Leeds Beckett University Masters graduate Ayyappadas Vijayakumar was part of the 1917 Oscar winning visual effects team and has opened up about his road to success ahead of Harrogate Film Festival.
Watching Terminator 2, Judgement day was the moment that I realised that I wanted to be in visual effects and back at that time, no one had a clue as to how those robots were created. I was determined to be an artist that produced such visuals and presented to audiences worldwide. In this modern age of digital media where we see videos on virtually every available electronic equipment that we have, film making has also transformed into several different forms that cater to all those individual formats and screens.
Leeds Beckett University (LBU) played a huge role in making my dream a reality. Affordable education is hard to come by and in my case, LBU had an amazing program of digital video and special VFX combined with a little scholarship helped me get the most amazing experience in education that I could have hoped to get. The course being a semi research and taught course, enabled me to learn by doing research and also at times, learn from experts who used to visit the university to give lectures. Getting a world class degree from a recognised institution is of utmost importance to succeed in this industry these days.
After moving to Canada, I was fortunate enough to be able to get involved in live productions, TV and motion pictures. They are all different beasts that need to be tamed differently. Working with artists enables you to gain their perspective on various subjects and to collaborate with them is the best thing that you can do to yourself to improve. You learn to adjust and constantly evaluate your work as well as receive constructive criticism in its own spirit
It takes an enormous amount of guts to present your work in front of an audience and the more you showcase your work, the more criticism you will get from others which will enable you to understand what people like and dislike. You can gain an enormous amount of exposure too by doing so. Working to set up the famous Banff Mountain, film and book festival and Banff world media festival while working at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, enabled me to really understand live productions firsthand.
TV is also changing these days. Digital online media is what TV is all about these days and focusing on the internet and how you can provide bits of news to the audience along with its video fast is what will determine which TV stations succeed and which ones go out of business. It is a highly competitive work space where speed is your best friend. Post Production for reports that air on TV has to be done at lightning speeds and budding motion graphics artists who work at TV stations will gain tremendous experience in dealing with deadlines and speedy workflows.
Motion picture is a different beast as all the major studios and streaming giants are in the business of making movies these days. This is not for the faint hearted as this field will test the limits of your temperament and provide new insights to how large-scale media projects are realised using resources that are spread out globally. Being a VFX editor, which is my specialty, is really a combination of technical and creative skills. One has to be extremely technically proficient to be able to cater to the needs of production and to be able to survive in an effects editorial team. The important thing to note for this job is that one or two editors will be catering to all the production crew that is spread out globally. A good amount of computer programming experience and a reasonable amount of creative film making experience will enable you to get you an interview for a position like this but what happens after that depends on how well you can adapt to the ever changing needs of production. Each film requires new ways of making it and therefore, new ways to run it. Leading from the forefront, along with the production is awesome but it is hard and that is partly why this is such an amazing job.
Every new filmmaker should know that to make something extraordinary, you will have to endure some pain and suffering but that will be nothing once you see your work on the big screen. When 1917 hit the screens and when I saw it, I nearly broke into tears because that is what happens when the creation that you helped create presents itself in its entire glory before you and when it could not be more perfect. All our worries and pain we endured making it as a team disappeared when our supervisors lifted the Oscars for that movie at the 2020 Oscars. We had failures but we kept pushing again and again until we completed the work. I would like to quote James Cameron because that quote is what keeps me going everyday at work. Failure is an option but fear is not.`