It’s no secret that Vancouver’s visual effects industry has experienced whirlwind growth, sweeping into town many artists from abroad. This means there’s now a rapidly growing vfx artist pool lacking firmly planted roots in Vancouver.

Although there’s long-established live-action film community in the city, there’s a disconnect between those crews and the new digital filmmaking community. “We’re still very much segregated,” admits Jason Dowdeswell, head of production at Digital Domain.

As vfx becomes a more essential part of production, rather than post, this is changing.

The live-action community is “very supportive and attentive to the visual effects requirements of films these days,” says Shawn Walsh, executive producer at Image Engine. “They take for granted now that the live-action production community is greatly advantaged by being involved in visual effects-heavy productions — Vancouver is becoming known for that.”

In the meantime, the vfx biz is focused on ensuring that its artists can form a real community within their own sector.

Vfx companies do this by supporting various community and industry events, as well as taking part in panels (including an upcoming one at the Whistler Film Festival).

The local branches of Siggraph and the Visual Effects Society provide opportunities for artists to connect to the local visual effects scene. The VES even hosts regular pub nights. “That’s very much a grassroots way to connect the industry,” Dowdeswell says.

Despite being new to the city, however, many of these transplants already know people in Vancouver when they are arrive.

“Pretty much everyone that is working in visual effects in Vancouver has come from somewhere else,” says Dowdeswell. A lot of these transplants have already worked with other artists who are now based in Vancouver.

“They arrive with a lot of existing connections which makes transitioning much easier,” says Walsh. The vfx community worldwide is still very small compared to other industries, he says, “So it is pretty tight-knit.”

There’s a major freelance pool that jumps from project to project, but “we all find each other at the same barbecues,” agrees Dowdeswell.

According to Dowdeswell, forming a true vfx community “is important because it is about being able to share (experiences) and share differences.”

Scout & About: Vancouver / British Columbia 2012
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