Junior rigger at Framestore Nathan Clark says he never considered himself ‘the creative type’ growing up. Fast forward to today, he took home the VFX award at this year’s inaugural Young Arrows for his work on Three Mobile’s ‘Jeff’s World’. In his early teenage years, Nathan got into the world of CG and making digital art on software such as Blender and Photoshop, but even after those stints he didn’t believe he’d make a career out of it. Mostly because he didn’t see anybody around him pursue such a career.
Although he was still unsure on the clarity of the career path, Nathan enrolled at the University of Bolton on their VFX for film and TV course. Once he graduated, he had gathered a showreel of work he did throughout his degree, which was his biggest weapon out on the field when he was applying pretty much ‘anywhere that was hiring’. Eventually Nathan landed an interview at Framestore. To him it was a huge surprise, due to the sheer scale of the company (close to 1200 people only in their London office and a whopping 6000 worldwide) and their track record of working on some of the biggest VFX projects worldwide, but he didn’t have to be told twice. After the interview, Nathan landed the job and that leads us to today.
And although his entry into the industry seems pretty straightforward, Nathan is aware that many people face immense difficulties trying to do the same, especially in parts of the industry that are not necessarily looking for new fresh faces, the same way that the VFX universe might be. “The industry should be doing a better job in giving more people pathways for entry,” he says. “There’s a lot of talent out there that won’t make it just because if you don’t have the right experience, it can be super hard to find a job, which means you can’t get the experience. A frustrating cycle for new artists looking for work.”
“Since I joined the industry professionally, I’ve managed to refine my skills so much faster than I ever could before,” he says. “You get to meet so many different people that can teach you so much, as long as you’re down to learn. The most useful thing I’ve picked up so far in my career is to just ask for help whenever you need it, in general people are willing to assist you with anything and it’s better than just struggling alone with things.”
After starting at Framestore, he got stuck in with some major projects such as Sky’s ‘The Collector’ – Sky Creative’s biggest campaign for Sky’s award-winning box, Sky Q up until that point. The campaign delivered a series of stories celebrating individuality of TV audiences and the ease with which content can be viewed on Sky Q. Consisting of five stories, the series of adverts were directed by Dan DiFelice and produced by Biscuit Filmworks, with a wide-range of VFX delivered by Framestore.
Episode of Sky's Collector
Nathan remembers being particularly nervous about the project, since it was his first big job after a history of working on small personal projects. “It was a huge team and we had to deliver an advert that would be seen by millions of people.” Needless to say, he pulled through even better than he expected.
However, understandably, ‘Jeff’s World’ is the job that Nathan points out as the one having the most impact on his career development. “I got to work on this CG photorealistic bearded dragon and I feel like it was the first time I had worked on anything of that level of detail,” he remembers. “It really pushed me to new levels. I also won the Young Arrows award for the work I did on it, which was obviously a very special moment in my career.”
But the personal awards and praise is not all that Nathan is after – he gets the most joy out of seeing results achieved by the entire team. “I work pretty early on in the pipeline, so it’s always fun to see how things develop from when I’m working on to where things end up once they’re passed through so many talented people.” However, the bigger the project, the heftier the pipeline, and of course – the tighter the deadlines. Nathan shares he sometimes still struggles with the speed of some major projects he works on: “Some things just move too fast and you have to cut corners you might not want to, but that can be the reality of production sometimes. The goal is to just make it not impact the final product.”
Regardless of the fact that he is still getting to grips with the speed of the industry, Nathan is more than excited to be in it and learn from every step of the way, mainly because he is seeing more VFX than ever before. “In the past, as it seems, high-level VFX was reserved for big films and the occasional TV show but now with the rise of streaming services there’s hundreds of TV shows and films coming out that all want more VFX than ever,” he explains.
“Then, there’s advertising that’s also using VFX to a much higher level than ever before, even things like roller coasters and rides are using VFX regularly for AR experiences,” continues Nathan. Indeed, with the inevitable extension of reality comes the introduction of VFX in many more points of our viewing experiences, be it on phone apps, or in the cinema. This, for Nathan, means not only more work, but more variation of work, which is essentially what he is after. “One day I would also like to work on some films,” he says. “I think that’s the original reason I finally decided to pursue this as a career, so hopefully one day I can make it happen.”
Nathan leaves us with this: “I always look up to the people I work with. I’m surrounded by so many extremely talented people, and I really enjoy working with them and learning as I go.” And with his career just begun, there is a long way to go!