Article written by Cédric Moens de Hase, a student at ArtFX.
Last summer I got the opportunity to go to the studio « One of Us » in London, to work on the Netflix series that came out recently, The Witcher. It was an incredible experience, and not exactly as I expected, so I’m going to share with you parts of my experience. There are two aspects that in want to talk about: « In London » and « Inside the Studio ».
At first, I was not interested in working in London at all ; I even said many times, anywhere but London or Paris, because of high rent, the cost of living etc…but, I changed my mind! Of course life is expensive in London, and salaries are lower than expected, but compared to being a student with little money, it’s still a nice lifestyle upgrade. There are a lot of things to visit in London: free museums all over the place, monuments everywhere, of course I was a good little tourist and I went to see Tower Bridge and Big Ben. Natural History Museum (Free)
For the housing, like 99% of people in London, I rented a room in a shared home with strangers. Yes, it was very expensive, 600 pounds per month for a room. I might have been really lucky with my housemates because I really enjoyed living with them! I had my own privacy in my room and got to share my culture and life with very different people. There was a lot to learn from this experience. I shared my house with French, Polish, English and Japanese people and it was really nice getting to know people that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. We all know that English food does not have the best reputation, especially next to French cuisine.
But London is not UK, London is a mega city with the whole world in it, different neighborhoods with different cultures, and it’s actually harder to find typical British food than excellent Indian, Thai, Italian and French restaurants or whatever you are looking for! So the food in London is a big +! (Ok, if you want to buy some decent cheese, “saucisson”, bread, it’s hard and you might have to pay the price) French Restaurant Pierre Victoire When you can eat great Boeuf Bourguignon with a starter and baguette for 10pounds. An amazing aspect of London is of course the VFX / ArtFX community. On the very first day in a studio in London, you are almost guaranteed to met people from ArtFX, that speak french so you won’t feel lost at all. You immediately find yourself in a little restaurant or snack for lunch with other former ArtFX students, and people from your studio, or from other studios that meet for lunch. In fact, you meet new people almost everyday. There are always people to hang out with, go visit a museum, grab something to eat, chill in a park or even go to VFX related events such as VES Nights that happen once a month. This is an event where you can meet many interesting people as well! Last but not least, the nightlife in London!!! There is the famous «Pub Culture», and every day you find pubs like this one on almost every street corner. If you want to go, there is always people to go with you, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go everyday of course. For the Friday nights, I met some pretty incredible people out there, I wasn’t ready for it and I doubt that you will be. But I can’t wait to go back!
INSIDE THE STUDIO
You find yourself in Soho, in the center of Zone 1 in London, people in suits and expensive cars all over the place, you are entering into a studio (in my case One of Us) where everything is big and clean.
At first, it is kind of frightening, so of course I was a bit worried. « Should I really be here ? » « Am I good enough » ? I kept in mind that advice we have been told many times at ArtFX, be confident, but be humble. It’s the best advice and I can give as well. As I said before, you immediately meet people from ArtFX or other schools that had similar experiences as you, you sit next to other artists that are very friendly, welcoming and helpful, so you don’t feel lost at all. I got the opportunity to work on Netflix The Witcher, and a little bit on another superhero movie during my time at One of Us. It was only my second time working on a TV series, so I was also a bit worried about the difficulty of the job. Don’t worry, you not going to get asked to make the star effect in the ending sequence of The Avengers on your first day ! You are given time to find your marks, look at the pipeline, then you get assigned to tasks that aren’t too difficult, in order (I think), to evaluate your capabilities. In my case I got assigned to three lighting tasks that I started to do, not too slowly, but not in a rush either. I tried to be as efficient as possible but keeping in mind to deliver quality. Two days later, I was assign to an establishing shot to do by myself. I was working with Killian Favarger, a former ArtFX student on the sequence, we each got a shot so it was a very collaborative task, exchanging tips, models or opinions. I spent two months, managing my time between the shot I was assigned to and other tasks that were given to me. I’ve never felt oppressed by deadlines or in a hurry. I felt like people immediately had confidence in me, and that pushed me to deliver the best I could. I was even granted time to make some breakdowns for my demo reel. It is pretty similar to ArtFX, but with real means, so I realized we are really well prepared to be there.
I think London is a really great place to start working! There are many of people that went through the same journey as you and that are there to help you. You can immediately find your place. The lifestyle is really cool, there are many studios, and lots of work. And best of all, we are currently being prepared for everything that awaits us there!