9 July 2014

Alice Tuxford, Recruiter

This week we have one of Dneg’s Senior Recruiters, Alice Tuxford, in the hot seat. Alice joined the team in 2010 and has responsibility for internationally sourcing, selecting and recruiting the most talented professionals and graduates to join the Double Negative teams London, Singapore and Vancouver.

Her main focus hiring for our 2D team; recruiting roto, prep and compositors as well as all entry level artists. What do we look for in prospective Dneggers? What makes for a killer reel? What if you need a visa? Read on!

How did you get into the business?

Completely by chance, I wanted to move to London after finishing university and stumbled across an ad for a recruitment administrator in a VFX company – went for the interview, started 3 days later and I’ve never looked back!

Is there any advice you would give to someone coming into the business?

Coming from someone with literally no knowledge of the VFX world before starting here, I would suggest doing some background reading and trying to learn some of the lingo, so much of my day is spent talking to people with such specialist skills it would have really helped me knowing some of this before starting…! It was a bit like learning a foreign language but I know SO much more than when I started, luckily everyone here is lovely and have helped me get a better understanding of the industry.

The worst and best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is, without a doubt, the people that I work with. As a recruiter I could have landed in any type of company so I couldn’t be happier that I found Dneg. It’s great to work with people that are so passionate about what they do, and to work at a company that is a world leader in its field. I get to travel quite a bit to recruit the best VFX talent from around the world, which is a pretty good perk of the job! There aren’t many bad things I can say about my job, I guess the hardest part is meeting lots of talented grads but only having vacancies to hire a few of them.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

From Oliver Hollingdale: Hi Alice its Oli! I hope your well! I know the process on recruiting takes a longtime, is there anything we can do to improve our chances of being seen by Dneg? hope your well and hope to see you soon x

Hi Oli! Good to hear from you again. The recruitment process can take quite a while, I guess it seems like we’re just sitting on your application but that’s not the case. Each application goes through our rigorous reviewing process where it gets looked at by some of our senior artists in each role, then by the head of that department. If you have the skills we are looking for we will get back to you, sometimes we just have to wait for the right role to come up.

From Arthur Jing: Hi Alice, I’m a student from Australia currently doing MA 3D Animation at Bournemouth University. I’m interested in applying for junior modeller roles. Is that something that Dneg would be interested to hire or does everyone need to start from a runner/roto artist? Also what would be the visa situation? Do I need to have a working visa already before Dneg can hire me?

Hi Arthur, we would certainly be interested in seeing your application once you have graduated. On the whole, we tend to hire graduates into entry level roles (matchmove is the entry level role for 3D and roto is the entry level role for comp), but that’s not a hard and fast rule. I would suggest writing on your cover letter that you want to be a modeller but that you’re happy to start in matchmove. However, if you do need a visa to work here that does change the situation; we’re tied to the rules made by the UKBA so we struggle to hire entry level artists if they need visas. Look into a post study work visa to see if you are eligible for it, if not you’ll need to get a few years of experience in Australia then apply here again.

From Derek Ho: I am a 3rd year animation student from Ravensbourne. I want to work in the vfx/film industry as a runner and work my way towards junior animator. I’m still learning rigging and recently camera tracking using matchmover. Is this a viable way to get into the vfx industry as a runner? Thank you for your time.

Hi Derek, yes you are definitely on the right track to be applying for running roles here. However, if you want to be an animator I would focus solely on making your animation as good as it can be, and by that I mean make it look as realistic as possible. It’s important that you show us that you understand the main principles of animation – weight, timing and balance – and show us some variation in your animations. As you’re still studying we don’t expect them to be the best animations ever, just that you understand the principles and show promise. Good luck!

From Zhou Shou: Hi Alice, I’m a fresh graduate from National University of Singapore, I love VFX but I’m purely self-taught. My long term goal is to become a matte painter/concept artist, could you please give some advice on how people without arts academic background should enter this industry? I think it’s mostly a matter of showreel and portfolio, just wondering if there is anything people like us should pay attention to? thanks

Hi Zhou, you’re right, it is all to do with your portfolio. We don’t really mind what your academic background is, we just look at the potential you show in your reel/portfolio. One thing I would consider is that the teams we have for Matte Painting and Concept are relatively small, and the artists are some of the best in the world so it can be tricky to get a job straight away in this area, especially if you have no professional experience. In order to get a foot in the door at Dneg it might be worth getting some roto or matchmove on your reel so you can start in either of these areas, and then train in matte painting in the hope of moving into that department. Hope that helps, best of luck!

