Hiring around the world

There has been a growth in vfx houses broadening to encompass new offices around the world. Rhythm & Hues, SPI, Digital Domain, have all expanded to having multiple offices around the world. Right now ILM is also expanding and staffing up its Singapore offices. The vfx workplace is now global. As part of our fxphd.com training we have been speaking to recruiters from around the world.

They want to hire you

Ben Snow reviews a shot from Iron Man 2 via video conference in ILMs Singapore office – see below about ILM Singapore Hiring

The most important thing to understand when considering applying for a position with a major effects company is remarkably simple. They want to talk to you, they want to hire people. You are not trying to get past or around someone in recruiting who is guarding the gates – stopping you from your dream job. It is the exact opposite. Recruiters want to find good people, and they want to place them in positions where they can excel, make money and build a solid career. They are seeking you. Once you approach a facility with this as your approach, – applying, interviewing and the whole recruiting process becomes vastly more enjoyable.

For our comprehensive coverage at fxphd, we interviewed recruiters at ILM, Digital Domain, Rhythm and Hues, Double Negative, Animal Logic, Pixar, Rising Sun Pictures and others and the same themes were repeated whether the recruiters were hiring for London, Singapore, LA, San Francisco, Adelaide, India or Canada.

• Companies need good people all the time
• Apply following their guidelines
• Keep the reel short
• Know what position you want
• Understand the company
• Keep in touch, not being hired immediately means nothing
• Be honest, be yourself, be open about what you want
and understand that recruiters are not career advisers, they are there to hire, but do not look to them to advise you on what you should do with your life or your career.


This year at the Pixar User group in LA, Pixar showed the growth in visual effects films, based on render farm sizes – which the makers of Renderman have a very good position from which to observe. While the growth of renderfarms and visual effects in general was interesting, the second half of this presentation showed the growth of renderfarms geographically – showing graphically via a world map how the percentage of the world’s high end render farms have moved from being primarily located in California to today having a much more global distribution. This globalization of visual effects should come as no surprise to anyone in the industry. From Wellington to Mumbai, from Hyderabad to Kuala Lumpur, from Toronto to Sydney, visual effects is growing and geographically diversifying. Central to this process is the major visual effects houses themselves.

ILM Singapore

ILM is now recruiting heavily in Singapore, see insert below. Digital Domain has offices in Canada and is now discussing expanding to Florida. Sony Pictures Imageworks alone has offices in Culver City, California (USA) but also in Albuquerque (New Mexico), Novato (California), Chennai (India), Bristol (UK) and Vancouver (Canada). While the visual effects field continues to grow, this is still perhaps not great news for the Hollywood effects community, but this does open up a huge range of opportunities for people to work on effects for films without living in California, more so than at any other time in the history of visual effects. While much of this is linked to regional subsidies to attract high tech glamorous jobs to depressed areas, the net effect, rightly or wrongly is that while it may not feel like it for many in the local Los Angeles area – the vfx industry is exploding with opportunity worldwide.

“Each local center handles its own recruiting,” explains Anjelica Casillas, Manager of Digital Production at Rhythm & Hues (R&H), who have major offices in India and America and have led the trend to treat their Indian operation as a creative equal in the company. R&H does not see their India offices as a place to farm out ‘crap roto’ work but rather as a genuine equal partner to their California operation, but staffed locally.
But while staffing of satellite studios is handled locally, most companies provide a common point for applying via their website. ILM, DD, R&H all have one central web point no matter where in their operations you wish to apply.

This trend to web applications is almost universal, from application forms to online show reel applications, hiring is very much done now via the net, and preferred by most companies for three primary reasons

• it is easier to have a potential applicant tracking database for current and future positions
• it is faster both in terms of reviewing work but also making sure the material is current and up-to-date
• it is environmentally ‘greener’ and cheaper than shipping fedex packages of showreels and CVs.


The recuriters are there to facilitate your getting a job – but you should do everything you can to make it easy for them to hire you!

