Access VFX: demystifying the special effects industry

07 Nov 2017

5 mins
Access VFX
Access VFX

We recently took part in an Access: VFX event, where 150 pupils aged 15 - 18 from schools across London took part in a special Careers in VFX event at Westminster Kingway College for National Inclusion Week. Access: VFX is a a cross-company initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the VFX industry.

The VFX industry in the UK is an increasingly significant one, but there can be misconceptions about how accessible the industry can be for aspiring filmmakers, or what's required in terms of qualifications for entry. This event was designed to allow young people to get a sense that the VFX industry is absolutely a career path that is open to them.

The day consisted of four sessions - including VFX, Web VR and studio and talent workshops - and the young people were divided into groups and rotated between the workshops throughout the day. There were also 150 volunteer industry mentors attending, who arranged a networking opportunity for the students, with the hope that every young person who wanted one could walk away from the day with a dedicated industry mentor to help them with their career aspirations. The mentors came from a range of backgrounds, from VFX artists of all flavours, to producers, HR professionals and even CEOs of companies.

"The VFX Insight Day was a fantastic event that provided both myself and the students that attended with an invaluable insight into VFX roles that exist within the industry", said Jake Armstrong, a teacher at Addey & Stanhope School, Lewisham. "Our students were inspired and have a much better understanding of the importance of having a creative portfolio to demonstrate their passion and enthusiasm for VFX. Students were able to speak to a wide range of VFX professionals and get industry guidance into the tasks they can be performing now to help them get their foot through the door.

Students found the entire experience vital in regards to preparing them for the dynamic working world that lays ahead!

Jake Armstrong, Teacher, Addey & Stanhope School, Lewisham

The UK's VFX Industry

The UK film sector currently employs 66,000 people, and with a value of £4.3 billion to the economy, it is the UK's fastest growing sector. Some parts of the sector, such as visual effects (VFX), have seen a rapid growth in the workforce maturing to become a global centre for specialist talent and capabilities. The UK's reputation for award-winning VFX means it has become the biggest supplier in Europe and, at times, the second biggest in the world.

However, it faces an acute skills shortage of new entrants, particularly those with strong STEM backgrounds. VFX is a technology-led industry, which draws its staff from a wide range of subjects, not just film and media studies, which may be the preconception. 

Furthermore, as filmmaking becomes more technical, from the computer software that control the robotics in films such as Gravity, the motion capture technology used in Paddington 2, to the arresting creativity of the VFX in the new Star Wars films, there is a need to encourage the next generation of young people to combine science and technology with art (moving from STEM to STEAM). We need the imagination to devise futuristic worlds, make collapsing buildings look real, create CGI waterfalls, but simultaneously the technical skills to realise them for the big screen so the audience can suspend their disbelief.

Into Film has commissioned a downloadable VFX careers map to help demystify and inform educators, students, careers advisors and parents. With information about job roles, career paths and next steps, this invaluable resources created in conjunction with the VFX industry will help anyone who is interested to explore an exciting future career in VFX.

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