Being a Senior Rigging Artist in Montreal

With Alicia Carvalho

Alicia Carvalho

“My team is very open and fun – there’s a real camaraderie. (…) The team is also very diverse with people with all sorts of backgrounds, all different shades of the human rainbow.”


Alicia Carvalho is a Senior Rigging Artist at DNEG in Montreal. She joined the team in April 2021 to work on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Prior to this, Alicia worked on feature animation shows like Captain Underpants and game cinematics such as Rainbow Six Siege: Outbreak and Assassin’s Creed Origins. Like an increasing number of artists, Alicia came to the VFX industry with extensive experience in Unreal Engine. Read on to hear more about her early experiences in the industry, how the Creature team immediately made her feel supported when she joined, and what life has been like since joining DNEG.

Hi Alicia! What brought you into the world of VFX?

I can’t talk about VFX without talking about Animation. I was about 14 years old when I decided I wanted to work in Animation – so from this very early age, going all the way back to when we used to go see Disney movies for my dad’s birthday each year – I knew this was the career path I wanted to pursue. I took programming and art classes in high school and I completed an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in visual arts and painting/drawing. I also have certificates in Computer Animation and Digital Character Animation from Sheridan College.

My first job was in Kids TV, on a production called Mia and Me. Fast forward a few years later, I moved from Toronto to Montreal and held different positions as either a rigging supervisor or as an artist on feature animation projects. In 2017 I decided to take a different route and joined a studio that was doing game cinematics and also a TV series rendered in Unreal Engine. I was there for about four years until I took some time off to recharge and then, I joined DNEG in 2021.

To be honest I wasn’t really sure what moving into VFX would be like. I think the VFX industry has a reputation of being a bit scary and being very intense – you hear all sorts of crazy stories so of course, that was a concern. I had met people from DNEG from the Vancouver and London office about three years ago at SIGGRAPH. It seemed like a great company, which led me to interview for a role in Montreal. I chose DNEG because I really got the impression that I would be supported as an artist and I felt confident that I would be able to maintain some work-life balance which is very important to me.

What is your day-to-day like as a Senior Rigging Artist?

In talking about my day-to-day, I think it is important to talk about my time before I start work in the morning. Since the pandemic, I no longer have an hour and a half commute which I love. When I get up, I read a little, I’ll go out into my garden or I’ll try to move my body a little. I’ll then have breakfast and log-in to start my day. The first thing I do after logging on is to say good morning to our team in our team chat and then I check my emails. I’ll see if there’s anything I need to discuss with my supervisor but I’m usually good to just start my work.

Depending on what project I’m on, I might have dailies or reviews that I need to go to. Sprinkled in there are talks with my supervisor and the team because, you know, we’re still trying to be social even though we’re working remotely.

My team is very open and fun – there’s a real camaraderie. People feel comfortable asking questions and bouncing ideas off of each other. We have a global channel where we can really pull from a large ‘brain centre’ to see if anyone has run into a similar work-related problem and if so, what the solution was. The team is also very diverse with people with all sorts of backgrounds, all different shades of the human rainbow, which is very important to me as a woman of colour, since it impacts my comfort level in a positive way. I recently counted and, out of about 26 people on my team, there are ten women including two female supervisors and four senior female riggers (including myself). It’s very inclusive. Both our previous and current Heads of Department have really set the tone as well. Seeing them foster such a positive environment and knowing that they really care about our team members makes such a huge difference.

What do you like the most about your job?

I love putting my headphones on in the morning and jumping into work. The ability to work uninterrupted on my craft and problem solve is something that I really treasure. I also love that I get to learn every day and truly appreciate the weekly knowledge shares we do with our team in Montreal, led by our Head of Department Thomas Girdwood, and the team in Vancouver. Opportunities to learn from each other and grow, like this one, are amazing.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?

Working on your craft is important but the ability to talk to people is also a skill. It is something that you need to work on and it will improve with practice. I attended SIGGRAPH about three years ago: that is where I first started talking with people who worked at DNEG, and from those conversations I knew it was a company I’d be interested in potentially joining in the future.

Specifically for Rigging artists, I’d also say take an art class and work on your skinning skills. With art classes, even if you’re terrible at it, it is so important to train your eye and to learn how to observe natural phenomena. Whether you’re practicing drawing grapes or anatomy, just having that experience is super important. Regarding skinning, it is a skill that I find is atrophying in the industry but is still super important. It all comes down to joints so if you have strong skinning skills, that will take you extremely far.

Time for some rapid fire questions – What’s your ‘special power’ at work?

Connecting with people. Through the different roles I’ve had over the years, I’ve learned that everyone is just trying their best, especially during the pandemic. If you think about the artist that’s underperforming or the person who you’re struggling to work with in another department, it is always important to remember that everyone is simply trying their best. It is also important to realize that everyone is the hero of their own story, therefore when you’re in situations of conflict, I try to approach interactions from a place of kindness. I find this goes a long way in creating a better work environment.

What are you most looking forward to every day?

I enjoy not being tied up in meetings all day. I get to do the type of work I love, interact with my team and really enjoy what I do.

How did you feel on your first day at DNEG?

I was very nervous because it was my first VFX job but I knew DNEG had a very robust training program. I really appreciated how organized everything was on my first day – my computer was set up and ready to go, I had a proper orientation schedule and I was also given a two-week schedule that laid out my artist training which was hugely helpful. I ended up feeling very supported and confident that I was going to receive the training needed to do my job well.

Finish this sentence: DNEG is…

DNEG is a very supportive work environment where I can learn and grow as an artist.


To find out about VFX at DNEG, click here. And if you are interested in joining DNEG’s Oscar-winning team, stay tuned for our next ‘FOCUS’ and  click here to find out more about our open positions across our studios in North America, Europe and India.




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