The visual effects and motion graphics industry is booming – which was music to the ears of the students in the audience at the latest RTS Futures event in late May.
“It’s a growth industry – there should be lots of jobs to go around,” argued Louise Hastings, VFX producer at Milk Visual Effects, whose credits include BBC One’s Doctor Who and ITV historical drama Victoria.
“Netflix and Amazon are creating more and more content with bigger and bigger budgets – we can’t keep up with the amount of work we’re asked to bid for at the moment,” she continued.
“TV is going to keep Soho very busy. We’re also getting a lot of the American films [shooting] at [Warner Bros, Studios] Leavesden, like Fantastic Beasts.”
“TV is still strong, but there is a definite shift to YouTube and the digital area,” said Anthony Scott, studio operations manager at creative agency Fall of the Wall, which makes commercials and promos for clients that include Sky.
Simon Frame, an experienced TV and Film VFX producer and supervisor who has been working on Sky Atlantic’s historical fantasy, Britannia, completed the high-profile panel at the Futures event.
Frame recalled that when he first started working in the VFX field in 1997, there were just 350 people working in Soho, then and now the centre of the industry. Two decades later, numbers have risen almost 20-fold to around 6,500. “The market has become huge, “ he said. “There are so many ways in.”
Over the same time, VFX technology has plummeted in price, which gives newcomers the opportunity to learn on the latest equipment. “Software is super cheap,” said Frame. “What really matters now is talent.”
Frame, a drama specialist, accepted that that although the TV drama business is “a bubble” that could “burst”, because of the length of time it takes to make series, “you’re still looking at another four years of boom in production terms”. And, he added, there is no indication that the boom is ending.
The order books of the large effects houses are full, revealed Frame, which has led to hundreds of new start-up outfits entering the marketplace. “Boutique [companies] are a much, much better place to start and develop than the bigger companies,” he said.
Frame sounded one note of caution. “Brexit is a problem,” he said, explaining that, despite lobbying, there is “no special dispensation for overseas employees.
“There are an awful lot of European artists in town and I don’t know if they can stay. It’s going to be a real problem for our business.”
The RTS Futures event, “U&VFX”, was chaired and produced by Alex Lawrence, the founder & COO of Clearhead. It was held at Channel 4 in central London on 21 May