New Talent: Ollie Ramsey
After graduating from university, Ollie Ramsey started his career as a freelance video playback operator, working on commercials and feature films. While the pay was good, Ollie had a thirst for something more creative that he just couldn’t shake. Eyeing up the world of post production, Ollie left freelancing to take a running position at Coffee & TV, and within 18 months taught himself to use Flame (with a bit of help from the C&TV team).
Now a fully-fledged Flame artist, LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with Ollie to look back at how he got to where he is now.
LBB> Tell us a bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you?
Ollie Ramsey> I was born in central London in my mum’s bedroom where she lives to this day. My house was a squat at the time. My mum was instrumental in forming a housing cooperative with the other residents on our street. We even had Ken Livingstone over to the house to sign our tenancy agreement - thanks Ken!
I’m a third generation Rudolf Steiner School student, where the arts and creativity are the focus of a child's development. To an outsider, my education might look a bit whacky but I’m so grateful that my mum sent me there. Knitting classes, Eurythmy dancing, singing, music, drama and adventures in the great outdoors were all part of a Steiner child's upbringing.
We also lived in France when I was growing up. I went to school, learned French, worked on vineyards and made lifelong friends.
On returning to England I joined a state run, agricultural engineering school. Again, it was bonkers and brilliant, but I was used to an eccentric learning environment after Steiner. The grounds of the school were on an organic farm so milking cows and mucking out the pigs at 6am was a daily occurrence.
I was a wild child, likened to ‘Stig of the Dump’ with my crazy hair and extroverted energy. That being said, I wasn't allowed to play with plastic toys or watch TV so I have no idea how I ended up in the industry!
LBB> What was it that inspired you to pursue a career in post-production?
OR> Good question. Again, it’s funny when you look at my background and try to figure out how I ended up as a Flame artist. I studied garden design at university, and I have very little computer experience because of my Steiner school roots. We weren't even allowed ballpoint pens!
When I left Falmouth University I worked with a friend and director on some projects with him. This started my journey into moving image and I ended up working onset as a playback operator. The job was great fun, very well paid and I got to work on big feature films and television commercials. However, I decided I needed to find something more creative, so I ventured into Soho with the dream of working in post production.
LBB> You joined Coffee & TV in 2014 as a runner. What has the progression been like from runner to Flame Artist?
OR> It’s been great! Running is a tough job and takes real diligence and perseverance. It felt harder having been paid a fortune as a playback operator and running my own department, to then getting paid tuppence and making tea. That being said, I'm so grateful Coffee & TV believed in me and took me in. I was given the graveyard shift, which was a blessing as it meant I could soak up knowledge from all the talented artists in the room by day and teach myself Flame at night. A few bits of roto here and there turned into working on my own shots and then we moved to a bigger facility where I got my own Flame and clients. It’s been a real journey and I’m so grateful for it all. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Coffee & TV.
LBB> You taught yourself (with guidance from the Coffee & TV team) to use Flame. What was the learning curve like?
OR> It was pretty daunting learning a new piece of software as complicated as Flame. If I had known, I might not have wanted to go ahead, haha! I joke, but it's funny looking back and remembering how I had no idea about the challenge ahead. Sometimes it's best not to know.
Once I got the basics under my belt with help from Grant Kay, the Flame Learning Channel on YouTube (which I played twice the speed to get through it all) and with the Art and Science of Digital Compositing as my bible, it came naturally.
I believe the trick is finding a facility that will nurture your personal learning curve and ensure the right amount of pressure and progress is taking place. You also learn so much when you're shitting yourself in a room full of clients, because you just have to do it!
LBB> You worked on last year’s ‘George Michael: Freedom’ documentary. Can you tell us about your contribution?
OR> Working on Freedom was an amazing experience. I was the lead Flame artist, so I ran the timeline and would take in all the design and motion graphics the artists were creating in the studio. I was also responsible for all the beauty and clean-up work, lower thirds, titles and additional transitions and tweaks.
The project was directed by George’s best friend and manager David Austin and produced by Lisa Johnson. Working with them made it all the more worthwhile as I was able to hear stories and memories of their time with George. I'll never forget those moments.
LBB> And you also created the VFX for 2016’s Yorkshire Building Society spot. What were the challenges for the project?
OR> That was a beautifully shot commercial with wonderful set design, so it was easy to work on. I did the beauty work on the actors, screen comps and clean-up. Pretty straight forward. The Art Director, Baz Williamson and Director, Pete Riski did all the hard work on that one for me if I'm honest.
LBB> Which other projects that you’ve worked on recently have proved particularly challenging and enjoyable?
OR> I love working on charity projects, music videos and short films. I’ve been so lucky to work with the likes of Bjork, Skepta and Craig David on their music videos and work with charities such as WWF. It was also a privilege to work on Google’s mission for Syrian refugees, these projects are always a labour of love which makes them so enjoyable to work on.
As for challenging, we've just finished a big CG heavy job, a 90-second commercial shot entirely on green screen. This amount of CG and green screen was a real learning curve. However, I like these projects because you really learn a lot. Especially when you're learning from a great team of talented people who support you through the process.
I recently went to Slovenia to shoot an ad for Huawei to provide on-set post. The creatives were great to work with and we had a proper laugh.
Working with friends from my past life is always nice too. I’ve worked on River Island with creative friends from school. Those moments are strange and lovely because you have a moment when you realise where you've come from and the progress we have all made.
LBB> What do you get up to the outside of work to relax and unwind?
OR> Family is really important to me. My mum, dad and sister all live within 20 minutes of me which is great. Most of my university friends live in London so I’m spoilt for choice really. They’re a proper creative bunch of graphic designers and illustrators. I try and spend as much time as I can with them.
I’m also really into Yoga and the theory behind it.
Travel is a big part of my life, I’ve just got back from India and last year I was in Mexico visiting friends. I also love spending time in this country, especially Cornwall, Devon, Bristol and Norfolk.
LBB> What tips would you give to somebody hoping to break into the post production world?
OR> Go travelling first! No seriously, find a company that will nurture your growth and who want the best for you. I love Richard Branson’s words on the matter, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to”.
Another hero of mine is Steve Jobs and his words ring true to the creative process and learning, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”.
I would also add, keep your eyes open and have a thirst for knowledge. Try new things and experiment in your spare time. But most importantly, do what you love.