From James Docherty: Hi Alice, I graduated a year ago from Swansea Metropolitan University’s 3D Computer Animation degree, and have just finished a work experience placement with an Architectural Visualisation company. I’ve been working on my portfolio since my second year, but I’m indecisive about what path I want to take into VFX. Do you suggest it’s better to have a generalist background or specialist background when applying to Double Negative, and what kind of relevant work should I be showing?

Hey James, good question, it’s one that lots of recent grads ask but unfortunately I don’t have one straight answer for you! Most big VFX companies like specialists, and the smaller VFX houses or commercial houses like generalists. Having said that, at Dneg we like generalists and specialists so you don’t have to worry! The best way to apply if you are not sure what you want to do is to apply as a runner.

Our runners get training here in matchmove or roto, so you could try your hand at both and see what you like. Runners still need to apply with reels so make sure you show us work that is relevant to what we do, like action, CG integration looking photoreal – if we can’t see what’s real and what’s CG then you’re doing something right. Best of luck with your application.

From Stuart Wells: What is the best way for someone who does not live in London to network with the VFX community? Not sure I’m allowed to ask two questions but was also wondering as I enjoy doing lighting, would you rather see stills with a CG object added or footage?

Hi Stuart, I would try LinkedIn, emailing, applying and repeat! We attend lots of events around the country so keep an eye out on our social media sites to see if we are coming near you. You could also attend one of the VFX conferences that happen a few times a year – FMX and Siggraph are the biggest ones, that way you can meet all the recruiters from the different companies at once and get a cheeky holiday at the same time! As for your other question, we like to see a variety in reels so why not put both in the reel. Only put the work you’re happy with in the reel though. If you’re not happy with the footage you’ve lit you can just send in stills, but, as we work with moving image I would recommend getting at least one moving shot in there. Hope that helps!

From Lowri Wyn Williams: Hi Alice, I’m about to graduate from Swansea Metropolitian University with a BA (Hons) in 3D Computer Animation. I love character and creature modelling (I’m on ZBrush or Mudbox creating concepts in my spare time), but I’m also interested in Concept Modelling/being a Character Artist (modelling characters and creatures for concepts). I’m just wondering, would a role of a Character Artist be more suited for the Games Industry or VFX/Film? Thanks Alice!

Hi Lowri, these skills can be transferred into games or VFX, so I would apply to both. The only thing to consider is that games are likely to have more creature work in them than films because big creature films aren’t always being made. We’re often hiring people that have worked in games so, if you do get a role in games, it doesn’t mean you can’t then move into VFX. Just make sure that the work you send to us looks as photoreal as possible. Good luck with the graduation!

From Raghu Ram: Hi Alice, I am from India. Editing is something that made me learn Visual Effects; Compositing and Matchmoving in particular and now that I have basic knowledge in these areas along with Editing, can I start my career as a Visual Effects Editor?

Hi Raghu, yes you certainly can. It’s great that you have some background knowledge of compositing and matchmove, although this is not necessary to apply as a VFX editor it is good to know as much as you can about the industry. I’m not sure how much professional experience you have, if it’s not much you could start as an assistant editor and then move up in the department. Good luck!

From Sarah Invernizzi: I’m currently doing MSc Computer Animation and Visual Effects also at Bournemouth Uni, what is the best way to get into working as a Look Dev/Lighting TD?

Hi Sarah. It depends if ome into the company at an entry level route, the way to go would be to start in matchmove and then work your way up to a Lighting TD. Alternatively you could wait a few years, build up your experience in smaller facilities and then apply as a Lighting TD. It all depends on how quickly you want to start at Dneg! Make sure that you apply to us with work that looks as photoreal as possible; trying your hand at photography will help your understanding of how light works in reality and therefore help improve your work. Good luck!

From Aydin Taskin: Are ppl who graduated with 2:2’s even considered (I know showreel plays a big role, but independent of that factor)? Or is it not worth even bothering to apply for Dneg in future, on that basis (with that grade)…?

Hi Aydin, I’m glad you asked that question, I don’t think you’re the only grad out there thinking the same thing. As you said, showreels play a big part in getting you an interview here, we don’t look through CVs and reject people solely on their degree level. All grads, whatever their grade, should be doing as much VFX work as possible; as well as reel quality, what really stands out is a grad with lots of personal work on their reel from outside their university course. It shows us that they must be really keen on VFX (as they spend all their time doing it) and that they’re proactive and keen to learn. This is exactly the type of person we look for. I hope that answers your question, hopefully I’ll see your application soon!

