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During this challenging year, the VES community has come together to help maintain our global community. VES Sections have adapted with great creativity, delivering compelling online experiences and content to replace live events. Programs this year have included virtual happy hours, educational programs, networking opportunities and screenings – including an inspired series of virtual group film screenings. They have also compiled resources to keep members abreast of COVID-19 updates and highlight regional resources and developed new interactive communication tools. Here are some highlights from Section happenings.
In early spring, VES Georgia thought outside the box and collaborated with VES New York and VES members in Florida and Louisiana to host a virtual screening – and the series of East Coast Netflix Parties was born. Mid-summer, they held an educational webinar, “Capturing the Power of the Cloud,” with Amazon Web Services, and in the fall they worked to develop tools to provide additional forums for communication, including a Discord Channel, which also provides resources and assistance for job-seekers.
“We have been hosting webinars and virtual screenings for our membership to keep a sense of camaraderie and reinforce that we are there for one another, and the events have been well received,” says Rob Wright, VES Georgia Co-Chair. “In conjunction with a number of our sister sections, the East Coast Netflix Parties have
been a lot of fun and very successful to help keep everyone’s spirits up – and as an opportunity to network and invite in prospective new members. Thanks to VES HQ, there was a component built in where the members voted on the films, and the ones we showed included The Matrix, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park, which was great, because these were the very films that inspired some of our members to get into the industry.”
VES Germany was one of the first to put forth a comprehensive COVID-19 preparedness resource page for members with financial aid resources, work from home tips and industry news. In the Spring, they held an interactive online meeting with TRIXTER, Royal Penguins, Scanline VFX, Rodeo FX, D-Facto VFX, RISE Visual Effects Studios, LAVAlabs, bEpic, ARRI Media, Storz & Escherich, which focused on adapting to working remotely, business continuity and industry support.
As restrictions allowed some things to open up, VES Germany held an end of summer BBQ in Stuttgart and a Summer Feast in Berlin. In late October, the Section held its virtual “MegaBrain Masterclass,” Volume 4 educational series featuring top industry professionals from around the globe.
In early spring, VES Washington modified their “Creative Spotlight Series” into an interactive webinar tackling how COVID-19 has affected the industry, locally and globally. Subsequent webinars provided educational content for both the membership and future artists through their long-standing partnership with The Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE).
“We plan to continue to offer webinars and work with AIE to add value for their students,” states Todd Perry, VES Washington Board of Managers. “We believe in mentoring future VFX professionals, so through this partnership we’re providing portfolio reviews and other mentorship opportunities. As we continue, we are looking to bring in VFX professionals who work on our chosen films, to talk about aspects people may not have known about.”
VES Montreal was also among the first to put forth a comprehensive COVID-19 resources webpage for members. The Section was a proponent of offering training on unconscious/implicit bias, and integral to VES global delivering an insightful webcast conversation this summer, featuring Tessa Blake and Nancy Malone, Director of Inclusion Initiatives at the American Film Institute.
“When we were able to, we coordinated some impromptu meetups in parks to offer some social time,” remarks Philipp Wolf, VES Montreal Co-Chair. “But as COVID-19 has had an accordion effect with the environment opening and closing, we are looking into drive-in movies to supplement our fun East Coast Netflix Parties with our colleagues in New York, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana until theaters can safely open. We’re all working to keep our members connected and feeling supported however we can.”
VES Toronto resumed their Speaker Series with special guest, Oscar Award-winning Visual Effects Supervisor and Director Ian Hunter, discussing his phenomenal career, passion for practical effects and their marriage with digital techniques. In early fall, they took virtual meetups to a whole new level with their HiFi Pub Night hosted on High Fidelity.
VES New Zealand revamped its series of Teq Talks, a tequila-infused version of innovation jams where technology, entertainment and design converge and feature an eclectic array of creative thinkers with the first in the series being “Virtual Production in Unity.” The Section also took advantage of the country safely reopening and secured a new screening venue just in time for the opening weekend release of Tenet.
In October, the Bay Area Section held “FAANG 2,” (named for the five most popular and best-performing American technology companies) highlighting what VFX artists can expect when they cross over into tech. In November, they held a portfolio review with seasoned VES members reviewing the portfolios of graduating or about-to-graduate students from area VFX and animation programs to get them connections and face time with companies who may be future employers.
VES Australia continued its collaboration with The Australian Cinematographers Society holding a series of online educational forums, including “ACS Webinar: On the Applebox” with Dylan River and Ari Wegner, ACS, and a special Q&A discussion with Cinematographer Charlie Sarroff and Director Natalie Erika James on their debut feature film, Relic. As Australia’s conditions have allowed some in-person events, the Section held in-theater screenings of The Eight Hundred and Tenet.
VES London hosted a series of educational webinars in conjunction with CAVE Academy, including “Developing a Character,” featuring motion performance expert Ace Ruele; “Unity for Animated Storytelling” and “Unity Visual Effect Graph: Create Beautiful VFX in Real-time,” both with Ben Radcliffe; “Virtual Production with Treehouse Digital,” sharing their in-house solution to virtual production using the Unreal game engine; and “Introduction to Onset Data Acquisition” with Daniel Gilligan and Jahirul Amin.
VES New York was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but they’ve come out strong. In addition to the East Coast Netflix Parties, they have held a virtual “Hub Night Pub Night” and a series of educational webinars, such as “Common VFX Workflows with CityEngine and Houdini” with a talented group of panelists from Esri and One Of Us who discussed the use of CityEngine for Netflix’s The Witcher. The Section also aligned with the Post NY Alliance to hold a two-part webinar “VFX Solutions to COVID problems Part I & Part II,” where VFX experts discussed the role of visual effects in helping production and post in a post-COVID landscape.
VES Los Angeles was one of the first to see the value of delivering online content to replace in-person educational events, as well as offering virtual meet-ups to retain a sense of community. Starting in the spring, the Section held a series of educational webinars. The roster included: “Creating Realistic Digital Humans in Film and Television, Digital Visualization – Behind the Scenes with The Third Floor,” “LED Stage Production,” “The Sound of VFX” and “Professional Virtual Production from Home.”
“A big part of the VES family is understanding that while we may work with different companies and compete for business, we are part of one big community with shared issues and shared hopes,” says Frederick Lissau, VES Los Angeles Co-Chair. “We’ve been holding online happy hours almost monthly, and the appearances by dogs and cats, kids and family members on the screen has been really fun and helped normalize the situation. We’ve been adding special themes to liven up our virtual meetups, including “Zombie Octoberfest,” a special Halloween Happy Hour, a Pop Culture Trivia Night and giveaways of The VES Handbook of Visual Effects. Meeting up with our friends and colleagues in the Vancouver, Washington and Bay Area Sections to Netflix and chill together has been a silver lining in bringing us even closer together.”
We thank and applaud our Sections from around the world for keeping the flame going and ensuring that our global community remains connected and supported, educated, inspired and entertained as we venture through this new landscape – together.