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Want to get into the Film Industry? Hear it from someone who has walked the path!

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Meet Karla! A truly successful young woman who is currently working as a compositor for ILM, one of the most important VFX companies in the world! (Yes, that’s the studio that made Star Wars, just FYI) She also happens to be a VFS alumna, and she couldn’t be more thankful to her school for all its support. Let’s see what Karla has to tell u...

- So… tell us about you?

Well, I think this all starte d when I was a kid. Since then I have always been really creative and, for me, my journey started very early on… I was, I think, around 9 to 10 years old when I decided I wanted to be a VFX artist. And it was because, at that time, so many great movies came out! You know? Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and I was like “daaaamn! This is so amazing! This is really beautiful. This is what I want to do”

And this was hard, you know? Because, at that time, this was not a thing. Like, whenever I told my parents I wanted to do visual effects they would say something like “oh you wanna do graphic design then?” or “you want to be a cartoonist”. And this went on for years, but I grew up, and I still had this idea in mind that I wanted to do this so I started searching… a loooot!

So, in my home country, Mexico, this industry is not a thing. That’s why I went online and started doing my research on possible schools for me to go to. And I would lite rally email every school I found and ask them about their programs, requirements and whatnot. So they would reply thinking that I wanted to start right away and I was like “no, I’m 7 years away from starting”. I just was so sure I wanted to do this that I used all my time to prepare for it. And that attitude brought me exactly to where I am today; a VFX artist working

as a Senior Compositor for one of the best visual effects studios in the world!

- As you probably know, many people who do not work in the industry are not familiar with what a compositor is. Could you please briefly explain that to us?

Making a movie can usually be divided into 3 stages. Pre-production; you know, doing the script, getting the director, casting the actors, scouting for locations, etc. Production; the moment in which the movie is actually being filmed. And Post-Production; is the moment in which the VFX department has the most amount of work.

All these steps have their own stages, and, although they are not linear, they usually end up in my department. A VFX compositor is a person who receives the work from all the previous steps, you know, animation, visual effects (explosions and stuff), modellers (people who lite rally made 3D models for the characters or assets a scene is going to use) and many many more!! All these elements go to a Compositor, who is in charge of putting everything together into one final scene which usually ends up being the final shot you see when you go to the movies. And this process is called compositing. For me compositing, it’s like putting a puzzle together, and I really love it!

So I’m currently doing that, working as a Senior Digital Compositor for Industrial Light and Magic ILM, a big studio owned by Disney, a great studio in which they have all the Jurassic Park Films, Star Wars, The Mandalorian, and many Marvel movies and shows.

- So, we have noticed that the film industry here in Vancouver is growing. Do you think it is a good time for someone to try to get into this industry?

Absolutely! Like, right now, I think it’s bigger than ever! I feel like, when the pandemic hit, there was a moment in which a lot of people got laid off or their contracts simply didn’t

get extended because… we didn’t know what was going to happen. But now, because of the streaming hype, you know; Netflix, Apple TV, Prime, Disney+, etc. The industry started growing a lot! It’s crazy!! Everybody is hiring, like, you don’t even need to be applying for jobs, people just send you a message on LinkedIn.

It’s just crazy! And now, more big players are coming to Vancouver. Disney is just opening a studio, Sony is growing, Framestore is opening a studio as well, Weta Digital, the guys that made The Lord of the Rings and Avatar, just announced that they are coming to this city as well, I mean... it’s just crazy! There has never been a better time for someone to join this industry.

- 100% of our readers are international students so, naturally, they have a lot of questions regarding your journey as an IS. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

- Let’s start with your research for the school. Did you do that on your own or did you have help from someone else?

I did it on my own. But I feel like, it’s because when I started searching for this stuff I was

young, like, way young, so I didn’t know about forums or agencies, I just went through all the schools’ websites, their programs and their brochures because, when you contact a school like this, or at least this is what happened in the past, they send you a high-quality booklet with all their programs and entry requirements and whatnot. I think I actually still

have all the brochures from all the schools I reached out to! And there’s everything you need to know for getting enrolled in that material.

So I didn’t ask anyone. I feel that in many ways I was completely alone in this journey and I simply did my own research, and contacted the people on my own. But like, today, you have way more information, way more people to reach out to and the industry is way more known than it was before!

