A week after earning her Digital Media degree at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in 2009, Evan Paras had a job offer at leading computer graphics and visual effects agency, Brickyard VFX, where she currently works as a junior flame artist.
The job offer followed the completion of a six-month internship at the agency where Paras learned that a positive attitude and strong work ethic pay off. Today her job entails preparing visual art and effects for lead visual effects artists for major clients, agencies and film studios including commercials, music videos, films and digital projects like Facebook apps.
In addition to the rewarding feeling of seeing her hard work come to life in film, Paras says she also enjoys perks like catered lunches, trips to the company’s Boston headquarters and music/film/interactive festival SXSW, and the family-like culture at Brickyard VFX.
“My co-workers are more like my family, and everyone here is so talented and experienced, and have been so great at fostering my own creative growth,” says Paras who also mentioned how FIDM’s fast-paced program prepared her for the demands of the post-production industry.
“All of my teachers [at FIDM] were amazing and interested in making sure we actually understood the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of what we were doing,” says Paras. “The fast-paced school schedule was really the best segue into the post-production industry.”
FIDMDigitalArts.com caught up with Paras, (a graduate of Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, CA) who gave us insight into her personal victories as a visual effects professional, and advice for what it takes to succeed in this exciting industry. Read our Q&A with Paras below, and take a look at some of Brickyard VFX’s amazing work in the video here:
Brickyard VFX Demo Reel
Q&A with Jr. Flame Artist Evan Paras
(FIDMDigitalArts.com) Tell us about your professional experience since graduating.
(Paras) “I started interning at Brickyard VFX about six months before graduation, and I had a job offer a week after I finished at FIDM. I originally was interested in the CG (computer graphics) department, and when Brickyard wanted to expand their facility, I actually used Maya to simulate a floor plan. It was such a trip to use Maya in a practical capacity, creating a 3D model of our new building from the figures and designs of others and then see it come to life in the following months. Despite that brief fling with 3D, an opportunity came up in the 2D compositing department two years ago, and I jumped on it and have been loving it ever since.”
What type of projects do you work on? “I’m a junior flame artist, which is mostly prep work for the lead artists: creating mattes, rig removals, dust cleanup, monitor comps, and beauty work. Occasionally I get shots to fully composite myself. Commercials are our bread and butter, but we work on music videos, films, and have just recently completed our first Facebook app collaboration for Mitsubishi.”
Comcast “Slowskys” Commercial
(For a full list of credits for the commercial above, visit Brickyard VFX’s site here.)
Do you have any projects that you have worked on, or are currently working on, that you are particularly excited about? “I’m always excited for the Carl’s Jr. spots we put out– they’re so fun and sexy. And I’m always stoked when we’re working on the new Comcast Slowskys campaign– love those turtles. I’m excited for [most all] of the things I work on, but I’m definitely proud of Ruby Sparks, the new film from (directors) Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Ferris (Little Miss Sunshine). A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into that. Seeing the end result reminded me of that adage that ‘the best VFX work is when your audience can’t tell that there is any.’ Plus, it’s the first major motion picture where I see my name in the credits!”
[Read more about Brickyard VFX’s visual effects work for Ruby Sparks in an interview with Animation World Network at this link.]
What do you think it takes to succeed in this industry?
“So many things. Tenacity. Resourcefulness. Personality. Using any opportunity to learn more. This industry is always evolving, platforms changing, software updating, delivery specs progressing towards digital– if you’re the type who believes that getting a foot in the door was the hard part, expecting to coast afterward, you’re going to drown. There’s not a lot of hand holding going on here, so I think one of the best tools you can have is the ability to hit the ground running and thrive on chaos. That and a sense of humor – no one likes a cranky-pants.”
“My co-workers are more like my family, and everyone here is so talented and experienced, and have been so great at fostering my own creative growth. We have catered lunches and yearly trips with our Boston office. [In] 2012 we all went to the SXSW festival. There’s no corporate mentality here, so we all dress how we want, say what we want, joke around, have a beer at the end of the day. We’re artist owned and operated, so the general work ethos is ‘be cool, fool.’ In other words, act right and you won’t be micro-managed. It’s the dream.”
How did your education at FIDM help you in your current career?
“At first, FIDM felt like so much material crammed into so little time, but the fast-paced school schedule was really the best segue into the post-production industry. All of my teachers were amazing and interested in making sure we actually understood the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of what we were doing, and not just memorizing and regurgitating their lesson plans.”
“Two things: First, take criticism/critiques seriously. I still remember design advice from [FIDM Instructor] Ryan Nellis and apply those suggestions today (‘fluid movement is my friend, static assets are the enemy’). I used to hate it when other people made suggestions, and ignored a lot of them because I thought I knew best. But my work suffered for it in the end. The work you do at FIDM is practice for the work you’ll do for a post-house where that final product isn’t for you– it’s for the client. I think you get so wrapped up in your projects and your own head [as] the artist, that asking someone else to take a look at it is really important to keep you steered in the right direction. Sometimes you need fresh eyes to catch things.
Secondly, attitude. Internships are so important, but when you’re an intern, expect to do the crap work first. Once you’ve demonstrated you can do the menial, lowly intern tasks with a great attitude then you’ll find people asking you to start doing cooler things. I had to pick up lunches, take out the trash, etc., for almost three months before I was asked to comp a background in Photoshop for the artist for a T-Mobile commercial. After that, I made some mattes in After Effects for an artist, and by the time I graduated FIDM, I had two national commercial credits under my belt. It saddens me to see interns come in with an entitled attitude because it turns the artists off, and then they don’t feel motivated to take time out of their busy schedule to show things. Talent is great, but the right attitude will not only help you get the job, it will encourage the others to take you into their fold and teach you things, and that will take you so much further in your career than a nice reel with a bad attitude will.”
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