Adelaide, South Australia—There has never been a better time to embark upon a career in visual effects. Film and television production is at an all-time high. Visual effects studios in Australia and worldwide are busier than ever but many are struggling to keep pace due to a lack of talented artists. Graduates of Rising Sun Pictures’ visual effects training program, operated in partnership with the University of South Australia (UniSA), are in especially high demand as they are viewed as highly skilled and production ready.
Many of the program’s graduates have found employment at RSP itself. Four of those young artists are now on staff at RSP’s recently-launched studio in Brisbane. Ben Cooke, Vanessa Rossi, Jackie Fox and Daniel Carlin have gotten off to fast starts and their long-term prospects are sky high.
Let’s meet them:
Ben Cooke was one of the first young artists to join RSP’s Brisbane office, coming on board in June. A 2019 graduate of RSP’s training program, Ben got his start with Resin in Adelaide, before moving to RSP, Adelaide, where his credits included The Boys and Thor: Love and Thunder.
An Adelaide native, Ben came to train at RSP via UniSA’s Media Arts program. He completed courses in Compositing and Tracking and Dynamic Effects and Lighting. He enjoyed both, but the effects course struck a chord. “When I opened Houdini for the first time, it solidified in my mind that effects and lighting were the path for me,” he recalls. “I found it very interesting how the work flowed and how the software allowed you to create beautiful images.”
Ben was hired by Resin shortly after completing his training, and it wasn’t long before he found himself tackling demanding work. “I was doing a lot of dynamic explosions—blowing things up—as well as pyro and smoke,” he relates. “I was lucky to be part of a very small team. I had direct contact with the client and creative control over the work. There was a lot of self-development, which was good because I learned a lot about working independently.”
After nine months at Resin, Ben moved to RSP and a year later was offered the opportunity to move to Brisbane as an Effects Artist. The chance to get in on the ground floor was irresistible. “RSP made the transfer process seamless, helping me every step of the way,” he recalls. “Even when I arrived, they made sure everything was right. It’s been great ever since.”
What Ben likes best about his current role is the camaraderie. “When I came to Brisbane, there were 12 of us, now we’re more than 30,” he says. “It’s a good group of people. The senior artists have created an environment where everyone is valued. It sounds like a cliché, but it really is a family atmosphere.”
Ben hopes one day to test the international visual effects market, but, for now, he’s content. “I want to spend the next few years getting projects under my belt, building up experience and learning from the incredibly talented people at RSP, Brisbane,” he says. “Then we’ll see what comes next.”
For others eyeing a career in visual effects, Ben has simple, practical advice: “The hardest thing in this industry is getting a foot in the door, so, when opportunity knocks, grab it.”
Currently a junior lighting artist, Vanessa Rossi completed RSP’s training program in 2020 as a third-year Media Arts student at UniSA. She took courses both in compositing and tracking and dynamic effects and lighting. She learned of the program when RSP Manager, Training and Education Anna Hodge made a presentation at the school. “She showed us a slo-mo clip from X-Men: Apocalypse,” she recalls, “and I thought, ‘You can get a job doing that? How cool!’”
Shortly after graduation, Vanessa landed a job as a junior artist at Pixel Zoo in Brisbane and found herself doing lighting work on streaming series and music videos, the former including the Netflix/YouTube children’s series Rainbow High. “I loved it so much,” she says. “My training at RSP had me well-prepared—I felt like I had already been in the industry for a year, so the transition was pretty seamless. I was able to get in and go.”
Starting at a smaller studio had its advantages. Vanessa found herself undertaking tasks beyond those typically assigned to junior artists. “I ended up being a key artist for lighting,” she relates. “I did a lot of look-dev and setting up shots for other artists, sometimes taking it the whole way.”
A year and a half later, Vanessa was offered a position at RSP, Brisbane, and jumped at the opportunity. She became part of a tight-knit team and quickly developed new skills. “I’m working with a senior lighter, which is really good,” she says. “It’s mainly seniors and mid-level artists here and the opportunity to learn from them is amazing.”
She’s also finding the lifestyle in Brisbane appealing, although not without its snares. “The studio is in the heart of the South Bank, which is such a pretty area,” she says. “But, it can be dangerous. There are a lot of wonderful restaurants around here. All my money is going into nice food.”
Currently a Production Coordinator at RSP, Brisbane, Jackie Fox had her eye on a marketing career when covid struck in 2020. Her work as an independent social media manager seemed less promising as many companies took their social campaigns in-house, so she explored other options. In a clear break, she enrolled in UniSA’s Media Arts program. That led her to RSP’s visual effects training program where she completed a course in effects and lighting in 2021.
