By Saint John Walker, Norwich University of the Arts | 29th October 2018

Here in the East of England we thought it would be great to be as inclusive as possible, and give young people in more rural areas as much of a chance of trying out VFX as those in cities. Often people in the towns and villages don’t easily get the chance to travel to a city like Norwich nor have close contact with what is mainly a London based industry. London can seem a long way away from Kings Lynn. So we brought London to East Anglia!

Access VFX East Workshops

We called the initiative Access VFX East; and it became four brilliant VFX workshops in King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich and Norwich, thanks to our friends at Suffolk ONE, College of west Anglia, City Colllege Norwich and East Coast College. However it wasn’t practical to teach Nuke or After Effects software- we wanted to make the workshops as accessible as possible. So we spoke to our friends at FXHome, the creators of the amazing HitFilm compositing and editing software. Could we put multiple copies out there on schools and colleges computers, so everyone can sample VFX? Could we give everyone who partakes free software so they can continue learning afterwards? Sure, they said, and Kirstie from FXHome and Saint from NUA worked out how it might work. FXHome even brought their superstar demo artist over from the states!

We also thought it was important that at each site an industry professional came along and showed work that connected to the simple first steps the young people were experiencing with HitFilm, giving them a context and understanding of how such techniques are used in their favourite films. We were delighted that Kieran from the Mill, Chris from Framestore, Ian, ex-MPC and now Compositing Coach, and Leanne from DNEG joined us, engaging with the young people, working on Avengers and Star Wars fan-film shots created thanks to HitFilm tutor Javert Valbarr of InScape Digital. Across 4 sites over 100 young people built brilliant images and saw how some of their favourite films were made.

But that wasn’t all! We wanted to bring everyone together and include people who couldn’t make our workshops from the satellite towns around East Anglia.

Our Careers Hub Day!

So we held an Access VFX East Careers Hub day on Friday 15th October at Norwich University of the Arts where young people could find out more about the kind of careers that were available, and more importantly, how to develop the behaviours and get the skills needed to enter the industry. This was for both pupils and teachers. This meant speaking to teachers, spreading awareness, informing students and helping schools with information and skills. This was the first event of its kind in the east!

The Careers Hub day was free; a chance for young people to hear what some of the professional artists who work in it have to say. We managed to get funding to transport young people into Norwich, so no-one could miss the event because of transport. Young people could ask questions and take part in breakout sessions, see some great work breakdowns, and hear how our guests from Rockstar, Framestore, Animated Women UK, The Mill, Blue Zoo and our old friend Ian Murphy from Compositing Coach got into VFX, whilst tutors from across the region could interact and discuss common issues to do with access and inclusivity.

Sustainability and Legacy

We know it’s always difficult to keep the energy going when the show is over, but we hope that young people who took part and got access to free VFX software to take home, or who were inspired by the stories of our industry guests, or maybe were just excited to hear there is an industry out there that would welcome them, an industry that is friendly and rewarding.