Career Profile: CG Supervisor Timmy Willmott
Issue: January-February-March 2024

Career Profile: CG Supervisor Timmy Willmott

Based in Bristol, UK, Timmy Willmott is a CG supervisor with an extensive background working with prominent VFX studios. He has had a long-standing relationship with the Lux Aeterna (formerly BDH) team, having freelanced for them from the beginning of his career. Willmott made the decision to join the team permanently two years ago, after leading the CG deliverables for the Emmy-nominated Netflix series Our Universe

Here, Willmott discusses his career path, his journey to becoming a CG supervisor for Lux Aeterna, and what inspires him in his work. 

What led you to a career in VFX, and why CG specifically?

Timmy Willmott: I didn't have the most direct route into the industry. In all honesty, I didn't really know I wanted to be here—I just followed a path of doing things I love. I studied graphic design in Falmouth and there was one machine with 3D Studio Max, and no one to teach it. After graduating I carried on learning any 3D software I could get my hands on—working at a hotel laundry, spending any spare time making short animations. A reclusive existence came naturally; I wasn't a particularly social or confident human. 

Eventually I moved back home to South Wales. After a brief stint as a VHS duplication assistant, I took a job at a corporate events company in Bristol. There I met Alex Dilworth, an excessively talented human. We shared an office creating all sorts of nonsense for event screens. While working 9-6, I was still consumed by my own projects at night.

When Alex announced he was leaving for Hello Charlie, BDH happened to be advertising for a 3D junior and he convinced me to apply. My reel was mainly passion projects, a mix of all sorts. A junior position was a step down in terms of responsibility and they told me I was a bit overqualified, but the job was mine if I wanted it. I'd never used Maya before, but their head of 3D, Paul Greer, took me under his wing... and that was my start.

Tell us about your relationship with Lux Aeterna. You collaborated with them on a freelance basis for some time. What led you to join them permanently? 

Timmy Willmott: I got my start with those guys as a junior. I was with them for about six years before being headhunted by a snowboarding company. It was hard to leave, but the snowboarding adventure wasn't something I could turn down (another thing that came to fruition because of late night side projects). Returning to Bristol a few years later, I bounced around various studios as a freelancer.

I'd just done a stint with 422 South working remotely through COVID, and my mental health wasn't great. It felt like it was time for a break. I wasn't off for a week when Rob Hifle (The H of BDH—rebranded to Lux Aeterna) rang. They'd won the pitch for a Netflix space series. Space VFX was my jam! It didn't take much to convince myself that change was as good as a rest. That space series turned out to be Our Universe. Initially they planned to create all of the nebulas in Houdini, but I really wanted to be involved and started experimenting to muscle my way in on the action. I figured out a way of making nebulas with procedural node networks of VDB sets in Maya, without render times that made everyone anxious. Working closely with Paul Silcox (Lux Aeterna's VFX director), I quickly became the nebula/volume guy for the whole series.

Two years later, we had delivered Our Universe, and Steve Burrell (The B of BDH, now Lux Aeterna) was starting Ancient Powers and wanted me to lead the 3D. I said I'd do it only if I could be CG supervisor on it. I knew we'd have a small team and it'd be a fast turnaround—it needed to run like clockwork. We came to an agreement, and everything fell into place. The project was seamless and a joy to work on. I'd mainly attribute that to the fact that Emma Kolasinska had just joined Lux Aeterna—that lady knows how to put ducks in a row!

Off the back of Ancient Powers and Our Universe, Lux Aeterna offered me the permanent role of CG supervisor. They'd just picked up Tav Flett as a permanent comp supervisor—a good friend and talented human whom I respect. A solid team was coming together, and I was grateful to be in on it.

Why did you choose to base yourself in Bristol, UK and not London? 

Timmy Willmott: I like to get away from the city when I can. Bristol's right on the doorstep of North Devon and Gower. I'd visited London and entertained the idea of moving, but I didn't know where I'd keep all my bikes, kites, and were tiny and the rent was ludicrous.

What have been your project highlights at Lux Aeterna? 

Timmy Willmott: Oh, everything. Our Universe, Ancient Powers, Einstein and the Bomb, The Crown... and all the one's I'm not allowed to talk about yet—there are always exciting things happening here. The team is the biggest highlight, though. We're all very passionate and aligned by a drive for the best result. 

What inspires you in your work? 

Timmy Willmott: Light...It really fascinates me, and I have a desire to capture it. It's a constant distraction. I especially love a rainy walk home through the city at night, traffic and streetlights reflecting off everything. It's a beautiful neo-noir aesthetic. I love Bristol.

Are there any artists you look up to for further inspiration? 

Timmy Willmott: Mainly cinematographers and photographers, I guess. Roger Deakins, Greig Fraser, Emmanuel Lubezki, Gregory Crewdson, Todd Hido...I've found myself falling more and more in love with cameras and lights over the past few years. 

What advice would you give to people trying to break into the VFX industry?

Timmy Willmott: Don't just look for a job. Find something you really love doing and keep doing it. Do it for fun and let that be your drive. Eventually you'll be in a position where that thing you do for fun...someone will pay you to do that. That passion is what gets you recognized. It shines through in the work. 

Top CG film sequence of all time? 

Timmy Willmott: An entire film counts as a sequence, yeah? Toy Story 4, start to finish! I wasn't prepared for how good that was going to be. The cinematography throughout is just flawless! The lens modeling, and the way they jump between anamorphic and spherical lenses to tell different character stories...That whole film made me reassess my priorities in CG.

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