A grab from the very professional Animal Logic jobs site

Many people fret and worry about eloquent and persuasive cover letters. “I dont read them,”points out Edwina Jamieson, head recruiter for Rising Sun Pictures. “Only one in five applications would have a cover letter, but I never spend any time on them, …for a creative position it is all about their showreel and their CV,” she explains – pointing out that many applications come via net applications anyway which do not include or require a cover letter. Her point is shared by other recruiters who encourage potential applicants to avoid the following:

• complex and unnecessary cover letters,
• show reel opening shots that are just complex animations of the applicant’s name,
• hiding contact details or excluding them altogether,
• long show irrelevant showreels,
• leading with anything but your best work

Remember a senior supervisor will rarely require any CV, a senior sequence supervisor’s CV will be less than a page – only junior unexperienced artists have CVs that run four, five or more pages.

Animal Logic have one of the most complete online application forms that allows you to list your experience and rate it for each of the major areas of visual effects. This level of application renders a cover letter fairly irrelevant. This is really vital for a leading company like Animal Logic that produces fully animated feature films such as Legend of the Guardians, but also leading digital live action visual effects.

Database tracking

If I apply and I dont hear back, is that it?

Absolutely not, in almost every case the first place recruiters look for new staff is in their internal database. You need to get in the database to be considered. And the way to do that is to apply. Perhaps once in the old days it was the VHS on the top of the pile that had the best chance but today’s recruiters are serious professionals who rely on vast and very complex databases to match positions to talented individuals.

Of course if you have just heard in the trade press that a company is expanding or has been awarded a large film then it does not hurt to re-apply. Also if you have a contract expiring soon it is fine to just flag that you will soon be free of your current commitments and are keen to hear if there are any projects coming up that the facility feels might be a good match to your skills, but generally the key to getting a call or email for that interview is to be registered in the database, and to be about 6-12 months up-of-date with your bio, Reel and details.

How soon until I can resubmit?

Almost all the recruiters we spoke to said the answer was two-fold:

• When you have relevant new material
• Every 6 months is not a bad rule of thumb.

When can I apply?

Rhythm & Hues has one of the best records for satellite offices being one of the first to successfully expand overseas

If you are doing your research, you can easily find out when major films are green lit and which studios have been awarded major films. Far from it being too late, due to production cycles, it is normally when a project is awarded that a major facility will start hiring. So always go to the website, see what positions are being advertised for and of course network as much as possible to hear who might be needing people. Bottom line is that if you see Double Negative (DNeg) London, or Sony Pictures Imageworks(SPI) etc. has just been awarded some huge film that is exactly when they will be starting to look for extra people and be staffing up for that project.

“We dont just hire for a specific project, we hire with an eye on future projects, so while many hires may be short term, these can sometimes roll over into an unbroken run of good projects. I have freelancers who have been working in my department for over three years,” explains Anjelica Casillas (R&H)

Know the company.

Companies have styles and specialities. Pixar is an animation company. DNeg does outstanding cities and destruction. R&H does wonderful animals and character work etc. Not to exclude the work Dneg does with character work, or the effects animation of Pixar, but you should research the company you are applying to. In an ideal world you will only be applying to a relatively small number, so do your homework.

And if you are re-sending some information, proofread the names. You’d be horrified to know how many people send a letter saying ‘Dear Pixar’ to say, Digital Domain. It is just a lack of attention to detail and while most recruiters will understand, it sends such the wrong message and could well cost you more serious consideration.

Software packages and training

Is it OK to send a Shake reel to Digital Domain (the inventors of Nuke), or not know the in-house tools of Double Negative?

Absolutely. Recruiters understand that you are unlikely to know the in-house tools of their facility, but a very good understanding of a similar product is nine times out of ten enough. Relevant problem solving and a capacity to learn is needed. Most companies have in-house training units and programs so dont be afraid to show skills similar but not matching the workflow of a facility.

Remember you may get a phone call immediately so get your list of questions and issues written down on an actual piece of paper before you hit ‘send’ online. Nothing would be worse than to immediately get a call – as someone is exactly looking for someone like you right now – as you are applying – yet you are unprepared to talk when you get the call.

Over at fxphd.com we looked in more depth about applying for specific positions like
– Effects TD
– Layout artist
– Animator
– Compositor
– and others

but while each job can be different there are many aspects that are the same – and the best common denominator is the quality of your show reel.

