Vfxexpress- can you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about how you started in visual effects?
Bejoy Arputharaj- Hello everyone, I’m Bejoy Arputharaj and I’m the Founder and Senior VFX Supervisor here at PhantomFX.
My passion for Visual effects began after watching Steven Spielberg’s movies and the magic he brought into the screens. Right from my 10th Grade onwards, I was keen on pursuing Visual Effects.
I grew up in a very rural part of India, down in the south of Tamilnadu. The Internet connection during those times used a dial-up network and was too costly for anyone to afford. And with the small pocket money I had, I used to visit browsing centers in my area and learn VFX by visiting forums and studying from help documents that come with the software. Indeed, I was a self-taught artist.
I started my career as an amateur director doing small animation jobs for Local TV channels and carrying out everything from CGI to final editing and voice mixing. It was really a great experience that kept motivating me towards moving onto the Big screen. Then, in —-(year) I finally moved to Chennai City, hoping to work for the movies. After a year-long struggle, I got a chance to work for a studio after which I got more opportunities to work for bigger studios in the industry. I’ve been an artist and supervisor for nearly 8 years until I got the chance to start my own venture. Having more than 18 years of experience today, I am proficient enough to accomplish bigger dreams in the industry.
Vfxexpress- how was your beginning? Describe the challenges you faced?
Bejoy Arputharaj-Opening a small VFX studio on your own has its own struggles and challenges. Delay in payments, artist scarcity, availability of projects, working overtime to meet the deadline – are all part and parcel of every project.
During my initial stages, I had to wear so many hats. I need to approach / Meet clients and do the pitching while back in the studio. I have to act as a Supervisor / Artist / Studio manager & Producer.
There were times when I worked straight-away even for two to three days without sleep. But I should definitely say those times were the ones that made me so strong and confident to crawl the ladders of success and shaped me into the person who I am now.
Vfxexpress- what made you start up a VFX house? What was your motivation?
Bejoy Arputharaj-I always wanted to do creative work in a quality that makes people Wow. but back then Indian cinema was working on tight budgets so a VFX-centric show was very rare. Being passionate about creating magic in the movies, I wanted to move out of the country and work for Hollywood / International cinemas where I get to produce quality content.
When I got shortlisted to work with a very big studio, with pending Visa formalities, I readily grabbed the opportunity and left my then job in a belief that I will be moving outside the country. But unfortunately, the company couldn’t manage to get me a VISA within the deadline they had and decided to go in a different direction. I was very much disappointed when all doors were closed. But life always surprises with unexpected opportunities.
A call from a producer at midnight started a new turn of events in my life. He woke me up and asked If I could do VFX for his upcoming movie. I readily accepted it and clung to that opportunity. I completed that project successfully with the help of my friends. That moment was when I got the idea of starting a studio on my own and fulfilling my passion to work on quality content.
Vfxexpress- Tell me about your company?
Bejoy Arputharaj-PhantomFX was founded in 2010 and registered formally in 2011 with a small team of 4 artists. In a short span of years, it expanded into a crew of 220 artists and now counting to grow bigger. We are established as a full-fledged creative studio, providing all sorts of VFX Services from Creature animations and concept arts to CGI Environments and FX. We are now capable of handling multiple shows in parallel without compromising in quality. However, turnaround results are much quicker than before. Phantom is built upon a good work culture where artists are valued and provided with a work environment that balances their personal and professional life. Supervisors at Phantom stay so cool and poised at the workplace. Such people who are really helpful and ready to share their knowledge with everyone are something very hard to come by. Phantom is built upon a talented team of core artists, who are the strength of the company. We have successfully handled hundreds of shows since inception, and are moving towards creating a bigger picture with a greater Vision. Soon the company will join the big players club, and we are very confident about it.
Vfxexpress- any memorable shows you wish to share your experiences?
Bejoy Arputharaj-It is hard to point out a particular show that challenges us to give the best. Every show has its own challenge and learning aspect, giving a memorable experience each time. The recent challenge we had is because of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. It came as a total shock and unexpected situation that met restrictions from the government to move or work. The projects that we signed up for, were on the pending list and we were supposed to deliver to the client on time. No one was prepared for this sudden changeover. We had to completely change our working pipelines, the way we planned the project, our creative discussions, brainstorming sessions, and everything else. Everyone had to stay at home and carry out their usual tasks, despite the state of affairs but give the same quality of output to the client. Turnaround time is of course the same. So it was very challenging for us to pivot the situation strategically. However, our team quickly managed to adapt to this new-normal, brainstorming from home, and doing creative discussions and meet-ups online. Our technical team was so strong that we developed so many tools to support work-at-home. Doing creative works remotely without supervision, and managing different aspects of VFX works as we do on a regular basis from the office was indeed the biggest challenge we faced. One of the recent projects is Cats and Dogs 3 for Warner Bros. We completed around 250 shots for this film – all remotely – in which we created more than 3-4 creatures. It was fun and engaging as well. It tested our strength actually and helped push our limits. We figured out how strong and robust our pipeline is. That was a very good experience and a recent challenge that we got the better of.
