1- Priyanka can you share with us a bit about how you started in visual effects?
I discovered VFX by accident. I used to be a student at a film school in London where I was training to be a Producer/Director for long-form content. At the time, a friend from home had introduced me to someone who worked for the Moving Picture Company. I spent a substantial amount of time understanding the industry and read a few books that were loaned out to me. I was hooked and decided I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I pursued a few internships, some low/no paid gigs and finally landed a job in one of the soho’s post houses as a Runner and then promoted to a Data wrangler. The rest is history.
2- How were the first few years? What challenges did you face?
As a runner, I had to carry tapes, hard drives and deliver couriers on foot no matter the weather and learn to make a great cup of tea! I always had to have my boots and coat on to hit the road in a jiffy. During my initial days as a VFX Producer, I remember working sleeplessly for about 5 days in a stretch to deliver close to 2000 VFX shots for a feature film and this was my first ever proper VFX gig! I remember not even having showered for 5 days straight to get through that deadline. The challenges I faced in my initial years helped mold my personality and shape my career to what it is today. I’d always say work hard when you are young and when it is possible to do so.
3- What made you start up a VFX house? What was your motivation?
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I had always wanted to start a business of my own. There was a lot of motivation I drew from seeing By 2015, I had spent a good number of years in the industry, developed strong working relationships and mustered enough confidence to go about and start a VFX studio. I would say starting Hula Hoop was only a natural extension of how passionate I was about VFX. Needless to say, my feet have been on fire ever since Hula Hoop was born, but nothing that I was not prepared for as I knew what I was getting into by leaving a comfortable full-time job.
4- Tell us more about Hula Hoop?
Hula Hoop is our TPN Assessed, VFX studio headquartered in London with another facility based in one of India’s prominent IT cites – Chennai. Apart from Roto, Prep, tracking and rotomation, we provide creative shot production services for feature films, TV shows and commercials that include set extensions, simple CG additions, matte painting, background replacements, and green screen composites. We are a fun place to work and encourage a culture where all of us pull towards a common goal while achieving our personal targets. We encourage our employees to be transparent, aspire to achieve excellence and always try to help their colleagues rise along with them. The culture at Hula Hoop is one that evolves every day and is shaped by inputs from everyone who is connected to the company.
5- Any experiences from any memorable shows you wish to share with us?
That is a tough choice you are asking me to make. There are so many great shows that I can recall that I was lucky to be a part of. The Harry Potter series, Tron: Legacy, Total Recall and a bunch of Marvel shows.
I can pick out a couple of shows that stand out in terms of how my experience taught me some very valuable lessons.
Chronicles of Narnia, Voyage of Dawn treader 2010 – This show involved coordinating deliveries across 4 different facilities scattered across the globe, delivering several thousand shots in 2D and 3D. This show stretched the production and creative teams thin. This was back in 2010 and the scheduling challenges we faced in ensuring the delivery pipeline across all four locations worked in sync with the director’s schedule gave me fantastic grounding on the basics of planning, time management, and expectation management.
Kingsman Secret Service 2014 – This was a memorable show for several reasons but the chief one being the opportunity to work on the church sequence. I would say it is one of the best sequences I have ever worked on. It was a series of shots stitched together cleverly and made to appear like one continuous edit with gruesome effects added to it. The creative challenges of ensuring editorial continuity of the visual effects and integrity of what we wanted to achieve with the sequence was a fantastic learning experience.
6- These days health has become an issue for artists, what are the programs related to health and care is Hula Hoop providing to the artists?
Hula Hoop is aware that artists are our most important assets and we take efforts to take good care of our artists and ensure that their well being is our priority. We provide food allowance when people stay back long hours after work to deliver critical shows as well as provide them compensatory days off. All employees are covered with accident insurance from day 1 and employees who have been with us for more than 18-24 months are enrolled onto a corporate medical insurance program. Fruit Wednesdays has been a long-standing tradition at Hula Hoop, one where all artists are served fresh fruits every Wednesday. That is our two cents towards encouraging Hula Hoopers to eat healthily. We also have an entertainment room in our facility where people unwind during the workday to blow off some steam with indoor board games. In addition to these, there is a slew of initiatives that we are planning to roll out as and when we achieve our growth milestones.
7- What do you expect from artists?
Having been in the industry for a while now, I can shed some light on how some fantastic artists and supervisors have gone on to shape their glowing careers and contribute to the companies they work for. I believe, this is not what I expect but it is what the industry needs for us to keep producing breathtaking visual effects.
1- Be passionate for the creative work that they deliver and take pride in the work done no matter how small.
2- Set short term and long term goals (not just monetary ones) that you would like to achieve – it could be learning new software, challenging yourself to learn a new skill.
3- Read and learn more about the industry far and wide, not just what is happening in your city or immediate geographic vicinity but also the entire world
4- Aspire to achieve growth by being ambitious, loyal and honest professionals.
8- What are Hula Hoop’s plans for the future?
We have recently moved to a 160 seater studio in Guindy, Chennai. Our plan would be to organically expand and fill up our current seats and work on some cutting edge visual effects and hold an award or two over the next couple of years 🙂
9- How can one apply in your company?
You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org stating the position you would like to apply for or get in touch with our HR team on Linkedin.
10- Any advice you would like to give our artists and production staff ?
Artists need to be aware that in an industry that is heavily dependent on ever-changing technology, it is important to continuously learn about the industry trends, tools and keep challenging yourself to stay abreast of the change. Always strive to stay ahead of the curve and keep adding onto your skillset. And last and probably the most obvious one – We are all being required to deliver work in increasingly shorter time frames. It is important to think outside the box and come up with innovative ways to achieve common goals. If this requires you to unlearn and relearn, then you must be ready for it.
In my experience, some of the best production staff (producers/coordinators, etc) I have worked with have gone beyond the call of duty and sought to understand the technical aspects of shot delivery allowing them to work in tandem with the supervisors while delivering shows. At the same time, they are able to have a conversation with directors and go toe to toe with them creatively as well as discuss budgets and schedules. In my opinion, effective production staff should have excellent planning and time management skills while also acquiring technical VFX knowledge.
And most importantly, irrespective of who you are and what position you are in, never stop learning something new.
11- Who is the woman who has inspired you most in the VFX industry and why?
Without a doubt, Sara Bennet. My eyes lit up when she was nominated for Ex-Machina and I jumped for joy when she won the Oscar for Best VFX. Holding an Oscar is a dream for most people in the movie business and to see a woman holding that was heartwarming and exhilarating at the same time. The VFX industry, by and large, has got a long way to go before there is equal representation of women and the gap is more glaring in India. I do hope this changes soon.
Seeing Sara Bennet win the Oscar for Best VFX made me set internal targets for Hula Hoop to play its part in the VFX community and contribute in any way possible to have equal representation of men and women.
12 – My Advice to women in VFX?
Please do not let anyone tell you that it is difficult for women to grow in VFX. That is not true. Every job you may take requires sacrifices ( the same holds true for men). If it is VFX you are passionate about and in order to achieve your goal, you have to make some adjustments, do it. Pursue your dreams and don’t quit. If at any point you feel like giving up, write to me and I might be able to share my experiences which may help.
Hula Hoop Studio
About –Hula Hoop fully scalable post-production and creative visual effects studio headquartered in London with the production team based in Chennai, India. Hula Hoop offers rotoscopy, cleanup, tracking, compositing , Cg integration, set extension, matte painting and asset build services for all the major VFX studios around the world. Our production facility is security compliant with the Trusted Partner Network.
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