- What was your experience like when studying in that school? What was the environment, like classes and such?

It was amazing! Mostly because of the people I met, you know? After being alone on this journey, when you are finally at school you meet all these people who like the same things that you do, who went through the same thing that you did and that you know are as interested in film as you are! You simply feel surrounded by your people you know?

Plus, the school itself is amazing! A beautiful campus, located in the heart of Gastown Vancouver. What’s not to like?

Although, of course, being an international student on its own is an amazing experience! Don’t get me wrong, I was scared as hell when I arrived in Vancouver, I was just 21 years old, didn’t have any friends, the weather in Vancouver didn’t help, and I felt depressed. But, you know, it’s all part of the process! Being an inte rnational

student makes you figure out life on your own and, therefore it’s an incredible growth experience. Plus, I met all these people from all over the world, I have never partied so hard in my life, I have never had more fun in my life and, overall, it was just an amazing experience!

And don’t get me wrong, at the same time, I have also never worked so hard in my life as when I was in school. I was just working on my projects, or my reel all the time! And whenever I needed a break that’s when I went out with friends but mostly I was just improving my portfolio and, although VFS provides you with all the tools and knowledge for you to have an amazing reel, in the end, it always ends up being up to you and your hard work how good your reel is.

- Did you receive any extra support from VFS’ side for being an international student? Like, for example, resources on how to get your life started here in the city or where to find accommodation.

I did, yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, as you know, I’m kind of a lone wolf so besides having all those resources available for me I did my own research on how to apply for the visa, get accommodation and so on. But they do have tons of mate rial and resources and people that can help you out whenever you have these types of questions. They have forums, printed materials, and tons of tools that they have available for you, but in general, the way I did it, it was just looking on my end. But yeah, for sure, if you ask for help they for sure will help you out.

- Do you think your life today would be very different if you had not studied at VFS?

I think it would be close to where I am. Maybe in another studio or in a different position, but I would definitely be close. I mean, VFS for people like me is kind of a shortcut, you know what I mean? You learn what you need to learn, you meet the people you need to

meet, and you are in the city where you need to be, so it’s definitely a great advantage to have VFS as a background. So, VFS to me was, like a tool that I used to get where I wanted to get, you know? One thing is for you to say “oh I want to get into the film industry, let’s try it and see what happens” and another for someone to tell you “so this all the animation and VFX studios in the city, this is the name of the recruiter, this is where you need to go”, etc... This is what VFS did for me.

- Once you finished your program, how hard was it for you to find a job and what was that process like?

So, VFS has this thing called “Fresh Meat”, like lite rally it’s called “Fresh Meat”, and it’s basically a big event in which they invite their students to present their final projects, their Demo Reels, and they invite a bunch of people from the industry to come and talk to the

students, have some food, beers… It’s really fun! So it’s basically a big networking event and it is a really great way for getting yourself to be known, you know? You can talk to people from the industry, alumni, recruiters, etc. And, in one of these events, I got a job offer.

So, in a way, it was not hard to get a job since I didn’t have to do all the reaching out and applying process but of course, you still need to do the hard task of selling yourself and your work and passing through the interview process and so on. But that event is for sure one of the best things VFS has to offer their students!

- If you don’t mind. What’s your status today? Do you happen to have your PR already or are you on a work permit?

I’m already a PR (permanent residence) and I’m actually applying for my citizenship next year! So.. yeah, it’s been some crazy 7 years living in this city but hopefully, by next year I will be able to call myself Canadian!

- And, lastly… What recommendations would you have for aspiring international students who would like to get into this industry?

Do your research, for sure that’s what I recommend! Nowadays, it’s so easy to get overloaded with the amount of information that is available to us so the best thing you can do is to do your own research! Don’t let the opinion of some random person you saw on TikTok or Instagram determine if VFS is or not the school for you. Do your research! Reach out to people, read some forums, explore their websites, and form your own opinion based

on what you research.

And also… to have no expectations! It really helps, because sometimes you have this idea of how things should be and how wonderful everything is going to be but life is not like that. It has its up and downs so if you don’t manage your expectations it would be really easy for you to get super disappointed or sad… so I guess just like, coming with no expectation but like, just come with the mentality of enjoying yourself while you are here and see what happens one step at a time. That’s the best approach you could have.

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