NEW YORK CITY — Foundry (foundry.com) and AccessVFX (accessvfx.org) recently teamed up with the School of Visual Arts (SVA) to present a networking event designed to provide students with advice on how to break into the visual effects industry. Zoic Studios' (zoicstudios.com) Tehmina Beg was a featured speaker and spent 30 minutes detailing her indirect route to the world of VFX, taking questions and providing career advice.
Beg is currently an on-set VFX supervisor/CG supervisor for Zoic in New York City. She recounted her past as a creative child, if not terribly technical, and how she went to school for computer science and programming, ultimately securing a job at a software security company and later a web design agency. The position, however, didn't satisfy her creative desires, so she decided to go back to school and was accepted into NYU, where she continued her studies and took advantage of her teachers' connections with the local VFX business here in New York.
She attended an alumni event and met a creative director at Psyop, whom she was able to show some of her homework and receive feedback - because she didn't have a reel at that point. She later secured an internship at Mass Market, where she met a steady stream of freelancers coming in and out. Her connections led to a perma-lance job at The Mill, and afterwards she freelanced - by her count - at 20 different studios over the following years.
"Freelancing can be tough because you don't have a focus," she explains. "However, jumping between studios gives you flexibility and makes you agile." Her different experiences allowed her to work with different pipelines, with different people, on varying projects and timelines.
In 2014, after a stretch of freelancing, she got a job at a post studio that wanted to do their own in-house VFX work. Her teacher was the VFX supervisor there, and he brought her on as an artist and on-set assistant. Ultimately, her goal was to work on-set, and her current role at Zoic has allowed her to do just that, first as an assistant, and more recently as a supervisor. To date, she has supervised 10 shows and credits the studio's work on The Defenders as a career highlight, as she served as on-set supervisor from start to finish.
After detailing her career path, Beg offered a number of observations that young artists should keep in mind when starting out:
- Get to know people. Attend networking events. You never know who you're going to meet.
- Be technical, even if you want to work on the creative side. Technical skills will give you many advantages, and there is a lot of room for technical people in the VFX industry.
- Be a self starter. Don't wait for work to come to you. If you finish one task, ask if you can help elsewhere.
- Have good communication skills. This can mean asking for clarity if you don't understand something, or making sure you've been thorough when passing on information to your producers and artists.
- Be patient. People struggle with feedback they don't like. Don't be upset by it. Try not to get frustrated when working on a team.
- Be easy to work with. Be a person that other people want to work with.
- Learn Python and how it relates to Nuke.
- Understand the difference between 'working' and 'workflow'. Understand the concept of efficiencies, and know when you have time to develop workflows and when a job needs to get done quickly.
- Teach yourself. There are lots of Website and social media platforms that share knowledge.
Beg also shared some advice she received while in school and just starting out in a new field. One tip is to go to school in the city you want to work in. Those schools tend to have contacts with the local visual effects studios and can aid in placement and internships. Another tip is to ask yourself where you want to be in five years? Then, don't be intimidated by the struggle you might face during that time period, just put your head down and power through it, knowing that it's working toward a larger goal.
When asked by a student if she had any regrets of her own, Beg pointed to her time as a programmer. She feels she might have spent too much time in that role, but ultimately, it made her a better artist.