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2 New Hires Are Boosting Big Ambitions at No.8


LBB speaks to creative director Jim Allen, and the new creative directors Ben Blundell and Fergal Hendrick about the evolution of No.8 and plans for the future

2 New Hires Are Boosting Big Ambitions at No.8

No.8, the London-based audio, colour, and VFX studio, has been quietly providing CG services for its clients for a few years now. Jim Allen, creative director, notes that the VFX landscape is much more competitive today compared to when only the biggest few companies would receive this kind of work, with boutique studios tackling big VFX briefs. 

Joining the lively team are Ben Blundell, creative director of CG, and Fergal Hendrick, creative director of 2D; both worked at The Mill prior to the move. With them, they bring years of expertise and carefully honed skills having worked on an abundance of award-winning commercials. Attracted by the people-first culture of No.8 and the creative possibilities that lie ahead, both Ben and Fergal are looking forward to getting stuck into the work, developing the department, and contributing to the culture at No.8.”

Today we spoke to Jim about the rationale behind the expansion; and to Ben and Fergal about their career history, reasons for joining No.8, and the kind of work the industry can expect to see from them very soon. 

LBB> Jim, why the move to further expand CG and why now? What kind of gap in the market are you hoping to address?

Jim> More than ever CG is an integral part of the VFX process, it finds its way into most projects we do. The separation between 2D and CG is much less than it used to be with projects flowing seamlessly between 2D and CG artists throughout a project as the creative develops.
Having the creatives like Ben and Fergal in the team is essential for us to be able to tackle the most interesting and challenging projects.

LBB> Are you seeing more clients push for CG?

Jim> I think it’s less about clients pushing for CG and more that the scripts we see now are often creatively ambitious. We like to work collaboratively with clients to find the most visually arresting solutions to what is on the page. Sometimes that can be shooting something in a certain way, using miniatures, animation or full CG. We will always try to find the best route for everyone and often that will involve using all the tools and techniques available to us.

LBB> How is Ben and Fergal’s hire an evolution of that work?

Jim> Bringing talent like Ben and Fergal onboard is essential to stay vital in what is a very competitive market. There has been a sudden shift in the industry away from the big three VFX companies and proliferation of smaller boutique VFX houses. There are now many small companies capable of taking on big VFX scripts, it’s an exciting time for our industry. 

We want to make sure that when clients are thinking about who to partner up with on their latest mad idea that we are top of the list. Having artists like Ben and Fergal at No.8 makes that decision easier for clients. Having Ben and Fergal join No.8 is huge for us and not just for the CG side of the business. Ben is an incredible creative director and CG artist, Fergal is an extremely talented 2D artist and creative director; together their creativity and enthusiasm will help drive No.8 to new creative heights. These hires represent another leap forward for the company and show our ambition to keep pushing the creative output and surrounding ourselves with exceptional people.

LBB> Tell us why you decided to come and work with No.8 - what about the company that appealed to you?

Ben> People-centricity and excellent culture are non-negotiables for me and No.8’s reputation in this space is second-to-none. There is such a people-first mentality here, which fosters a culture that I (and many others) thrive in. Combine that with an opportunity to build a creative, agile, fit-for-the-future CG team from the ground up, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Exciting times are ahead!

Fergal> It’s a really exciting time here at No.8! They’re building a great team with some really talented and creative people, who have huge ambitions to grow and push the VFX team. With my experience paired with their drive, it feels like a really great fit.

LBB> Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career history - how did you get into CG and 2D and the path you took to your new role?

Ben> This is probably a very familiar story for a lot of artists in the industry, but a misspent youth doodling at the back of exercise books and a love of art/design were the first signs I was likely to end up in a creative industry! I went on to study technical illustration and product design (which feels like a lifetime ago now), and that grounding ultimately led me to find my niche in advertising.
Although I’ve got Northern roots, I've been lucky enough to be working in London for almost 20 years now, delivering some pretty lovely jobs with some incredible people, absorbing as much as I can along the way. I’m thrilled to be in this role where I can now focus on coaching and mentoring those around me to grow and develop in their own careers.