Vfxexpress- these days health has become an issue for artists, what are the programs related to health and care are provided to the artists?
Bejoy Arputharaj-Phantom believes in encouraging artists in every possible way. We, as a company, are built over each one of them’s contributions. We feel that every employee/artist of the phantom is an important brick, without whom, the whole structure will slack. We take care of them wholeheartedly and do all the needful to give a stress-free work environment. Phantom never accepts anything more than what we can accommodate on our plate.
We deny projects if we feel it would be hard to handle with the people at hand. Indeed, this is one thing that PhantomFX does to keep our artists stress free because many companies make the mistake of accepting more than what they can handle, hence ultimately adding pressure on artists. And that’s why stress and work-life balance is missing out there. But PhantomFx doesn’t do that. We just accept what we can do and say no to rest. We work on scheduled jobs so that it doesn’t add much stress to artists. That is where we stand out from the rest. As far as the wellness programs for employees, we engage in regular stress busters activities, games, and icebreaking sessions and organize counseling to minimize workplace tensions. We also conduct soft skills development programs, seminars, workshops, and training sessions that benefit them and help groom our artist skill sets and knowledge. We provide medical insurance. Basically, PhantomFx is like a family. Everyone is valued and supported. We are very much attached to every employee both professionally and personally, taking care of them and even sorting out their personal concerns. We give our support to the best. I think this is one reason why everybody wants to work with PhantomFx and nobody wants to leave PhantomFx. We are blessed to have this kind of work culture at PhantomFx.
Vfxexpress- what do you expect from artists?
Bejoy Arputharaj-We just expect the artist to be their own boss. For instance, if they are handling a shot, we want them to take full responsibility and ownership of the shot and finish the job putting in their full effort. That’s all. We don’t expect a lot out of them. We always say our people don’t stretch themselves more than 6 p.m. at the office. Instead, plan smartly; finish your job on time, and leave home. That’s the level of freedom and care we have for our artists.
As said earlier, we never put pressure on an artist more than what they can handle. We always allot shots and tasks which they can complete in a day so that they can finish their job right away. It is like we expect them to be smart and finish their job on time with the quality and expectations that Phantom wants. That’s it. Nothing more nothing less. I don’t expect anything else from them other than growing their career and grooming their knowledge. We believe in grooming the artists and training them to meet the quality and benchmark that Phantom has set up. If they improve their skill sets and if they grow in their career, it is good for the company as well.
Vfxexpress- plans for the future?
Bejoy Arputharaj-We has a great vision. Not everything can be disclosed now but in near future, we are looking forward to expanding our studio with a few more offices in India and abroad. So, very soon we will be giving an announcement on that. Our plan for the future is very great. The vision of the company is to reach the topmost place and compete with the big players in the industry. I think Phantom is on the right path and we are working hard to achieve the vision ours. In the future, We might be involved with creating our own IP Content.
Vfxexpress- How can one apply in your company
Bejoy Arputharaj-Advice for artists whoever is applying to the company’.
Yes, we do have certain expectations of whoever is applying to Phantom. Especially there will be few preliminary rounds which though will not be fully technical but will have tests to evaluate the character and attitude of the artist. Because we believe that any technical skills can be trained but we cannot change a person’s character or attitude unless they wish to. So it is very important that they are team players, with a friendly attitude and bring positive energy to the team. We don’t believe in people who bring in negative energy because one bad apple will spoil the whole lot. So we don’t bring in people who add negativity. We are very keen on that.
We evaluate artists’ character, attitude, and then technical skills. People who meet all these requirements are always welcome at PhantomFx. And preparing a showreel definitely speaks for them. For freshers, we have different programs such as paid internships, and training workshops. Paid internships are like we pay people to learn here.
We filter out the best candidates who passed out in the internships and readily absorb them into the company. The same is with the workshops and seminars we conduct at the company. Those are all free for freshers. We just pick the best out of the lot. We evaluate people when they attend workshops and based on their submissions and passion for the art, we hire them. We were able to evaluate people with their contributions to seminars and workshops and showreel, of course, the character, which is a very very important qualification at Phantom.
Vfxexpress- any advice for artists and production?
Bejoy Arputharaj-I already gave a lot of input for artists in my previous answer, For Productions, we cannot advise them, but whoever in the domestic market or abroad needs to know about VFX. Whenever I meet people who lack knowledge of VFX or films they make require heavy VFX, some people lag the knowledge of how to make a good VFX integrated movie. We always help them out by explaining the whole process. We take time to walk through the procedures right from pre-production, post-production, how each department works, and what’s their part in bringing this shot to life. These are all very important information and knowledge that we have to share with the filmmakers who don’t have a working knowledge of VFX. I won’t say everyone needs that kind of advice from us, some new people who have just started working with VFX-involved films. Not everybody knows every craft. So we do our best to share knowledge with our clients and make them understand the process so that they make better films in the future.
Checkout PhantomFX 2020 VFX Showreel
Vfxexpress at Phantomfx
Vfxexpress- Ritto prabu Thank you Bejoy Arputharaj For sharing all
Bejoy Arputharaj- Thank you prabu