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January 02


Winter 2020

VES Los Angeles: Soaring High in the Film and TV Capital of the World


The Visual Effects Society’s growing international presence owes much to its dynamic network of Sections, who galvanize their regional VFX communities while advancing the reach and reputation of the Society and industry worldwide. The thriving L.A. Section, the largest of VES’s regional groups, boasts 1,400 members spread across Los Angeles and Orange counties, and cites the diversity of its membership and Board of Managers among its greatest strengths.

“It’s vital to have a wide range of experiences and voices in the room as we develop more inclusive and innovative programming. Creativity suffers when we don’t have people different from us inspiring or challenging us to think differently,” says Section Co-Chair Sarah McGrail. “Some of our members started in production, others began working in film schools, interning at VFX houses, or at home creating their own content. They work in film, episodics, commercials, animation, games, VR/AR – you name it, we have a member that can do it!”

The L.A. Section Board of Managers celebrating the thriving VFX community.

L.A. Section members at the “Light Fields and Google” AR special event at Google HQ in Playa Vista.

“It’s vital to have a wide range of experiences and voices in the room as we develop more inclusive and innovative programming. Creativity suffers when we don’t have people different from us inspiring or challenging us to think differently,”

—Sarah McGrail, L.A. Section Co-Chair

When asked about the unique nature of the L.A. market, the Section leadership is quick to point out what makes this area so special. “Being in the heart of Hollywood, we set an example of quality and integrity for visual effects as the gold standard for the industry,” says Kaitlyn Yang, Section Co-Chair. “And with some of the best film and VFX schools in town, the next generation of filmmakers is watching us. We have the potential to help shape and support these aspiring artists and innovators.”

“There’s something special about creating visual effects in Los Angeles, a city where the art, craft and technology of moviemaking has been coming together for generations,” says McGrail. “Our proximity to Hollywood and Silicon Beach allows us to have access to great minds and entrepreneurs pushing the edges of what’s next.”

There is a hotbed of VFX activity and inspiration at home in L.A. Companies are doing groundbreaking work. Apple, Netflix and Hulu have local production hubs, and there is a huge amount of work being done by local VFX facilities to support them. The L.A. Section Managers point to their members as enormous points of pride, with some of the ‘original heroes of VFX’ among its ranks.

The Section has a robust roster of programming, including film screenings, demos, educational and special events. To grow its ranks, it holds Spring and Fall Membership Drive mixers, and members are encouraged to bring prospects to events year-round to experience firsthand the benefits of VES membership and community.

The Section’s signature events are the Summer BBQ and Holiday Party, which draw hundreds of attendees. Rotomaker serves as this year’s annual Gold Section Sponsor, and the roster of generous sponsors has enabled the Section to significantly amp up its overall programming calendar.

The Vision Committee held a large-scale event, “Light Fields and Google AR” at Google’s Playa Vista headquarters, which featured Academy Award winner Paul Debevec, VES and Ivan Neulander, a Lead Rendering Engineer at Google, along with a special access tour of the Google HQ.

The Third Floor and Picture Shop have provided space for meetups, membership drives and board meetings, and the Section has collaborated with industry organizations including SMPTE, Women in Animation, PGA, DGA and the Art Directors Guild to serve each other’s missions. The Section also worked closely with VES HQ staff to put on last summer’s wildly successful SIGGRAPH party, which attracted VES members and guests from around the globe.

Looking to the year ahead, the Section Managers are focused on several key goals. “We are going to do more to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our members, and to share their artistic and technological innovations with the L.A. Section and the world,” says McGrail.

“Expect to see us highlighting VES’s benefits to members, including health care, networking events and subscriptions to VFX Voice,” adds Yang, “as well as encourage more engagement among members, including joining committees and running for the Board, and continue to develop diversity initiatives to further the movement on this important facet of the VFX industry.”

Bringing live demos of the latest VR tech to members and guests.

L.A. Section Secretary Pam Hogarth enjoying the Summer BBQ with special guests.

Welcoming the LA VFX community to its festive annual Summer BBQ.

The Section Board members provide an impassioned roundup on what belonging to the Society means to them. “I belong to the VES because of my fellow members, for the strong camaraderie, to celebrate their accomplishments and share in their creative journeys, which is all an amazing amount of fun!” says Toni Pace Carstensen, Section Treasurer.

“The VES brings together the legendary artists that made VFX a household name, with the new ‘blood’ carving pathways forward. If you have visual effects in your blood, as I do, this is the place you want to be,” says Steven Blasini, Board of Managers member.

“What we do as artists is now a part of every field, format and department in the entertainment industry. It’s up to us to help our VFX community and each other, and to shape the perception and reality of our corner of the entertainment industry while continuing to bring the magic of storytelling to life,” comments Van Ling, Board of Managers member.

“Being a part of VES and serving our members is a privilege,” concur McGrail and Yang. “Our members are a worldly bunch! We love connecting with members in other Sections, sharing knowledge and helping new Sections grow and succeed, because we are part of a rich and collaborative global community.”

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