Thu, 11 May 2023 13:50:47 GMT
From the moment you meet the Jam VFX team, you're struck by an unmistakable quality that's all too rare in today's workplace: a genuine love for what they do. When interviewing the five members of the team, you’re struck by their infectious enthusiasm and passion for their craft. Each question posed was met with an outpouring of thoughtful insights and valuable contributions.
Jam VFX is based in the heart of London and works to create stunning, intricate visual effects for commercials, broadcast, TV, film and content. The founding duo, Jordan Andreopoulos and Mark Robinson are doing something right when it comes to hiring people as passionate about the craft as they are. They were joined in the interview by Evren Olgun, head of production, VFX supervisor, Pete Young, and Libby Behrens; the newest recruit, taking on the role of director of operations.
Jordan started out in post production over 20 years ago, later meeting Mark in 2009 at BigBuoy who was coming in as a freelancer. Mark had previously gone to Australia with little else but a backpack and admits, “at that stage, I didn’t even know what post production was.” Starting out at Animal Logic in Sydney, he earned his stripes working nights for years before eventually returning to the UK to freelance.
After a fruitful six years of working together, they decided it was time to set up their own shop. It was then that Evren joined, and Pete followed. Evren had been working in post production since 2011, doing some animation too, when he was introduced to Jordan and Mark through a mutual friend, “and the rest is history.” For Pete, he started off as a runner before seeing his first flame session and realising that was exactly what he wanted to do, “It seemed like the perfect blend of art and high end tech; a dark art!” he beams. The four started out working in a small studio in Newman street in London before taking on a bigger studio where now they are 19 people strong.
From its beginnings in commercial and broadcast work, Jam VFX has evolved to meet the demands of a changing industry, shifting some of its focus to longer-form projects. With advertising agencies increasingly bringing projects in-house, the studio sought to diversify into new markets. Mark, the company's technical expert, has been instrumental in growing the studio's infrastructure, while still overseeing critical elements of the creative process, such as compositing and supervision.
At Jam VFX, they are laser focused on delivering impeccable creative briefs. This comes from having a deep understanding of their clients needs. With directors, production companies and producers, it is the relationship-building element that is key in their approach. “Those who work with us feel safe. They know that they are in good hands, that we are being proactive, doing tests, and ensuring we do our due diligence on projects before we start. This way, we ensure that nothing spirals out of control” explains Jordan.
Libby, who started her career as a runner and had since worked in graphics, production and digital communications, before landing in operations, has now been at Jam VFX for four months. It’s interesting to get the perspective that a fresh set of eyes can offer when attempting to understand the nature of a business. “These are not just ‘yes’ people. They won’t say yes for the sake of getting a job in. They will ask the real questions like ‘is this feasible?’ or, ‘is this going to be good for you and your brand?’ They actually care about what things are going to look like in the end.” In an industry where many will race to the bottom when high fees are involved, it’s more unique than ever to hear this approach to new work when it comes knocking at the door.
The company origins are one of the many reasons why they have quite the perfectionist attitude towards their work. “Because the background of the company was in high end composting and beauty work etc, the work that we have continued to do has been geared towards making everything we work on as good as it can be, because there is that technical- centred focus.” This has been one of the big influences on how the team attends shoots. It is particularly helpful when it comes to longform work where directors have less time to ask for particulars so instead rely on artists in an almost advisory sense.
“We invest quite heavily emotionally, in every sense of the word, to make sure that everything turns out as good as possible” admits Evren. Maybe this is why one director has described their time working with them as, “the happiest experience in VFX.” Bold statements, but completely backed up by the solid work and effort this lot brings to everything they put their creative energy into.
But they also care about their clients' pockets. “We’re collaborative in terms of budget. We don’t want anyone to be wasting money.” They work to ensure that clients receive the best bang for their buck.
One of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the VFX company in 2021 was Life After Life, a four-part episodic series for the BBC. The series features a young girl whose life repeats over and over again. She dies, and is reborn, with each instance being accompanied by a motif of snow falling. The team was challenged with creating an ethereal element of snow that would look beautiful, haunting and believable in equal measure. But the thing is, “fake snow doesn’t actually look like snow,” says Evren. The team generated and created their own particle systems, causing the snow to fall, interact, and melt realistically with the surfaces it landed on. The snow became almost character-like, interacting with the protagonist in ways that felt magical. They also had to add destruction and visitors to bombed-out cities to fit the period drama's historical setting. For Pete, it was, “without doubt one of the most incredible projects to be part of.”
Life After Life became a multidisciplinary project, including not only the creation of the snow but also detailed matte paintings and invisible effects. To this day, the project is one the team is hugely proud of. It stands as a stark testament to their ability to turn mundane elements into something magical and to work in environments that they have no earthly place being inside of.
When speaking to their favourite projects, Mark shared his experience of working on an 8-episode series for Paramount+ that spanned over eight months. Meanwhile, for Jordan, the most fulfilling projects are the ones where the team's expertise is utilised to make subtle changes that often go unnoticed by the viewers. During the tail-end of lockdown restrictions, the team was working with Chris Balmond and AMV on Guinness’ ‘Welcome Back’ campaign. The project required troubleshooting with a small crew and making the assets look as if they were a pint of Guinness in black and white. Despite the challenges, their labour paid off as the project was awarded, partly resulting from such seamless VFX work.
The team had to use their creativity to fabricate shots using stock footage, add snow, frost, and even reshape objects to give a winter feel to the campaign. Attention was given even to the smallest details such as the bubbles in a pint and the iconic lip of the cream on top of the beer, which required days of meticulous work to perfect.
One of the most significant challenges was working on a stock plate that needed snow added. They worked to add snow in a way where it looked like it had always been there. The whole process highlights the amount of painstaking work that will often go into the projects Jam VFX is assigned, and the unwavering dedication they have to producing results that are believable and visually seamless.
Jam VFX doesn't get caught up in the typical industry politics or delusions of grandeur. "We don't have hierarchy and egos," says Pete with authenticity. Instead, they operate as a true democracy, free from posturing or grandstanding. What's evident is their deep emotional investment in their work, and a profound humility that feels strikingly human.
The team is committed to producing technically flawless work that emotionally resonates with their audiences. But they put that exact same amount of emotion and effort into projects where the fruits of their labour might never be noticed in the final analysis. It's all about the work and the clients they serve.
They are a complete oddity, in the best possible way.view more - PeopleJAM VFX, Thu, 11 May 2023 13:50:47 GMT