From Noel Mahoney: Hi Alice, I’ve applied to Dneg a few times but unsuccessful each time… My portfolio focuses on game environment art and I presume that’s the main reason why I keep failing (trying to make the switch to film!). I read on your website that you do look for people from the Games Industry and really trying to make that leap! Ever since graduating from University two years ago I’ve has my dream set on VFX especially Dneg. What can you recommend to someone applying with experience in games wanting to move into Film and VFX? I should say I’m interested in modelling/creature/character work in the long term though happy to get a runner role and learn the company (applied for that as well)! Should I perhaps start building a portfolio of that kind of work? Maybe you could recommend the best way to get a foot in the door from this perspective? Sorry if I’ve been the persistent one always popping up when applying. When I came for a tour last year the girl who showed me around said never give up! Thanks very much Alice. Noel.

Hi Noel, you’ve kind of answered your own question! Start building a portfolio of the type of work we do, showing us that you can work in games as well as VFX. Modelling is a skill that can be transferred from games to VFX, games can look quite stylized so make sure the work your sending in looks as realistic as possible. As you said, applying for a modelling role but stating that you’re happy to start as a runner is the best way to apply. Don’t be put off that you haven’t got anywhere yet, it’s always down to timing so make sure you keep us updated with your latest work and never give up! Good luck!

From Emma Kurran: Hi, I graduated last year, and want to break in to the industry and work as a runner, modeller and FX TD, focusing on ncloth. I also have Aspergers syndrome, and am interested in how someone with poor social communication skills starts out in an industry that seems so focused on networking? Are there any alternatives? Thank you, Emma Kurran.

Hi Emma! Runners undertake a wide variety of roles for us, so, for any Dnegger with a disability it’s simply a case of tailoring the work to what suits their abilities best. Aspergers Syndrome is certainly not something that should ever get in the way of you getting into the industry!

It’s true networking is useful but what we look for are people who are passionate about VFX and are keen to learn. The best way to show us this is to put lots of effort into your reel and come prepared to interviews. You can be the best networker in the world but without a great reel you’re unlikely to get through the door. I hope that helps and good luck with your application!

P.s. If your aim is to become an FX artist try and get your hands on Houdini or some of the Maya sims as this will give you a head start. There is a real shortage of FX artists in the UK so its definitely a good route to go down.

From Chen ZG: Hi, I done most of my work using after effects. Does it help? Or do i need to learn nuke, Maya and etc? I have done a few compositing jobs in corporate and commercial videos. My question is are breakdowns important? You have an office in London and Singapore, what are the work they do? In Singapore are you doing roto and matchmoving only?

Hi Chen ZG, if you’re applying for junior roles we tend to look for people that show they have potential and raw talent so it doesn’t matter which software you have used. However, I would always recommend learning it as it will only help your application and help you when you do get an artist role, it means you wont have to learn it when you start, you can just get down to the fun stuff of tackling the shots! Yes, breakdowns are very important so use them when you can, we don’t need to see everyone pass just the main ones that show the progression of the shot. Our Singapore office do have big roto and matchmove teams but they have their own pipeline out there, they work on some of the same projects as us and their own exciting projects as well. If you’re interested in applying for jobs in Singapore send your application to jobs@dneg.com.

From Marta Ilieva: Hi Alice, do you reply to all applications or just to the successful ones? and how long does it usually take to process an application?

Hi Marta, yes we always make a point of replying to all applications. It can, however, take several weeks for us to get back to people if our Dneg artists that review applications as busy on shows.  We’re alway happy for applicants to email us at jobs@dneg.com to check on the status of their application!

From Alessandro Vastalengna: How many entry level positions (keen on 3D) did you have in the last 12 months?

Hi Alessandro, I’m not sure on the exact numbers as we tend to recruit internally from our running team and hire runners to replace them. If you haven’t seen us advertise for matchmove roles recently that will be why. It’s tricky for us to predict how many entry level roles we will be recruiting for in the coming year as it’s all show dependant. Starting as a runner is the best way to get yourself an entry level artist role. Hope that helps.

From Rachel Williams: Hi Alice, I’m a 3rd year from Glamorgan University graduating next month. Most of my university career has taken a focus towards VFX. I was already interested in working for you, but I became especially inspired by a great talk a couple of your guys gave us 18 months ago about some of the work you did on John Carter. My interests now lie in rigging, but I spent a fair portion of my degree working on animation before I began to realise that the more ‘techie’ side of things was more fun. I have been keeping an eye on your jobs page for the past year or two and have never spotted any specific rigging roles pop up. The closest I have ever seen is a generalist TD. I assume you must have a specific rigging division in Dneg? Whats the best path within the company for me to aim for to gain the experience to join the team there? (Sorry for the wall of text) Thanks so much in advance, Rachel.

