Careers: Roto artist Chris La
Issue: May/June 2019

Careers: Roto artist Chris La

ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA — Adelaide native Chris La grew up enamored with movie magic. In 2016, he took a step toward turning his infatuation into a career by enrolling in Rising Sun Pictures’ ( Graduate Certificate Program in Compositing and Tracking. Conducted on the premises of the visual effects studio, the program required long hours and plenty of hard work, but, for La, the investment paid off, as he is now employed as a roto and clean-up artist at Method Studios in Melbourne. There, he’s had the opportunity to work on a string of hit films, including Aquaman.

Photo: Chris La is pictured in first row, third from the left

La recently spoke about his educational experience and the success he’s enjoyed in his promising young career.

Where did your interest in visual effects come from?

“Mostly from watching movies as a kid. I was particularly interested in the title sequences — hen the big words would fly up on the screen. I’d try to recreate them at home on my own. It was just tinkering.”

Did you begin formally studying visual effects immediately after high school?

“No, I first went to university for something unrelated, but I didn’t like it. I took a break and then decided to follow my passion. I enrolled in a two-year program in CGI and Visual Effects at TAFE SA.”

And that led you to RSP?

“RSP is famous in Adelaide and has excellent relationships with the local tertiary colleges and universities. During the second semester of second-year, students at TAFE were invited to visit RSP and present their show reels. As a first-year student, I was invited to tag along. It was my first exposure to a professional visual effects studio and I was very impressed. So, when I finished my two-year course, I enrolled in RSP’s Graduate Certificate program.”

What was it about RSP that impressed you?

“It’s an actual studio with professional artists working 15 meters away from you. The student experience conforms to a professional routine. At RSP, you are there Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. You are immersed in a true studio experience and you work full-time hours. You work as a team. The instructors give you instant feedback on what’s working and what’s not. It’s a better way to learn.”

What else made the program valuable to you?

“I loved the Day-in-the-Life-Of presentations, where artists from different departments would come in and talk to us about their jobs. Very enlightening. I hadn’t heard of some of their roles.”

So it was more than just learning software?

“Yes, exactly. I was familiar with the compositing software from TAFE, but at RSP, I learned how to put it into practice, how it functioned in the pipeline. It was a more well-rounded experience. And, after completing my Graduate Certificate, I was fortunate to gain employment with RSP on a short contract and worked on X-Men: Apocalypse. I got to use my skills and contribute to a Hollywood movie! That was amazing!”

How quickly were you able to find a job after you finished the program?

“Besides my short stint with RSP, it took a little while, but a former classmate of mine who was working at Method put in a good word for me, and they gave me a chance.”

You’re working on films there?

“We do films and TV. I’m a roto and clean-up artist. My work involves making shapes around people and objects to assist in the compositing process. I also remove objects, set and crew. It is always different and sometimes challenging, but satisfying when done right.”

How would you like to see your career progress from here?

“I’d like to work internationally…maybe Canada. This is a good career if you want to combine work with travel.”

What advice do you have for young people considering a career in visual effects?

“Get to know the people around you. Make friends and connections. You never know who might help you land a job. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t assume you know everything. You need to always keep on learning.”

And what would you tell an aspiring artist about an RSP education?

“It provides an excellent introduction to studio life. It’s a great place to learn skills, to make connections and to find out if this is the life for you.”