation studios.

How will the crisis affect the quality of work that will be done in Hollywood?

With the VFX studios being forced into bidding wars with one another, it's inevitable that all but the biggest-budget blockbusters will begin to struggle with quality. There is a very true saying about having the options of fast, cheap, and high quality. You can choose any two of those, but you can't have all three. A VFX studio can create world-class effects very quickly at a high cost or very slowly at a low cost, but for the projects out there with a mandate of both "faster and cheaper," there simply is no choice but for the quality to suffer. Audiences, however, have come to expect stunning visual effects, and it's those visuals more than anything else driving box-office profits. Film studios are certainly aware of the correlation between quality VFX work and box-office returns, so we are confident that many projects out there will make quality a priority.

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