Outlook 2015: Ollin VFX's Charlie Iturriaga - 'LA is no longer the center of VFX industry'
Issue: December 1, 2014

Outlook 2015: Ollin VFX's Charlie Iturriaga - 'LA is no longer the center of VFX industry'

LOS ANGELES — Charlie Iturriaga is a VFX supervisor with Ollin VFX (www.ollinvfx.com), which has locations in Los Angeles, Mexico and Vancouver. The studio has nearly 70 artists working across its three locations and regularly contributes to feature films. Its credits include The Last Airbender, Tron: Legacy, Her and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. They have also been providing VFX services for Netflix’s House of Cards since the show debuted three seasons ago.

In addition, Iturriaga serves as an alternate on the Visual Effects Society’s board of directors (www.visualeffectssociety.com). As such, he’s been closely observing trends in the VFX industry for a number of years. One significant trend that he feels has been shaping the industry is outsourcing. “It is continuing to evolve,” says Iturriaga. “Development and production of visual effect is done outside the US. That’s something that was a trend five years ago and now is a fact. I think it’s something that will get consolidated in 2015.”

He also points to studios that are formally opening studios outside the United States. “ILM is opening offices in London and Vancouver for the first time, officially. The same is happening with several other companies that used to be based in California or [elsewhere in] the United States. They are opening in other countries to get benefits for the client or for themselves.”

The past year, says Iturriaga, marked the realization that Los Angeles is no longer the center of the visual effect industry. “It’s spread across the world,” he says of the industry. “That’s a big change for us. In the last year, the VES has acknowledged that Los Angeles is not the center any more — it’s another chapter of the world of visual effects. Directors and visual effects supervisors, most of them are now living in other cities. It is real. In the last two years, most big shops that were based in Los Angeles have closed or reduced. It’s something that is natural, as the world is getting smaller and smaller through technology.”

Many pros, says Iturriaga, have moved their entire families to Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, London, and Australia. “It’s affecting the demographics,” he notes. “It’s a complicated situation. The VES is trying to provide as many tools as possible to let the professionals who go through this process or transition [experience] the least pain possible.”

There is some good news, including the fact that visual effects are in demand more so than ever before. “Almost every single movie has 50 or 100 visual effects,” he notes. “It’s not a small tool for filmmakers anymore, it’s a necessity, just as music and editing and cinematography is. It’s something that the creators need to use.”

He also cites Hollywood as the driving force behind quality and innovation. “Hollywood is driving content quality — to create what nobody else has created. Even though there are creatives and professional across the world, Hollywood is the driving force for the quality of the content and that’s the reason to be here in Los Angeles. Maybe everything is going to be shot somewhere else, or post produced somewhere else, but the driving force still is in Hollywood.”