“The supportive community we have is one of my favourite things about our industry and I’ve had some amazing mentors when starting out, so I can’t wait to give back to the community with some freshly acquired industry experience!”
– Manuel Rivoir, Senior Compositor
Meet one of this year’s Rookie Award judges, DNEG Senior Compositor Manuel Rivoir!
Manuel is currently based at DNEG London. With nearly a decade of experience, he has worked on several large scale blockbusters including Wonder Woman 1984, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Doctor Strange, and Avengers. Most recently, Manuel worked as Senior Compositor on the latest installment of The Matrix franchise: The Matrix Resurrections.
Hello Manuel! Tell us what brought you into the world of VFX and Animation…
I was one of those annoying kids who always knew exactly what they wanted to do from a very young age and just stuck to it. I think it all started with a Walking with Dinosaurs VHS when I was 8 years old. I didn’t understand how they managed to persuade all of those mean-looking dinosaurs to agree to the film shoot, but I was curious to learn. Needless to say: Watching the ‘Making Of’ featurette left me even more confused, but I was hooked. From that moment on I religiously binged every behind-the-scenes featurette I could get my hands on: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Matrix, Peppa Pig, you name it! And when the modern internet came along, and I began watching my childhood hero Andrew Kramer (a YouTuber known as ‘The After Effects Guru’), the real fun began: my friends were dragged into literally hundreds of embarrassing and now cringy short films and VFX tests.
How did your journey start? Any career highlight(s) so far?
I was very privileged to get into the Institute of Animation and Visual Effects at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in Germany, a film school consistently ranked among the best in the world. The amount of talent there is absolutely mind-boggling and I’ve learned so much from my mentors and fellow students there.
It was there that I first heard about The Rookie Awards and decided to enter as a contestant. I couldn’t believe it when I got the phone call that I had won! After that everything happened very quickly: another call from Framestore followed and a few days after that I sat on a plane to London to join their team. And the rest is history!
I think a personal career highlight so far was walking past the infamous black stormtroopers on my first day at Industrial Light & Magic. The people there have not only shaped our entire VFX industry 40 years ago, but also inspired a whole new generation of filmmakers like myself. My eight-year-old self would have probably had a heart attack that day. My thirty-year-old self almost did!
What do you like the most about your job?
This may sound incredibly cheesy, but the friendships you make along the way. <3
Making any film is a huge collaborative effort and this especially rings true to visual effects, with literally hundreds of people working together towards the same goal. There is no place for a big ego in this industry and I love how everyone pulls together to share their knowledge and exchange creative ideas. The result is usually something far greater than the sum of its parts, that we can be both proud of and impressed by as a collective rather than an individual.
You’ve got some of the best artists in the world working on these big films and it’s so easy to take that for granted. Plus, you simply get to have lots of fun with your colleagues while creating cool stuff. It can be hard work, but at the end of the day, we’re not saving lives — so there’s no harm in having fun in the process!
What is your proudest moment to date?
Receiving a “Great job, keep going” note from James Gunn while the entire rest of the team just got the same “Good job, keep going” note back. Does that count?
Otherwise, it would probably be watching that amazing Dancing-Baby-Groot-Opening Title Scene for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 on the big screen in all its glory. It was both technically and creatively an immensely tricky shot to pull off, but I feel like all the love and labour everyone at Framestore and Marvel put into it really paid off in the end. It was THE shot everyone was talking about after the release and even today people still remember it well. I feel like we’ve written a bit of cinema history there!
What’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?
A gigantic bowl of porridge! Along with more empty bowls of porridge right next to it. I’m the type of person who will constantly chew on something while working.
Why did you choose to get involved in the Rookie Awards?
Having experienced the benefits of The Rookie Awards first-hand during my time as a contestant, I was very eager to join the judging panel when Andrew reached out to me about it. The supportive community we have is one of my favourite things about our industry and I’ve had some amazing mentors when starting out, so I can’t wait to give back to the community with some freshly acquired industry experience.
What are you most looking forward to about the Rookie Awards?
Everyone’s submissions! Over the last few years, the quality of the entries has simply exploded. It is impressive to see how far we’ve progressed in making high-quality animation available to the masses. It’s an amazing time to be a storyteller right now and I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!
Do you remember being a rookie in the industry? What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry or who is just starting a career in VFX?
I would say: don’t worry too much about mastering a particular software, but instead go outside, be curious and learn as much as you can about the world around you. Unsurprisingly, to be able to recreate a plausible reality from scratch you first have to understand its components. “How would a flame behave in zero-g?”, “How does the anatomy of a raccoon need to change for it to be able to talk?” “Why does light scatter through a polar bear’s fur so differently and how can we recreate this?” Believe it or not, finding solutions to these types of questions takes up most of our day. Knowing how to find answers to these issues will not only impress your supervisor in dailies but is also absolutely instrumental in creating a believable visual effects shot.
Finish this sentence: DNEG is…
where magic gets made / where friendships get formed / where Regent’s Park is close / a great place to work!