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January 18
2022

ISSUE

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Creating New Worlds and Breaking Barriers for the Next Generation: Chris White

Growing up outside of Washington, DC, Chris White was fascinated with film and TV that transported him to fantasy worlds, alternative realities or worlds of the future. A VES Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated visual effects supervisor, Chris has created compelling digital environments, characters and effects for some of the most significant VFX films of recent times, including the complex Goblin Caverns environment for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the photorealistic chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas that were the stars of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He is committed to student outreach and building the pipeline for future practitioners as an active member of InclusionFX, which supports and amplifies underrepresented voices in features, television and games.

Chris White, Visual Effects Supervisor/Weta Digital

As mentors once opened educational doors for me, I feel responsible as a senior artist to give back to the next generation. Working through programs with InclusionFX and Weta Digital, we have opportunities to provide guidance through mentorship, review portfolios and give career advice, hearkening back to what I wish I knew early on. It’s a win-win as we get the rich benefit of students’ enthusiasm and fresh ideas. The visual effects and animation industry needs greater representation, and I’ve seen first-hand how exposure and encouragement have a real impact. We need many voices, talents, history and perspectives to create the worlds of film and television, representing us all.

Keep pushing forward towards your goals. My gateway to visual effects was a testament to persistence and a kind of accidental pathway. I applied for an internship at ILM multiple times while I was in graduate school and was finally accepted on my fourth try. That pursuit gave me my jumpstart creating vortexes and particle systems on Twister. Writing code for digital tornadoes was a perfect blend of my computer science and arts background. And I was on my way.

Priorities make diversity, equity and inclusion happen. We need to go back to the university level to build our talent pool and break the barriers that limit advancement and demystify our field, including giving students exposure to the full spectrum of technical and creative jobs that are available. Some believe this is a dream job – it is not a dream job. It is completely accessible and can be a profitable, stable, long-term career. And it’s on us to forge solutions that encourage young visionaries to pursue this career path and get the word out.

As a senior artist, I feel responsible to give back to the next generation.

-Chris White, Visual Effects Supervisor, Weta Digital

When a person sees themselves reflected in future or fantasy space, those worlds become possible. Anything becomes possible. The TV and film worlds I experienced in my youth rarely featured Black characters. I didn’t see myself or my culture reflected in those frames. I am optimistic about the directors and creatives galvanizing the industry today, and I am confident that my son will see himself in the worlds to come on the screen.

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