The Reel

Recuriters are looking for the skill-set more than anything else.

Recuriters do not expect your personal reel to look just as impressive as the reel of a major world class facility – they are looking for potential to grow you into someone that can create shots for a future facility reel. “We want to grow people – that’s one of the things that makes R&H what it is – is our willingness to grow young people; a lot our artists started out as apprentices or young artists and have gone on to be leads and supervisors on major projects,” says Anjelica Casillas, R&H.

IMDB credits, while important, are still secondary to a good show reel. What actually matters most is normally having a prior relationship either with the recruiters or with someone at the facility. It is ideal if the company or someone there that management trusts has worked with you before or knows you. Surprisingly it is possible to be known to recruiters simply by sensibly applying and then re-applying and dropping them a line as you move projects and advance in your career.

Do not forget your name and contact details are important. Make sure that not only is your name clearly and easily readable at the start (and end) of the reel but as Krista Jordan, of Animal Logic points out, “have it visible on every page of your website, don’t make us look for it.” If someone is looking at your website and loves it – but then is interrupted or takes a screen grab to email someone, you really want your name displayed.

Music on the reel is not a major consideration. Have some by all means but most reels are viewed with the audio turned off. Audio is only important in character animation where lip sync can be very important. Of course for some student work, test pieces are done using lifted dialogue from a famous film. It is not uncommon to see someone animate a line from the Godfather or some other well-known film – to just demonstrate lip sync skills. This ‘copyright’ infringement is frankly fine. In the context of student work – without any attempt to imply the material is actually from the film – no vfx house will be upset if you ‘borrow’ some audio. There was only one exception to the rule “music choices dont matter” as Krista Jordan brings up that while that is still primarily true for her, odd musical choices can give her some insight into a person she does not know. A reel cut to a Death Metal track may cast a different shadow on a reel vs. someone using Culture Club.

Are you allowed to put a shot on your reel?

Each company handles this differently but generally speaking any shot that was used in the film , that was actually shown or “finaled” will be allowed to be used, and normally around the time the DVD comes out. You very well may not be allowed to show shots that were cut, or intermediate steps on a major feature film shot. But dont worry, as the recruiters face this with their own staff, they know this all too well. If you cant show the shot breakdown offer to explain it on a phone call, explains Edwina Jamieson, head recruiter for Rising Sun Pictures.

Best work at the front of a short reel is the universal advice. But how short is short? In talking to the collective group of recruiters 2 to 3 minutes is ideal unless you have exceptional work or need a fraction longer to show some breakdowns. Montages are not needed unless you are an editor- and are actively discouraged by many of the people we spoke to.

“Two minutes is sensible, anything over that we are just not going to look at it, (!) number one – we have short attention spans, and secondly when we are hiring, just the volume of reels prevents us from spending much longer than 2 or 3 mins., so I always recommend putting your best work at the start of the reel. Sometimes you only have thirty seconds to make an impression, and I know you might think that 30 seconds is not enough or that you could not start to make up your mind in 30 seconds..” says Casillas, who points out, that at this level the recruiters are so experienced and see so many reels that after just 30 seconds they can normally judge a reel fairly accurately.
A reel sometimes is not a reel but rather a website. Increasingly these days people set-up their reel on a site and just send or submit the URL.

“More and more studios are taking website submission, its easier to get your work reviewed and it is also greener (environmentally friendly),” says Anjelica Casillas. Web site submission can be either the reel via the web or just a link to your reel on a web site. But no matter how you present the reel – keep it short !

Resubmit a reel every six months, especially if you have new work and just flag the submission as being a reel update. This has the added advantage that you can name the source of the update as part of your resubmission, such as “Hi, here is a new updated version of my reel with the latest work I just completed for ILM on Transformers,” for example.

There are university outreach programs run by effects houses but don’t confuse a recruiter at a facility as your career adviser. Most simply do not have the time to provide much if any feedback at all on your show reel. This does not mean that they are not interested in you, it simply could be that right now they are not hiring in this area, however a situation that can change very quickly in this industry.

