ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA — VFX studio Rising Sun Pictures (rsp.au), which operates a training program for visual effects artists in partnership with the University of South Australia (UniSA), is reporting a 100 percent employment rate of its most recent graduating class. Six students, who earned undergraduate or Graduate Certificate degrees this past May, were also hired by Rising Sun Pictures as junior artists to work on an Australian film production.
RSP has a solid slate of work scheduled for the next year and with a number of high-profile film and streaming projects in the pipeline, RSP managing director Tony Clark wishes there were more graduates to hire.
“As the world emerges from COVID, a large amount of production work has flowed into the system,” Clark says. “The resulting talent shortfall globally is good news for young people coming through training programs like ours, as they are entering an industry with full employment. And it isn’t simply a post-COVID phenomenon; we expect opportunities to remain strong for years to come.”
RSP partnered with UniSA in 2015 to meet its own need for skilled junior artists. The program’s courses are taught by working professionals, and classrooms are set up to simulate a real-world production environment. Students gain both the technical knowledge and the hands-on experience needed to move directly into professional roles.
Over time, the program has grown and diversified. Working closely with UniSA, the studio has developed a varied curriculum of Undergraduate and Graduate Certificate courses across many aspects of visual effects production. The studio has also adapted its program to benefit both university students preparing for their first jobs, and established professionals seeking to add to their skillsets or make career changes.
Clark points out that with several visual effects studios having recently launched or expanded operations in South Australia, it’s important to develop a capable local workforce. Although the course accepts students from across Australia and internationally, a large portion are native to Adelaide and other nearby locations.
“RSP is committed to South Australia as a place to build our business,” says Clark. “It’s fantastic to be involved in training new talent and creating employment opportunities in the state.”
Graduates hired by RSP have ended up working on blockbuster titles, such as Black Widow, Ford v. Ferrari and Captain Marvel. The six recent graduates, who were hired by RSP, are all working as junior artists in the studio’s 2D department. The work is fast-paced and requires high-level creativity and problem-solving skills.
“Our juniors tackle a wide range of tasks, including rotoscope, paint and prep,” explains Jess Burnheim, the studio’s head of 2D. “They are involved in rig and set removal and cosmetic fixes. We expose our young talent to a lot and expect a lot from them. We want them to have a wide range of experiences.”
Training doesn’t stop once students step into professional roles. RSP provides junior staff with opportunities to learn new skills so they can tackle more complex tasks and move up the ranks. Burnheim says the studio’s future depends on developing from within.
“It’s very important to nurture our eager, young juniors so that in a few years’ time, they become senior artists,” he notes. “It’s much better to cultivate our own people than to search the world for talent that is very hard and costly to find.”
According to Clark, prospects for the visual effects industry are likely to remain good for the foreseeable future.
“The industry has altered considerably in the 26 years that RSP has been producing visual effects,” he says. “Tools and workflows have evolved considerably, but the need for bright, talented, ambitious people hasn’t changed. The demand for creativity will always be there.”