In 2010, right after graduating in Multimedia and Arts, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Turin, I won a full scholarship called Master dei Talenti Neolaureati, sponsored by Fondazione CRT. The scholarship supported my education at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects and the following internship.
It all happened pretty fast: In May I’ve been awarded and in late June I caught my first flight to California, after quitting my job in Turin (I was working for Lab10100, an interactive design studio) and having to deal with the paperwork for the student visa.
After Gnomon, I worked as an intern at the Pixel Liberation Front, the renowned pre-visualization studio in Venice, CA.
In 2011 Moo Studios, where I currently work, offered me a full time position and sponsored my working visa.
2- What was the first impression with the studios in California? What is a professional’s typical workday like?
The first thing I noticed is that there is no useless formality. Regardless of whether you are an Artist, Compositor, Supervisor, Director or Producer, no one cares if you go to work with flip-flops or you wear a hat. In Italy we are too often following old-fashioned conventions that let you guess who the people who matter are, based on what they wear and how they show off. Here it’s different. Successful people are often the most humble ones.
A typical workday in my field is a long day! When you deal with CG, everything takes three times what you were expecting it to take. That’s because we always explore new techniques, so there is always a learning curve involved. Plus, too often the production slows down because of unexpected client’s changes!
I work mainly for commercials, very short productions compared to feature films. Therefore, I have to deal with frequent deadlines and reviews, sometimes twice per week. You are working and all of the sudden you realize it’s already 2am and you didn’t have dinner!
3- So far, which companies in the US did you work for? What was your position in the projects you worked on?
During my internship at Pixel Liberation Front I got to work on few shots of a demo for an animated feature that will eventually be directed by Gore Verbinsky. I did some Dynamic Simulations.
At Moo Studios I worked on a lot of TV Commercials. I started as a CG Rigger. Being the only in-house CG Artist I soon found myself covering the positions of CG Generalist and Compositor. Now I’m the CG and VFX Supervisor for all productions involving CG and Stop Motion animation. We combine these two techniques most of the time. I start creating a CG animatic; then I oversee the Stop Motion shoot, using Dragon and a motion control rig; I finally supervise the team of CG Artists during the post-production.
4- Have you directly been touched by the recent crisis in the VFX industry? Do you know any relevant episode about this topic?
Unfortunately VFX haven’t reached the same respect other categories in the film making process have.
Budgets for CG and Compositing are always undersized, especially compared to the cost of shooting. I see that with my eyes. One problem is the lack of union representation. There is no union in the VFX industry, while all other departments on set have one. The amount of work VFX involve is huge and a lot of very specialized talents are needed. People need to understand that VFX are not inexpensive. A lot of films rely on VFX nowadays, not only sci-fi movies. Without VFX a lot of movies would not be able to survive the box office. It’s hard to please the audience with actors in monkey suits these days. Monkeys have to look real!
The fact that Rhythm & Hues, the company that did most of VFX for Life of Pi, went out of business right when the movie received the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, is a clear warning that something in the industry has to change.
5- Let’s go back home and see what can be done. Leaving Italy: a choice dictated by opportunities abroad or by the awareness that in our country the VXF industry doesn’t have enough to offer? What was your experience? Is your faith in the Italian VFX market completely broken?
The Italian VFX industry didn’t grow in the past and it’s currently stationary, as many other fields in our country are. Here in Los Angeles the VFX industry keeps on moving, despite the fact that this city is not the VFX capital anymore. There are a lot of artists dedicating their talent to VFX here and this is a big motivation to keep on learning and growing. Even just the fact that here you find a lot of people that actually understand what you are talking about when talking about CG and VFX helps a lot. The big players in the VFX industry are young people and the lack of meritocracy in Italy doesn’t allow young talents to grow.
Thank you for this interview Sebastiano and good luck with your career, wherever it will carry on.
Thank you guys! See you next time.