Most of the large studios are focused on hiring specialists, today with the huge shot count and the tight deadline nature of Hollywood style films, all big facilities have very well developed and specialist pipelines. Though “that being said there is a lot of work for generalists,” adds Casillas, “maybe not at R&H but there is a lot of work for generalists. I tell students all the time, ‘perhaps you’re not quite ready for R&H, but there is plenty of work for generalists in generalist studios – there are hundreds of those all over the country and many in the Los Angeles area alone.” The best thing to do, she goes on to explain, is to have a website with a targeted reel and a second more generalist reel right on the same site.

Case Study : ILM Singapore

ILM Singapore handles the same shots and projects as ILM California

Without a doubt one of the greatest visual effects companies in the world is ILM. For more years than any company could dream of, ILM has been a major force in defining vfx and inventing much of what we now take for granted, and to this day the company stuns and amazes the world with its true cutting-edge filmmaking.

What is of some surprise are the opportunities being offered at ILM Singapore. Unlike many places who are offering primarily short term contracts, ILM Singapore offers a chance at a minimum two year staff position.

ILM Singapore has the air of a start-up, with the street cred of also being the most established and respected player in the business. ILM Singapore is a chance to be both in on the ground floor and work on the most prized blockbuster projects currently in production.

ILM is not Lucas Animation. Lucas Animation is of course connected but they are very separate companies even in Singapore. ILM Singapore is a real companion to the main ILM Presidio office. It is working on the same roster of incredible films including: the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, On Stranger Tides, Red Tails, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II and much more.

Relocation and Visas

ILM Singapore supports Artist education and training

ILM Singapore is actually able to move remarkably quickly to help with Visas. Of course, as with many companies in this situation they have information for spouses such as schools, accommodation, cost of living and general help with moving. This support network is often times invaluable in reducing the stress and confusion typically associated with relocating to a new country for any serious length of time.

Quality of the work

ILM Singapore (VFX) is hiring for a range of positions including
• Animator
• Assistant Technical Director
• Compositor
• Creature Technical Director
• FX Technical Director
• Layout Artist
• Lead Layout Artist
• Lighting Technical Director
• Production Assistant
• Senior Animator

For most of the these positions completion of a formal education course in the Arts or Sciences and around three or more years of experience in the high-end feature film visual effects would be expected.

ILM Singapore applications are done online – Artist Abishek Nair at work at ILM

If you would like to submit your demo reel for consideration please submit your application online to jobs.lucasfilm.com and/or email ILM directly with a link to your reel.




ILM and Lucasfilm generally in Singapore has released news of still further expansion plans. The new building will be in the Fusionopolis of One North and be 8 floors covering roughly 409,000 Sq ft. The new building is aiming to be finsihed by late 2012 or early 2013. The move is required as the various division of Lucasfilm in Singapore consisting of LucasAnimation, LucasArts Games and ILM have out grown there current Singapore offices. Currently there are 400 employees in the group working in Singapore. (Lucasfilm has 1700 employees at its headquarters in San Francisco’s Presidio.

Case Study: MPC

10Oct/jobs/mpcMPC is about to go on the road to recruit throughout Europe. MPC is aiming to hire a host of creative and technical individuals, primarily compositors, to join the leading London VFX company.

With dates in Paris, Munich, Berlin and Turin; MPC’s Recruitment Roadshow will give potential applicants an overview of the day-to-day, inner-working’s of MPC, as well as the opportunity to see how their career can develop.

MPC is currently in production with projects such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides; and X-Men: First Class.

We spoke to MPC and confirmed that the Compositing positions are targeted at Nuke and the company is primarily “looking for mid and higher” level artists.

MPC, will be at the following venues, where they will be conducting ‘meet and greets’ and interviews throughout the day:

Munich – 7th & 8th October @ the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, Munich

Paris – 14th and 15th October@ The Hotel Concorde Montparnasse, Paris

Turin – 26th and 27th October@ View Conference, Turin.

Please contact MPC directly via [email protected] if you would like to attend, specifying the location of choice along with your contact details and the job you wish to apply for. They will then reply with a personal invitation with all the important details.

Note MPCs main focus is on finding talented compositors, but they will also be actively recruiting to fill several other positions at MPC. for more see www.moving-picture.com/jobs