Vancouver Film School Alumni Unite on District 9: From its director to the visual effects, acclaimed sci-fi film has close ties to Vancouver and deep roots at VFS
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Vancouver Film School Alumni Unite on District 9
From its director to the visual effects, acclaimed sci-fi film has close ties to Vancouver and deep roots at VFS
August 11, 2009 – Vancouver, BC – This week, Vancouver Film School (VFS), Canada’s premier entertainment arts institution and one of the most distinguished in the world, celebrates the release of District 9 – a much-anticipated sci-fi film produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) and directed/co-written by VFS graduate Neill Blomkamp. The entire VFS community congratulates Blomkamp – and the two dozen VFS Animation & Visual Effects alumni who worked on the film – for this monumental and exciting achievement.
District 9 takes a gritty, verité approach to the issue of race relations, depicting a settlement of extraterrestrial refugees marooned in Johannesburg, South Africa. Critics have been taken by the film’s intelligence and action: The Hollywood Reporter calls it “smart, savvy filmmaking of the highest order” and in a cover story, Entertainment Weekly says that District 9 is “the must-see movie of the summer.” A review on the popular film website Ain’t It Cool News compares its impact to Aliens, The Thing, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
VFS graduates have gone on to win Emmys, Oscars, and international acclaim, but District 9 is the biggest theatrical feature film helmed by a VFS grad. In addition to 3D Animation & Visual Effects graduate Blomkamp, the film was co-written by VFS Writing for Film & Television graduate Terri Tatchell, and 3D alum Shawn Walsh served as Visual Effects Executive Producer.
In fact, 25 VFS graduates worked on District 9’s visual effects team. With Vancouver’s Image Engine handling much of the visual effects work (in addition to local studios The Embassy and Zoic), District 9 not only represents VFS’s place within the visual effects industry, but Vancouver’s own emergence as a go-to visual effects centre.
"We are really excited about the upcoming release of District 9,” says Alastair Macleod, Head of Animation & Visual Effects at VFS. “It's great to see this work being done in Vancouver, and I'm really happy that so many of our grads could be involved."
“Nearly everyone who sees the visual effects work [in District 9] says, ‘I didn’t think you guys were capable of that,’” Walsh says, “which just goes to illustrate how important it is that District 9 is seen as a coming-of-age film for the Vancouver visual effects community as a whole and Image Engine in particular.”
The visual effects team represents well over a decade of VFS Animation & Visual Effects graduates, spanning 1996 to 2007. Walsh himself is from those early days. "Our Creature Supervisor, James Stewart, was in the class ahead of me at VFS,” Walsh says. “James, [Lighting Lead] Rob Bourgeault, and I all knew each other from our formative time at VFS."
VFS alumni have been integral to the Vancouver animation and visual effects scene for many years, but District 9 shows that their presence is getting even stronger. Walsh, who oversaw many of them at Image Engine, says, "One thing I have noticed in the new generation of artists coming out of VFS is how quickly they learn.”
Macleod chalks this up to the program’s longstanding ties to the industry. In the past, he has invited Walsh to give students feedback, akin to a production ‘dailies’ session. “I feel this industry involvement and strong focus on skills can be directly applied,” Macleod says. “Students hit the ground running and excel in their roles."
VFS plans to hold a private screening of District 9 for VFS students, alumni, and invited guests with a special Q&A session by graduates who worked on the film. If members of the media are interested in attending, contact Thuy Khuc at 604.631.3563 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vancouver Film School alumni who worked on District 9 (all graduates of Animation & Visual Effects unless otherwise noted) include:
Neill Blomkamp (Graduated 1998) - Director & Co-Writer
Shawn Walsh (1997) - Visual Effects Executive Producer
Terri Tatchell (Writing, 2001) - Co-Writer
Christopher Ahrens (2006) - Lighting Artist
Geeta Basantani (2001) - Senior Compositor
Jelmer Boskma (2006) – Modeler
Robert Bourgeault (1997) - Lighting Lead
Dominic Cheung (2005) - Lighting Technical Director
Paul Copeland (2005) - Visual Effects Artist
Anthony Di Ninno (2006) - Animator
Bernhard Huber (2006) - Effects Animator
Bernhard Kimbacher (2007) - Visual Effects Data Coordinator & Compositor
Julianna Kolakis (2006) - Creature Texture Painter
Veronica Marino (2006) - Compositor
Adam Marisett (2005) - Visual Effects Artist
James McPhail (2007) - Visual Effects Technical Director
Jacob Miller (2006) - Matchmove Artist
Brendon Morfitt (2004) - Digital Artist
Fernando Pazos (1996) - Animator
Cynthia Rodriguez del Castillo (2007) - Digital Paint and Roto Artist
Marc Roth (1997) - Visual Effects Artist
Derek Stevenson (1998) - Matchmove Lead
James Stewart (1997) - Creature Supervisor
Richard Sur (2006) - Lighting Technical Director
Grant Wilson (Film, 1991) - Animator
Joey Wilson (2005) - Modeler/Texturer
Samson Wong (2007, also completed Foundation Visual Art & Design) - Matchmove Artist
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Vancouver Film School is Canada’s premier post-secondary entertainment arts institution and one of the most distinguished in the world. The world-renowned Animation & Visual Effects department at VFS includes three distinct programs: 3D Animation & Visual Effects (one year), Classical Animation (one year), and Digital Character Animation (six months). In one year or less, students at VFS work with industry leaders in a studio environment while creating professional-quality reels and films that get them noticed on the global stage. 3D World named 3D Animation & Visual Effects at VFS the best one-year program in the world.
Image Engine, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was formed in 1994 with the express purpose of providing outstanding computer-generated visual effects. The company has evolved into an award-winning visual effects studio, working successfully in the complex production environments of television series, movies of the week and feature films. International visual effects talent and an R&D department of the highest calibre staff Image Engine. Film projects are completed using state-of-the-art hardware, software and proprietary tools. www.image-engine.com
For more information, please contact:
Thuy Khuc, Public Relations Coordinator
Vancouver Film School
+1 604.631.3563 or toll free in North America 1.800.661.4101
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