Even from the start, Jackie didn’t see herself in an artist’s role. She felt she was better suited for the production side but thought hands-on experience would serve her well in the long run. “I was looking to combine my background in marketing and project management with my love for 3D and the stars aligned,” she says. “My experience in RSP’s training program helped me understand what artists do and how the pipeline functions. It gave me a better grasp of my job.”
RSP also recognized Jackie’s potential. Upon completing her course work she was offered a position as a recruitment coordinator in Adelaide. Six months later, an opportunity arose to join the production team in Brisbane. She is now managing compositing and prep departments for an upcoming feature film. “I’m working with a lot of artists here in Brisbane,” she notes. “I’m also in constant contact with a coordinator in Adelaide, where the 3D team is based. The collaboration between studios works really well.”
Being at a studio that’s relatively new and growing quickly is exciting. “I work closely with VFX veterans who have been in the industry for a long time and are helping me and other recent graduates settle in,” she observes. “We’re small enough to have team lunches on Fridays. I’m also loving the lifestyle in Brisbane. There’s so much to do with heaps of restaurants and bars. South Bank Parklands is right across the street where there are lots of events.”
Although her career path has been a little unorthodox, Jackie is happy with her choices and believes others with similar goals can be successful so long as they work hard and seize opportunities. “I’m very lucky to have experienced so many aspects of visual effects in such a short amount of time,” she says. “I haven’t been with RSP a year, yet I’ve worked in two roles at two studios. I’m excited to be progressing so well and can’t wait to see where I go from here.”
“RSP’s course was amazing,” says Daniel Carlin, who completed the program’s Graduate Certificate in Compositing and Tracking in 2021. “I gained firsthand experience working with industry-standard software and collaborating with other artists, something I couldn’t have gotten elsewhere. You learn from working artists and get to apply your skills to your own shots.”
An Adelaide native, Daniel benefitted from good timing in getting his career off to a roaring start. RSP was tackling multiple projects at the time of his graduation, and he was offered a five-week contract to work as a Junior Roto Artist on Baz Luhrman’s Elvis. His contract was extended a few times and then rolled into a permanent job.
“I worked on several streaming series, Cowboy Bebop, Hawkeye and Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, he recalls. “The biggest project was Thor: Love and Thunder. Earning a Marvel credit was mind-blowing, a big achievement for all of us younger artists.”
Earlier this year a Junior Compositor position became available at RSP’s office in Brisbane. It represented a promotion and a chance to live in sunny Queensland, but it also meant more responsibility. Daniel loves it. “Getting here involved a bit of luck and a lot of hard work,” he notes. “Now, I’m focused on the task and doing the best I can. I want to improve my skills and, hopefully, move to a mid-level role. My training at RSP gave me a good start.”
Daniel advises other aspiring artists to heed the advice of industry professionals and be resilient. “Communicate with recruiters, because they are key to finding jobs,” he says. “Be open and candid about your work. You’ve got to be able to bounce back when things go wrong. Accept the feedback apply it, and go from there.”
A visual effects career path is challenging but offers plenty of options and lots of rewards. “There aren’t many jobs where you can say you’ve worked on the latest blockbuster,” Daniel observes. “I must admit that when I saw my credit at the end of Elvis, I became a bit teary-eyed. It was a big moment.”
About Rising Sun Pictures:
Over the past two decades, Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) has been delighting and inspiring audiences worldwide with award-winning visual effects by creating some of Hollywood’s most memorable screen moments.
RSP’s reputation and leadership makes it a trusted partner for studios and filmmakers worldwide. Its studios employ more than 230 exceptional crew who enjoy the advantages of living in some of the world’s most livable cities.
In addition, RSP is dedicated to developing the next generation of visual effects artists through its unique accredited training program, delivered in partnership with the University of South Australia.
Recent work includes Elvis, Thor: Love & Thunder, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Cowboy Bebop, Hawkeye, Jungle Cruise, Black Widow, Candyman and Mortal Kombat. RSP is a member of The Fuse Group.
About The Fuse Group:
The Fuse Group brings together world-leading visual effects studios, FuseFX, FOLKS, Rising Sun Pictures, and now El Ranchito. The company employs over 1,300 personnel across twelve worldwide studio locations in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Atlanta, Montréal, Toronto, Bogotá, Saguenay, Adelaide, Brisbane, Madrid, and Barcelona. The Fuse Group is a portfolio company of investment funds managed by EagleTree Capital, a New York City-based private equity firm. For more information, please visit www.fusefx.com.
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