VFX Interview with Elham Sepehrjou, Visualization Artist at Halon Entertainment
July 9, 2020 – Today, Elham Sepehrjou spoke to VFX Online about her work experience of Visual Effects Industry.
Elham Sepehrjou, I am a professional visualization artist and animator based in Los Angeles. I had the chance to work on movies like Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Men in Black International, etc. I was an international student in the United States and I was able to jump into the visual effects industry in Hollywood right after graduation.
// From Elham Sepehrjou, Visualization Artist at Halon Entertainment
How do you describe yourself professionally?
I am an Animator and Visualization Artist. I have made 2 short animations and I had the chance to work on some big budget movies like Avengers Endgame, Spider-Man Far From Home, Men in Black International, etc.
What sparked your interest in VFX & Animation?
I have always loved animation and visual effects, but I didn’t think of it as a job. It was just my hobby until I made a stop motion short animation in 2013 and sent it to some festivals in the US. It got selected as finalist at Three Rivers Film Festival. They invited me to the United States to attend the event, so I came to the US and watched my animation on big screen with all these audiences from other side of the world. The moment they laughed at some funny parts of my animation and they could relate to my animation, was the best moment of my life and that leaded me to decide to learn Animation academically and followed my dreams in Animation and Visual Effects industry.
How did you enter the industry? Share your thoughts about that?
The most important thing for entering the industry is having a good demo reel. I always worked hard and tried to be a good student when I was at school, so by the time I was about to graduate, I had a good demo reel and a short animation that I could get a job out of them. I applied for many companies, but The Third Floor was the first one which sent me the offer letter. Therefore, I moved to LA and started working there right after I graduated.
How was the experience to work as a Visualization Artist?
It has been amazing! Every moment of working in this job has been so rewarding. This job is a very creative fast pace job. As a Visualization Artist we work on the most expensive sequences of movies. We transfer director’s ideas to 3D animation. We work on camera movements, chronography of fights, lighting, effects, explosions, distractions, etc to make a quick 3D animation sketch of everything for the sequence. We brainstorm ideas and come up with the best and most entertaining way of making the sequences. It is fun. I appreciate every day that I have the opportunity to work on cool movies as a Visualization Artist.
What was your favorite Visualization Projects that you worked on? What was the Visualization Challenges in this project?
I love all the projects that I had the chance to work on them, but maybe my favorite one is a movie that will be released next year. I’m not allowed to say its name, but I worked on it last year with Halon Entertainment’s team. It was a virtual production project and we had to use Unreal Engine in addition to Maya for this project. I was amazed by what our team achieved in a short amount of time. It was a wonderful project and I learned a lot during that project. I’m looking forward to watching this movie in theaters next year.
Tell us about some of the projects you have worked on?
I have been really lucky during these years and I had the chance to work on great projects and gather some unique experiences.
I have worked on Avengers Endgame, Spider-Man Far From Home, Men in Black International, Lady and the Tramp, Call of the Wild, etc. Also, I had the opportunity to work on some cool short commercials like Yellawood and Nike plus a Universal ride.
How was your working experience in Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Men in Black International and more?
I worked on these projects with The Third Floor, Inc team and had the opportunity to learn from their amazing highly skillful artists. Working on these projects was so exciting. It’s so unbelievable to be able to animate characters that you have always loved and appreciated. Suddenly you feel like your dream came true and you are helping your team to make a memorable movie, but at the same time you will feel a heavy responsibility because you know that the expectation is really high in these projects and you don’t wanna make audiences disappointed.
How does Virtual Production support our Film Industry?
Virtual production is a very new powerful tool that allows the director to wear a VR headset and see himself in a completely CG environment with CG characters and decide about the camera angles, actions , actings, effects, lighting and everything else. You can even ask stunt actors to wear motion capture suits and play in motion capture area, and stream the live data to Unreal Engine. As a result, with using some new technologies, the director will be able to see the stunts’ CG characters playing an action in a completely CG environment all live. In my opinion it can definitely speed up the production. It’s a new technology that is growing so quickly and more studios are using it nowadays. I used this technology when I was at Halon Entertainment. We had super smart team there which they could make every impossible possible. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of that project and learn from them.
Share something about The Call of the Wild?
I worked on Call of the Wild with Halon Entertainment team. It was the first project that I needed to learn and use Unreal Engine for it. I had amazing teammates that they helped me and taught me so much about UE in a short amount of time. Everything looked gorgeous in UE and that was super exciting.
Oh! Let me tell you a fun memory about Call of the Wild. After every big project ends, production usually makes T-shirts related to that movie and gives them to the artists who worked on that project. Few months after working on Call of the Wild, our team was at Warner Bros lot for another project. We were eating lunch at Warner’s cafe and one of my friends wore his Call of the Wild T-shirt. Suddenly someone with a very kind familiar face came to us and said hi and ask if we worked on Call of the Wild!!! Wow! Guess what!!! He was Terry Notary! He played a lot of scenes as Buck in Call of the Wild. He is one of the best motion capture actors in visual effects industry. It was such an amazing moment to see him and talk to him.
How has your experience been working at Halon Entertainment?
It’s been great. We just finished a project for Netflix. The whole sequence was done during quarantine. We all worked on it remotely and the result was awesome.
How projects worked on this lockdown period?
Unfortunately, many projects stopped because they weren’t able to continue shooting the films. However, some projects that they were in early stages continued working remotely. Work from home in this scale is considered as a new thing for Visualization industry. At first everyone thought it’s gonna be hard to communicate remotely, but little by little supervisors and artists adopted new habits to communicate in the best and clearest way possible. Now, working from home is totally possible and as an artist I feel like I have the same performance as I had before. Of course sometimes there are some technical issues, but there are solutions for them and companies are learning how to fix them. Also, removing 2 to 4 hours of every day commute time is pretty nice.
What’s your thoughts about current state of the film industry?
Unfortunately, film industry is really slow right now. Hopefully soon the production teams will figure out solutions for continuing working during pandemic time. Watching movies and series are one of the few safe activities that people can have these days, so we will need new content for entertaining people at their homes.
Any particular artists/professionals that inspire you?
Well, fun fact about me, my name is Elham and Elham means inspiration in Persian and arabic. I get inspired from everyone who works hard in their field. From the most famous fine arts artists that you can see their works in museums to my teachers, supervisors, coworkers and friends. Every good pice of art from movies, series, animations, games, or even all kinds of art works, designs, foods, everything can be a source of inspiration. We are all a combination of people who we meet and experiences we earn during our everyday lives plus our own thoughts and our own selves. We all affect on each others lives. We can learn and get inspired from each other and from every thing.
What do you like to do away from the computer?
I imagine pandemic is over and I answer this question. Traveling, hiking, doing Yoga, reading books, cooking, seeing friends,..
What will be your ‘dream project’ to work on?
I really love to work on one of Christofer Nolan’s movies which will win Oscar for visual effects.
What do you think about the future of VFX & Animation Industry?
It has to get better. People will need to have more choices and more options about what they like to watch. We have to make more high quality content for different tastes.
Which direction would you like to take your career in the near future?
I really like to be Visualization Lead and Supervisor in big projects someday.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to get into this industry?
Work hard! This industry is a very competitive industry. Unfortunately, there are not enough jobs for everyone, so it’s gonna be tough career path. Be ready for that and don’t get disappointed. Just be kind, work hard, learn more and keep moving forward. Your dreams will come true soon.