ACCESS: VFX Month, October 2018

Written by
Simon Devereux

ACCESS: VFX Month, October 2018

Written by
Simon Devereux

ACCESS: VFX Month, October 2018

Throughout the month of October ACCESS: VFX toured the UK and Northern Ireland delivering the largest VFX talent and outreach event in UK history! We stopped off at 14 cities across 19 dates and engaged 3,000 people with 100's connected to our e-mentoring programme! Our ambition for the month-long tour was to showcase the range and depth of careers in visual effects (VFX), animation and games across the country. The strategy of the tour was twofold: the ‘see it be it’ approach - to have industry speakers and talent attend each tour-date who were native to each region and to work with local studios and facilities, communicating the powerful message that successful creative careers are not just forged in London! 

We kicked off our month of talent outreach in Stoke-on-Trent on Thursday 4th October. The event hosted by Carse & Waterman Co-Founder Daniel Waterman, brought together; The Mill, Foundry, Escape Studios, Bigtooth Studios plus many more, to meet and inspire 600 students aged between 13 and 19. The day consisted of general VFX and animation presentations, as well as more specialised presentations. Waiyin Lau​ of Framestore showcased character rigging, Kim Bryde of The Mill spoke about producing, Dan McCarthy of Staffordshire University discussed their VFX courses and Naz Parker of DNEG demonstrated 2D and Compositing. Students had the opportunity to meet all industry guests in attendance, network and sign up to the ACCESS: VFX e-mentoring programme. 

Then on Saturday 6th October led by JellyFish Pictures and Technicolor Academy we hosted back-to-back careers panel discussions at Bournemouth’s BFX Festival. Along with MPC Film the ACCESS: VFX panels were well attended by a range of budding young VFX professionals and was a fantastic addition the the festival.

The following week Sunderland on Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th October the team spent a day at Sunderland College and a second day at Sunderland Software City. On day one at Sunderland College’s Bede Campus, NextGen Skills Academy ran hands-on workshops and activities including green screen sessions, 3D animation, modelling and level design. The team then ran a careers marketplace with representatives from The Mill, Blue Zoo Animation, Double Eleven, Ubisoft, Into Film and DNEG, culminating in an industry panel including The Mill’s Garreth Gaydon, Blue Zoo Co-Founder Tom Box, and a range of artists from Ubisoft, DNEG, the Mill and Annimersion. 

Day two at Sunderland Software City kicked off with regional industry workshops run by Software City, New World Designs and The Mill. An education panel then followed, chaired by NextGen’s Phil Attfield with VFX course leads from Teeside, Durham and Northumbria Universities, plus Ubisoft talent acquisition and Arcus Animation.  

‘ACCESS: VFX East’ spearheaded by Saint John Walker, VFX Course leader at Norwich University of the Arts, began 5 days of regional outreach and training at Suffolk One in Ipswich on Thursday 11th October, and The College of West Anglia in Kings Lynn on Friday 12th October. Rural areas often have different access and diversity challenges to cities, so key college sites across East Anglia were chosen and a partnership with Norwich-based software company FXHome who make the freemium VFX and editing software HitFilm led workshops with young people at colleges, with free software licences they could continue using at home. Workshops were led by Javert Valbarr, FXHome’s internet star developer, and complemented by guest appearances by the likes of Chris Cook, Lead modeller at Framestore, Leanne Dua from DNEG TV and Kieran Jordan, 3D Artist at The Mill. 

We ramped up Week 3 of ACCESS: VFX Month with 6 tour dates taking place in tandem across Manchester, Salford, Belfast and East Anglia!

On Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th October The Mill’s Simon Devereux led a team of VFX industry professionals at events at the Manchester College and Salford University respectively. On day one at the Manchester College with software and machines provided by Escape Technology we were able to simulate a VFX pipeline with expertise from Framestore artists Annie Mitchell, Ellie Ansell and Will Denning from the Mill. The team continued to build the pipeline with the same technical set-up on day two at Salford University. Across both days we had Salford-based studio The Farm speaking with hundreds of students and young people along with careers advice and presentations from Escape Studios, Union VFX, Foundry, Into Film and Futureworks.

