Men’s Day Special Interview – Max Riess, VFX Supervisor, Pixomondo Frankfurt
November 19, 2019 – International Men’s Day on the 19 November was founded in 1999 by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh a history lecturer at University of the West Indies in Trinidad Tabago. Interestingly calls for an International Men’s Day (IMD) have been going on since at least the 1960’s when it was reported in the New York Times, Feb 24 1969 that “Many men have been agitating privately to make February 23 International Men’s Day, the equivalent of March 8, which is International Women’s day“ This Day for women was first inaugurated in 1909.
International Men’s Day encourages men to teach the boys in their lives the values, character and responsibilities of being a man. Mahatma Gandhi said, “We must become the change we seek.” It is only when we all, both men and women, lead by example that we will create a fair and safe society which allows everyone the opportunity to flourish in their families and communities.
November is an important month for the masculine soul because it celebrates several events that are important to men. So, we encourage you to wish everyone a happy International Men’s Day on 19 November.” For more info, visit at www.internationalmensday.com
Max Riess is a VFX Supervisor, who most recently worked on the Amazon series Carnival Row and the feature film Midway. Max began his career as a 3D generalist for commercials at Pixomondo’s Frankfurt division. He segued in to compositing, working on J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.
In 2012 Max moved to Pixomondo Los Angeles to expand his skill in matte painting, look development and compositing.During this time he created several matte paintings for Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a film which went on to win an Academy Award for best Visual Effects. Max’s work on Star Trek Into Darkness, where he led the look development of the Klingon Homeworld, earned him a VES Award nomination.
Now back in Germany, Max is working as a VFX supervisor on various films (The Fate of the Furious, Iron Sky: The Coming Race) and TV projects (Star Trek: Discovery, Scorpion). He continues to bring his experience and expertise in matte painting and concepts to such shows as Game of Thrones and Goliath.
Today, Max Riess talks to VFX Online about his experience about VFX and Animation Industry.
// From Max Riess, VFX Supervisor, Pixomondo Frankfurt
How do you describe yourself professionally?
I have been working in the VFX industry for over 12 years. I am very passionate about what I do and try to take every project to the best possible outcome. I like being challenged and enjoy working outside my comfort zone so I can push myself further. I have worked in almost every field of VFX over the years. I love how complex our work is and how all the different departments must work together as a team to overcome ever-changing obstacles and achieve success.
What sparked your interest in visual effects?
As a kid I have always been a fan of medieval and fantasy stuff. With Star Wars began a deep-rooted love for Science Fiction and with Jurassic Park, I started to get interested in Computer Generated Effects. My father bought me a copy of Bryce 3D and Photoshop when I was 13 years old and I started recreating scenes from Star Wars.
How did you enter in this industry? What was the key to getting inside?
In my case, I think it was mainly luck. I had no reel or portfolio, just a pdf showing some drawings and cg renderings. I applied a couple of times for different studios, but never got any feedback.
I knew a colleague from university that worked as a motion graphics artist for Pixomondo. He called me one night asking me if I could start the next day.This was purely by chance, because they had to ramp up super quick for a particular project and they needed people right away. Since day one I have used every opportunity I can to learn, and improve my skills.
What is the current state for men in the industry?
Honestly I have never thought about this in any way. I do not distinguish between men and women at work, therefore I am not aware of any specific ‘state’ for men. VFX work used to be more male dominated but it has been changing a lot over the last few years. In my opinion it is great that Pixomondo has such diversity in our offices when it comes to gender, age and nationality.
What’s your favorite shot or sequence of VFX or Animated Films?
This is very difficult to answer for me, I have way too many.
But I’ll pick a few:
The opening sequence of “Star Wars” of course, when the corvette is being chased by the star destroyer.
The subway station fight in the “Matrix”, maybe the “Matrix” in general.
The intro scene of “Blade Runner”
The fight of the T-Rex vs. Raptors in “Jurassic Park”
The last scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” one of the best matte paintings of all time
Davey Jones from “Pirates of the Caribbean”
The classic animes “Ghost in the Shell” and “Akira.”
The “Be My Guest” sequence of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Any special achievements in VFX or Animation?
I am especially proud of all the work I was able to contribute to Game of Thrones, which I consider a milestone in my career. In addition I feel honoured to be a part of the team that worked on Hugo, which earned Pixomondo an Academy Award for Best VFX.
Any particular artists/professionals that inspire you?
Too many to list them all. Despite constantly being inspired by all the people that surround me every day, like my colleagues, family and friends, there are a couple of people that have had a longtime strong influence on me: Syd Mead, Ralph McQuarrie, Yannick Dusseault, Steven Spielberg, Darren Aronofsky, Jakub Rozalski, Martin Deschambault, Karakter Studio, Raphael Lacoste and Naughty Dog Games.
How has your experience been working at Pixomondo?
Pixomondo has always been a special place for me. All over the world we have amazingly talented people. Over the years we have connected through joint projects and have grown together as a community of artists. We’ve had a lot of up and downs, shaping and changing us to become what we are now. Looking back at when I started at Pixomondo in 2007, it is truly a miracle what has developed out of a small studio in Germany.
What do you think about future of VFX and Animation Industry?
The demand for VFX in movies and especially in television will be rising even further. Probably at one point the games and film/television industry will blend much more together. There is a lot of change in A.I. technology coming, but I think the creative input will still have to come from the artist. I see it as very positive, and that more and more technology is at our hands and will enable us to do anything we can think of on a creative level.
What will be your ‘dream project’ to work on Animation or VFX?
I have had a lot of “dream projects” already. For me the definition “dream project” is not only linked to the content, but to the people and how we create it.For the future, it would be great to work on a remake of “The Neverending Story” or one day direct a short movie of my own.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to get in to this industry?
I think the key to getting in the industry is to be really passionate and taking your chances. It is not a 9 to 5 job! You have to really love it if you want to get far. It can be really tough and demanding. Every project will be something new and there is always a task that you have never done before. As an artist you never stop learning! You need to accept this and draw motivation from this. Talent is a key skill, of course, but the truth is that connecting to people and being a good team player are as important.
What’s your thoughts about International Men’s Day?
It is a good opportunity to think about what we have achieved and to share some of our experiences. As a father of three children I see everyday how important it is to be a good role model for the next generation and to create a sustainable, caring and supportive environment for kids to grow up in. That way, they can become whatever they want to be.