Hi Rachel, you’re right, rigging is a separate team within Dneg. The riggers we tend to hire are quite experienced so I would suggest applying for a junior technical role such as an ATD and then work your way up. Stating on your cover letter that you are happy to start as a runner or tech runner may help you get a foot in the door. Good luck!

From Scott Gudahl: Hello Alice, I am going on my third year in the industry as a compositor and have always wanted to join the Dneg team. I currently live in California and was wondering if you could describe the visa layout for overseas employees. Second question is how important are breakdowns on your demo reel? Because quite a few of the films I have worked on will not release anything due to disclosure agreements. Will a breakdown on paper suffice?

Hi Scott, the UKBA website should be able to answer any questions you have on the visa process. We work very closely with a legal team to help make sure the process runs as smoothly as possible, they are there to advise all our new starters requiring visas.

As to breakdowns, they are important in reels, but not essential. We understand that it’s not always possible to get your hands on breakdowns so don’t worry if you can’t. Outlining the work you did on a paper breakdown would be fine. Hope that helps!

From Andrea Hernandez Garcia: Hi Alice, With the opening of the TV division, I was wondering what are the requirements for recruitment? Are they different for the film division? What would be the basic requirement for the visa? Thanks.

Hi Andrea, just like the film team, the TV team are looking for passionate, talented artists to join them. Depending on what their current requirements are they may need artists that have experience in VFX for TV but that won’t always be the case. Both Film and TV are looking for showreels that show live action, photoreal work.

I can’t really give you the basic requirements for visas as it is very dependant on the individual, the type of visa we would apply for and the needs of the company at the time but the artist would need to have 3-4 years of experience in the industry in order for us to sponsor their visa. More information can be found on the UKBA website. Thanks!

From Robert Smith: More a procedural question – why does Dneg require hard copies of CVs and reels? I’ve never come across that before. I figure there’s a good reason, something to do with UK law?

Hi Robert, no nothing to do with UK law (good guess though!). We like to have hard copy applications so we can keep everyone’s applications on file and access them easily when we start recruiting for that particular role.

(EDITOR:  We fixed that for you Robert, check out our brand new Recruitment site – no more hard copies!)

From Ashtro De Guzzy: Hi Alice, I will be graduating from the Visual Effects/Motion Graphics program at The Art Institute of Phoenix at the end of this year. I am originally from Toronto, Canada but currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona. Would it be ideal to build my experience locally and then try and apply for jobs overseas or should I just try to apply for anything that pops up? I would also like to ask; is better to specialise in a certain area or aim to become a generalist when coming out of school?

Hi Ashtro, I’m guessing you would need a visa to work in the UK? If so, I would definitely suggest building up your experience and then applying (there’s reasons why in the answers above!). To generalise or specialize is something we’re always asked and it is really up to you; it tends to be that the bigger VFX companies like specialists and the smaller ones like generalists so it would be down to you to decide which type of company you want to work for and which type of role you want to do. Luckily at Dneg we are a bit different and like specialists and generalists so you could do either! Good luck!

From Luke Howell: Hey Alice, I as a 2nd years animation student so I am starting to look at employment for when I graduate (hopefully with you guys!), however an issue that keeps popping up is knowledge of a certain program. I was wondering if someone had a really good showreel but didn’t use the software that the company used (I think you use Maya) would that mean they aren’t considered for employment at all? Thank you

Hi Luke, if you have an awesome showreel but don’t know the software then that wouldn’t matter, we look for the artistic or technical potential in grad reels, we have a great internal training programme (and excellent trainers!) that can teach you the software. As an addendum though, I would try and learn as much relevant software as you can simply because it will give you a head start when you join your first company. Thanks!

From Jonas Almeida: Alice, as a foreigner who is only allowed to work 20h/week, how can I apply to a big Studio like Dneg? In addition to that, after my MA is finished, my VISA expires and I must go back to my country. So how can I get some field experience if I can’t practice what I have learned and have some feature film shots on my reel?

Hi Jonas, I would suggest applying to some of the smaller studios who may take on artists part time, you could look at doing some volunteer work in order to build up your CV. It doesn’t necessarily matter that you wont be getting feature film experience on your reel, we often hire artists that have only ever worked in commercials or TV. Just try and get as much VFX work as possible on your reel so you have a better chance of landing a role at Dneg. Good luck!

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See you very soon!