Fergal> When I was young I used to shoot and edit short films with some friends, and ever since then I knew I wanted to do something similar as a career, and when I found VFX and compositing in particular I never looked back. I started as a runner at a VFX company and worked my way up. Eventually I moved to the mill where I spent 9 years working on some great projects. Now, after nearly two decades I’m lucky enough to still be doing what I love, as a Creative Director here at No.8.

LBB> What kind of work will the hire of Ben and Fergal allow you to do?

Jim> There’s really no limit to the scale of work we are prepared to tackle. Our ambition is to be working on the most creatively and technically challenging scripts. At No.8 we love the work we do, I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job that lets me make pretty pictures, play with cutting edge technology and collaborate with similarly minded people every day. Ben and Fergal share that enthusiasm and together we’re ready and excited to get stuck into whatever mad ideas are thrown at us.

LBB> What kind of work do you like doing most and why?

Ben> I am a bit of a magpie when it comes to work, in the sense that I love it all, not just the shiny stuff! I've worked at studios that do such a wide variety of projects it’s hard to choose just one. Whether it’s a script that really captures the imagination, an animation that expertly conveys an idea, or a job that utilises the latest technology, I'm more than happy to get involved. Quite often it's the jobs you least expect that can be the most rewarding and I think that's why once you’ve got the bug, you can’t help but come back for more!

Fergal> I’ve worked on all kinds of projects over the years, and the ones I have enjoyed the most are those which are pushing the creative and technological boundaries. Ultimately though, everything we do is for nothing if the film doesn’t have a strong creative at its core. Films with a great creative, that are beautifully shot with great photoreal VFX are always the most exciting to work on.

LBB> Are there any trends in CG that you're aware of at the moment?

Ben> I'm of the opinion that CG doesn't really have trends but instead, is constantly evolving. It’s this evolutionary nature of the CG and FX world that allows us, as a team, to keep crafting work that we can be immensely proud of, hopefully inspiring a few people along the way as well. I’d like to think that by continually learning and developing as a group, we can help navigate any changes within the industry to produce great work that exceeds our clients’ expectations.

LBB> What are you looking forward to most in your new role at No.8?

Ben> There is so much that we are all excited for, but for me, working with the super talented team at No.8 is the most exciting prospect. I’m ready to get stuck in, to learn and to be a part of the story of this ambitious and creative studio.

Fergal> I’m really looking forward to working with Barny, Jim and Ben and creating a vibrant and exciting environment to build and nurture creative excellence. We want this to be a fun and exciting place to work whilst keeping the creative standards as high as anyone in the industry. And the way we do that is by hiring good people, talented people, and creating a workspace and culture that lets creativity flourish.

LBB> What are your plans over the next couple of years? How do you see the department growing and evolving?

Jim> We have some more great hires coming over the next couple of months. Continuing to bring more creatives onboard and filling No.8 with the best talent available is an ongoing mission.
We also have plans to move into other areas of the business and geographic locations. I don’t want to say too much at this stage or it will spoil the surprise when it happens!

Fergal> I think with Ben leading the charge, and with the knowledge and experience we both have of running big CG VFX jobs, the scope of work we can deliver is incredibly exciting. I think it’s a very exciting opportunity to build and grow a CG department that’s creative, modern, agile and able to adapt to the ever evolving creative challenges in the industry.

Ben> I’ve been in this industry a long time and have seen the balance between delivering exceptional work and the team’s wellbeing be out of kilter with one another. I firmly believe that the way a job is run is just as important as the end result. We all know what it takes to produce award winning work but I want to build something more meaningful here at No.8, putting the team at the heart of the process. Ensuring they have fun, have a creative outlet and get to develop their skills on each job we do is so important to me and if we get that right, we’ll produce the best work and have the most engaged and high performing team. Barny, Jim, Ferg and I have lots of plans and we’re excited to start shaping this department and producing more excellent work.

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No.8ldn, Wed, 10 May 2023 13:46:00 GMT