These days, the first step to securing a career in any industry is to go out and seek an education in it. But what if that is not possible? Is passion and drive enough to land one the job of their dreams?
For Jon Meier, CG Supervisor at Tau Films, these were the only two weapons he had in his arsenal when he set out to work in the VFX industry. During his session in the recent Virtual Masterclass by The One Academy, he spoke on these and much more!
Visual effects, commonly shortened to VFX, is the term used to describe any imagery created, altered, or enhanced for a film or other moving media that cannot be accomplished during live-action shooting. Thanks to the rapid advancement of technology, VFX is now widely used in movies, animation and games making it one of the fastest-growing fields right now.
For Jon, the VFX industry was nothing short of magical as he was interested in storytelling and narrative works as well as CGI from an early age. Till date, he has worked on more than 30 films which includes favourites such as Life of Pi, Happy Feet, Hotel Transylvania, Jungle Book and many more.
However, despite making it huge in the VFX industry, Jon had entered the industry with no formal education in the field. So how exactly did he end up working on some of the biggest blockbusters of our time?
His passion to enter the VFX industry sparked when he watched the movie Jurassic Park. “As I was in high school, this movie Jurassic Park came out and I think something clicked with the movie and me that I am like ok, this is what I am going to do. For sure I wanted to work in movies and do computer generated images”, said Jon.
A self-driven individual, he then began playing around with software such as POV-Ray and Vistapro in his spare time to get himself acquainted with it. At that time, there were no schools offering formal education for these fields leading to him facing his fair share of criticism for his choice.
“Many said no way! Don’t do that! Become an accountant or do something predictable”, he recounted adding that his own art teacher in high school had advised against pursuing a career in this field. Standing firm in his decision, he decided to teach himself to work in the industry and left San Diego for Hollywood where the movies were being made.
His journey was no walk in the park. Jon had to take on a number of odd jobs just to be able to sustain living in the city while trying to get a leg in the movie industry. From gardening jobs to being an extra in movies, Jon explained that he did whatever he could to inch closer to his dream.
Finally, his hard work paid off. He had landed the role of an on-set production assistant. “As exciting as that sounds, most of the time I ended up just taking out the trash of those who were working there, but I didn’t mind. It allowed me to be close to the heart of movie-making magic and learn from them”. He would stay back after office hours regularly and learn the ropes of the trade from VFX artists there. Eventually, Jon was given the role of a visual effects production assistant.
His first big project was Dr Doolittle where he assisted with the match moving. Using all the knowledge he had gained from his time in the industry, he successfully completed the project and thus started his journey to VFX success.
A true example that persistence, passion and drive are key elements of success, Jon also advised the audience to take advantage of the tools available to them. It is far easier now to gain formal education in these field, and the younger generation should use these opportunities to pursue their dreams.
His parting words were to keep practicing and always learn from others if you have a chance to do so. “Even though you might be making shorts when you are in school, once you get out of school, keep making shorts. Keep making things that come from your imagination as that will help you get better and better and better”, he said.
It is individuals such as Jon that allow us to believe in our dreams and inspire us to pursue our passion, no matter what challenges or obstacles stand in our way!
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