Leo Evershed and Nick Centofanti undertook visual effects training at Rising Sun Pictures in 2021. Leo earned a Graduate Certificate in FX and Lighting, while Nick completed courses in Dynamic Effects & Lighting and Compositing and Tracking while working toward a bachelor’s degree in film & television from University of South Australia (UniSA). Almost immediately after finishing their studies, both young men were offered staff positions at RSP as junior artists/teaching assistants. Now they spend most of their days helping other aspiring VFX artists navigate the rigorous training regimens they themselves went through just a short time ago.
Originally from Tasmania, Leo studied film and television with an emphasis on visual effects at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. He subsequently enrolled in RSP’s program (operated in partnership with UniSA) to gain the experience of training under industry professionals in a working studio environment.
Highly self-motivated, Leo was already familiar with Houdini, Nuke and other visual effects software, but in RSP’s project-based program, his skills bloomed. “Houdini is always challenging but having formal tasks and firm deadlines made the effort worthwhile. You have a finished result at the end of class,” he says. “And the courses adapt to people with different skill levels. If the teachers see you want to go further with the software, they push you harder and you learn faster.”
Leo made a smooth transition from student to artist and then teaching assistant. He was obviously familiar with the routine and knew most of the teachers and assistants. He also had natural empathy for his students. “I knew how it felt to be on their side,” he reflects. “The teachers have been using the software for so long it’s sometimes hard for them to recall how intimidating it can be. I like helping students make those difficult first steps because I very recently took those same steps.”
Nick Centofanti is a native of Adelaide and was just 20-years-old when he did his training at RSP. A movie fanatic from childhood, he chose his career path early and was eager to learn more about the industry. What he enjoyed most about the training program was the opportunity to interact with professional artists who are actively involved in creating visual effects for highly anticipated movies and streaming series. “I loved talking with them and learning their perspectives on things,” he recalls. “They were very generous in sharing insights on how they got started in the industry. It was reassuring to see that everyone starts somewhere.”
After finishing his courses, Nick was fixated on landing a junior artist’s role and so was surprised when RSP offered him a job as a teaching assistant, but he soon realised he’d been handed a lucky break. “It hit me that this was an opportunity to contribute to the course design but from a different perspective,” he says. “It’s the perfect entry level role because it’s one thing to practice skills you’ve been taught, it’s something else entirely to break those tasks down and explain them to others. It’s helped to improve my knowledge and grow as an artist.”
Leo’s experience has been similar. He credits his work as a teaching assistant with improving his problem-solving skills and made him a better collaborator. “Our lecture classes have 17 or 18 students. Each one has a unique problem and it’s my job to help them,” he explains. “By the end of the day, I’ve gone through a dozen iterations of the same overall setup, each one from a different vantage point.”
Observing the way students of varying skills adapt to the program has also given Leo a better appreciation for what it takes to succeed as a student and ultimately as a working professional. “It’s helpful to have a basic familiarity with Houdini before starting the program, at least knowing how to navigate the UI,” he advises. “You can do it without any experience at all, but the philosophy of the class is to throw you into the deep end. It’s quite full on.”
As much as he likes being a teaching assistant, Nick is looking forward to full-time work as a junior artist. His time in the classroom, on both sides of the fence, has given him the confidence to take on bigger challenges. “The production floor can be stressful because you are working on top level films that have firm target and release dates,” he says. “The learning curve is steep but thanks to the course, I’m used to that.”
Looking further down the road, Nick is brimming with optimism and happy with his career choice. He sees unlimited potential for professional development and engaging work. “The visual effects industry has expanded tremendously with the growth of streaming services and other high end content,” he says. “I see a path from junior to mid to senior, and maybe one day to supervisor.”
Leo, too, is also excited about career progression in visual effects, but for the moment he’s looking forward to meeting his next group of students. “My teaching role is very satisfying,” he says, “and next semester, I get to do it again. I get to iterate on all the things I did this past term, which I’m very excited about.”
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