By NAOMI GOLDMAN
The award-winning definitive authority on all things visual effects in the world of film, TV, gaming, virtual reality, commercials, theme parks, and other new media.
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By NAOMI GOLDMAN
The Georgia Section, established in 2019, is the 14th and newest Section to join the VES. With almost 80 members, the Georgia Section is enjoying an exciting period of growth, mirroring the explosion of the local visual effects industry.
“We are focused on making VFX more appealing to the next generation of artists, so outreach to students is a priority as we move forward. It’s vitally important for young people, especially young women, to see VFX as a possibility, a real career option. We can help do just that.”
—Rob Wright, Chair, Georgia Section Board of Managers
“We have been so fortunate to have the support and insights from the VES community to help realize the birth of our Section,” says Rob Wright, Chair, Georgia Section Board of Managers. “Many years ago, I understood that for our community to get screenings and other event opportunities, we needed to formalize a Section. While I and some others were relentless in getting people excited about the prospect and recruiting them in our effort, it took some additional help from the outside to help us navigate the process and cross the finish line to get our first 50 members. Mei Ming Casino, who was transplanted from L.A. to Atlanta, was a fantastic partner and guide before passing the baton to me. And Tim McGovern is a marvelous asset, and was excellent in helping us get established.”
The Georgia Section is coordinating efforts in two cities – a larger group in Atlanta and a smaller group in Savannah, which has a number of VFX professionals in the animation and gaming sectors and some former practitioners now serving as professors at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). The Section is benefiting from longstanding VES members now working in Georgia, such as David “DJ” Johnson, formerly from the L.A. Section. “We inherited a great guy with DJ coming to Savannah. He has been exceptionally supportive in molding the Savannah group and making them feel included and a part of our strong camaraderie.”
While the Section is operating in two cities, they are working to bridge the two groups. The Section hosts monthly “VES Hangouts,” informal social networking get-togethers that also serve as member recruiting events. At one of their recent Hangouts held simultaneously in Atlanta and Savannah, they set up a video portal so that the two groups could see each other and interact, fostering unity and community. “Once people show up to one of our fun Hangouts, nine times out of 10, they are hooked on the VES and come on board!” adds Wright.
The Section burst onto the scene with an inaugural celebration sponsored by the Turner Broadcasting Studios’ E League, and it was deemed a huge success. The event included a VR demo on one of the Turner soundstages, decorated to herald the new Section.
In addition to the monthly Hangouts, the Section has a full calendar of screenings held in Atlanta. Getting screenings in Savannah is a goal for 2020. Next on the agenda is to develop educational and career development programs, potentially in conjunction with SCAD.
“As we are setting goals and planning events, we continue to reach out to our sister Sections to brainstorm and look for ways to collaborate,” says Wright. “Because the industry is young here, we have reached out to New York to glean some of their lessons learned and look at ways we might participate in their events digitally and help cross-promote each other’s efforts. The possibilities to collaborate are really exciting.”
The Section membership includes a wide breadth of talent, with VFX professionals working in TV, film, animation and gaming. That said, the Board of Managers has made diversity a primary goal in the coming year. “We are very mindful of expanding our membership to include more women and people of color,” adds Wright. “And we are focused on making VFX more appealing to the next generation of artists, so outreach to students is a priority as we move forward. It’s vitally important for young people, especially young women, to see VFX as a possibility, a real career option. We can help do just that.”
Many companies have established offices in Georgia, including Method Studios, Crafty Apes, BOT VFX, Spin VFX, Stargate, Undertone, Pixel Rodeo and Turner Broadcasting. In this rich environment, VFX practitioners have the opportunity to do a lot of extraordinary work because the local studios are also part of larger shops.
“We are really riding a wave with a rapidly growing VFX community,” says Wright. “I think at some point, we will start to see not having enough talent here to fulfill the work. One VFX company told us that they are using our Section as a draw to recruit talent to the company, and that’s so rewarding to know we are making a difference and providing that kind of value. And we vest a lot in educational institutions like SCAD and the Georgia Film Academy in bringing forth the next class of VFX pros. All in all, it’s a very dynamic environment with a bright future.”
Wright also acknowledges the Board of Managers, who are “engaged, dedicated and such a strong and collaborative group. Together, we are very focused on building community and making our Section a great success.
“Georgia is very welcoming, the people are approachable and it’s very family-friendly – attributes we aim to reflect in our Section. We are so appreciative of the VES community for helping us get our footing. As we grow and learn, we see it as our job to support burgeoning groups and pay it forward. That’s the beauty of being a part of the VES family.”