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February 19
2019

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

Inside Cinesite with New London Head of VFX Caroline Garrett

By IAN FAILES

Visual effects studio Cinesite has had a presence in the industry for more than a quarter of a century and has had its share of ups and downs over that time. In just the past few years, a lot has been happening at the studio – it now has offices in London and Montreal, opened up a feature animation division, merged with Image Engine in Vancouver, and acquired Nitrogen Studios in Vancouver and Trixter in Munich and Berlin.

These developments are in some ways indicative of the fast-changing landscape of VFX right now. Through the eyes of Caroline Garrett, who was recently made Head of VFX at Cinesite London, VFX Voice looks at what’s new at the studio, particularly in the U.K.

Watch Cinesite’s 2018 showreel.

“The VFX industry has also matured, becoming an integral part of the production process rather than the weird new kid that insists on painting everything green. Also, the increased access to film and series through the on-demand services only helps to drive the need for more content, and as a result we’re seeing tremendous growth in the VFX market across the globe.”

—Caroline Garrett, Head of VFX, Cinesite London

Garrett has been working in visual effects since 1998, when she started as a junior artist at the Magic Camera Company in Shepperton Film Studios. She later co-founded her own previs studio before coming to Cinesite as CG Manager in producer and executive producer roles, then as Head of Production and now Head of VFX.

This new position essentially sees Garrett running the London office, while also working with Cinesite’s other locations. For that reason, Garrett has an eager eye on the state of the wider effects space.

“VFX has truly become a global industry now and London remains an intrinsic part of that, with many of the best creative talent still drawn to this city,” she says. “Almost every production now has VFX in it, whether invisible like The Revenant or front and center like our work on Avengers: Infinity War.

Cinesite London Head of VFX Caroline Garrett.

The VFX industry has also matured, becoming an integral part of the production process rather than the weird new kid that insists on painting everything green,” adds Garrett. “Also, the increased access to film and series through the on-demand services only helps to drive the need for more content, and as a result we’re seeing tremendous growth in the VFX market across the globe.”

Consolidation and buy-outs seem to be an ever-growing part of the industry, but Garrett believes there is still a place for Cinesite, which is an independent company. She believes the studio “has the capacity and skill to deliver VFX for large tentpole movies and the ability to nurture work with filmmakers on art-house movies such as Adrift, Mute and Starfish.”

For Avengers: Infinity War, Cinesite worked on the fully CG Ebony Maw, among other characters.

“VFX has truly become a global industry now and London remains an intrinsic part of that, with many of the best creative talent still drawn to this city.”

—Caroline Garrett, Head of VFX, Cinesite London

Garrett has had both experience as an artist and in the management side of visual effects and post production. Balancing work and home life – something often considered difficult in VFX – is something Garrett says is pushed heavily at Cinesite London. “Having a work-life balance mindset is important to our crews. Knowing how demanding this industry can be, it’s vital they know we support them and their life away from their screens. We’re all about the artist and improving quality of life both at work and at home.

“We spend a lot of time together,” continues Garrett, “so it’s really important we have fun in the studio and people can feel there’s mutual trust and friendship among their peers. We have weekly studio kick-off meetings where the whole facility joins to share news, updates and welcome new joiners. We take time to celebrate our successes with wrap parties and screenings, and of course there’s a steady flow of treats.”

These before and after frames from Robin Hood showcase the strong environmental VFX work that Cinesite is well known for.

“Having a work-life balance mindset is important to our crews. Knowing how demanding this industry can be, it’s vital they know we support them and their life away from their screens. We’re all about the artist and improving quality of life both at work and at home.”

—Caroline Garrett, Head of VFX, Cinesite London

Garrett’s experience in VFX has also meant that she’s seen many changes, albeit slow ones, in the diversity inside effects studios. Over the last two decades, it’s perhaps safe to say that post production and visual effects have been seen as a technology-based field and, like many science and technology careers, historically this attracted a limited range of people.

“I do think this is changing,” suggests Garrett. “Technology and society have evolved, meaning the field is opening up to a greater range of people with different skills and backgrounds. There are also a lot more established courses at an increasing number of great colleges and universities attracting a wider range of new talent.”

‘Sugar rush’ at Cinesite London.

“[There] remains a gender gap in the world of VFX, there’s no denying that. While more women are joining the industry, there is still a disparity in female representation, so I feel it’s important to show up and coming artists that women can and are succeeding in this industry.”

—Caroline Garrett, Head of VFX, Cinesite London

Still, admits Garrett, there “remains a gender gap in the world of VFX, there’s no denying that. While more women are joining the industry, there is still a disparity in female representation, so I feel it’s important to show up-and-coming artists that women can and are succeeding in this industry.

“I’m proud that Cinesite had always had a strong female presence leading its global team. Many of the management team are female – me in London, Tamara Boutcher, Head of Production in Montreal, Tara Kemes, General Manager of Cinesite Vancouver, and Trixter’s Simone Kraus-Townsend is the Animation Supervisor on Captain Marvel. There may still be a way to go, but the industry is heading in the right direction.”


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