Also happening on Monday 15th October was our event at Belfast’s Ormeau Baths led by Paul Wilkes and Yen Yau. The first event of its kind in Northern Ireland had over 200 visitors from local schools and colleges, along with parents, teachers and career advisors.  Industry speakers Catherine Mullan from MPC Film, Eric Carney from Third Floor and Angela Toner from The Mill gave an insight into their work and inspirational advice about careers in the creative industries.  Local company Jam Media also talked about the homegrown Animation industry and the huge number of opportunities available in Northern and Southern Ireland. As well as presentations, visitors were able to talk with local companies Alt Animation and Double Jump Studios, as well as DNEG and MPC in the careers area.

‘ACCESS: VFX East’ continued with a date at East Coast College, Great Yarmouth on Tuesday 16th October, then 2 events took place in Norwich, with Norwich City College on Wednesday 17th October and a careers event at Norwich University of The Arts on Friday 19th October. This day brought together schools from across the region, talks by VFX companies like Blue Zoo, Framestore and The Mill, Rockstar, panel discussions and a viewing of the ‘ACCESS: VFX East’ logo competition. The mission was to get young people and their teachers thinking about VFX as something within their reach, even if they didn't have a ‘VFX’ subject in their curriculum! Free HitFilm software meant they could all continue exploring and getting enthused long after the event finished.

Heading into week 4 Lucy Cooper from Union VFX and Nicole Duncan from The Mill ran a two day event in Edinburgh and Glasgow, at Napier Glass House, Edinburgh on Tuesday 23rd October and Film City Glasgow on Thursday 25th October. Across both days we welcomed 240 young people, teachers, lecturers and parents through the doors. On day one in Edinburgh, a range of Scottish VFX speakers took part from Interference Pattern, Framestore, Into Film, Hee Haw, Axis Animation and many others. Equally on the second day in Glasgow Into Film, Axis Animation, Framestore, Creative Scotland and Film City Futures took part in workshops, talks and live demos. 

Shirley-Anne McGunnigle, a teacher from St Matthew’s Primary School, Edinburgh sent us the following message after the event: 

“The pupils and their parents have raved about this trip and how much they have gained from it. We would love to attend other similar events. The balance of presentation and active workshops was perfect. The staff leading the event were fantastic with the pupils answering their questions patiently and with enthusiasm. One pupil has written in the evaluation that I got them to do that they are so thankful that events like this are offered to him as it’s allowed himself and other children who might never experienced this aspect of the movies to see what is involved and another commented that they feel really special as they got to meet someone who has actually worked on the movies that they love”. 

Sandwiched between our Scottish dates was our event led by Framestore’s Amy Smith in Cardiff on Wednesday 24th October. Supported by local studios Milk VFX and Bait Studios and hosted by the University of South Wales we delivered a morning schools event and careers fair followed by a number of workshops and presentations for young adults later in the day. The goal was to promote the huge amount of animation and visual effects work already being done in Wales and to raise local aspirations for the sector. We were also keen to ensure that we ran all advance promotion of and actual events on the day in both English and Welsh to ensure we were staying true to ACCESS:VFX’s inclusive mission. 

For the final week of ACCESS: VFX Month we came home to London with a VFX, Animation careers fair at Westminster Kingsway College on the morning of Tuesday 30th October.

That evening at the University of West London we held our ‘Power Panel’ chaired by creative industry expert Faraz Osman. Panel guests included Debra Coleman, DNEG’s Global Head of Compositing, Tom Box, Co-Founder of Blue Zoo Animation, Rebecca Harris, Producer from Slick Films, Ash Tilley, VFX Artist from The Mill, Nene Parsotam, Co-Founder of We Are Stripes and Chasity Noa, M&C Saatchi’s Creative Content Strategist. The discussion covered everything from entry level careers advice to flexible working. The event closed with networking and connecting our audience to the ACCESS: VFX e-mentoring programme. 

Then on the evening of Wednesday 31st October we ran our final event, a free VFX masterclass hosted by Escape Studios, followed by a talk from ILM. 

We closed the event in fine style with a wrap party at the Mill on Wednesday 7th November for all our organisers and event partners. 

This quote from Neil Hatton, CEO of the UK Screen Alliance, sums up the intention and mission of the month-long event: 

“You can’t get applications without aspiration and you don’t get aspiration without inspiration. Access:VFX gives inspiration to bucket loads"