Being a VFX Animator in Montreal

With Derek Mancini

“[DNEG] is a special place for artists, where you won’t feel like a number, where you will be treated well. When you join DNEG you become part of something… unique!”


Derek Mancini, VFX Animator at DNEG in Montreal was one of the first artists to join the VFX Animation team when the Montreal studio opened in 2018. From a team of a few people to several hundred today, Derek saw the studio grow and contributed to projects like The Kid Who Would be King, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Infinite, Jungle Cruise and Uncharted. Read on to find out what it’s like to be part of the VFX Animation team at DNEG, what Derek’s day-to-day work life is like, and how he felt when he first opened the doors of our Montreal studio in February 2018.

Hi Derek! What brought you into the world of VFX and Animation?

I initially wanted to be an Illustrator, but after graduation the industry didn’t feel quite right for me – I was looking for something more collaborative. So I decided to head back to school to learn 3D Animation and absolutely loved it. I landed my first job in Animation thanks to one of my teachers who recommended me for a position at a local studio in Montreal where I am from. He knew my skills, my work ethic, and put my name forward. And then, everything led up to where I am now. I joined DNEG in Montreal to work on The Kid Who Would be King, which is kind of funny because the last project I worked on before moving over to DNEG was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword!

What are your career highlight(s) so far?

Of course I am proud of the shows I’ve had the chance to work on up until now but really, for me, my biggest highlight so far would have to be the people I’ve worked with. My team at DNEG in Montreal, our Supervisors and Heads of Departments.

Before joining DNEG I had an interview with our Global Head of VFX Animation, Robyn Luckham. The interview itself was a technical nightmare: my internet kept dropping, Skype didn’t work well. But Robyn was so patient, understanding, and honestly it didn’t feel like an interview at all. I hung up smiling, thinking that if people like him work at DNEG I want to be part of it too. And that feeling hasn’t left me ever since.

And how could I not talk about Shahar Levavi! He heads our VFX Animation department in Montreal. I love working with him, I guess you could say that he is like a father figure for our Animation crew. You can go to him with anything and he’ll listen to you, help you figure things out. This is what VFX Animation at DNEG is all about.

What is your day-to-day like as a VFX Animator?

It always starts with checking my emails and the notes left on the shots I’m working on. Then, depending on the project I’m on I will start animating, catch up with the Animation team, check in with my leads and supervisors, regroup with other departments, go to dailies, address notes, etc. I’ve been at DNEG Montreal pretty much since its opening so people often come to me if they need help – I am not a Lead or Supervisor but I’m always willing to help out when I can.

What do you like the most about your job?

Honestly, the people. I think DNEG attracts a certain type of person. Everyone I’ve had the chance to meet and work with is so unique, friendly, and brings so much to the table. I also love that I am able to work directly with other departments, learn from experts in their fields who have an amazing technical and creative grasp on things. Working in such a positive environment really makes everything so much better!

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

Believe in yourself, don’t give up on your dreams, and be ready to learn. You don’t have to get into the industry knowing everything – you can’t! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and stay true to yourself. Your personality, how well you get along with others, your drive, that’s what really matters.

What was the best shot you’ve worked on?

Oh I can’t say much because it’s a shot from Shazam! Fury of the Gods, currently in production at DNEG. But what I can tell you is that I worked on a creature for the show… It was a challenge because I usually animate things like tentacles for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, branches for Jungle Cruise, lasso and ropes for Wonder Woman. Creatures? Not that much! I had no idea how it would turn out but the whole thing ended up being a lot of fun, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work on it.

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

Problem-solving, whether I know the answer or not, if it’s a quick fix or something that’ll take long to figure out, I enjoy doing it. I think that’s one of my strengths.

What are you most looking forward to every day?

Meeting with my team, I always look forward to our daily meeting in the morning.

How did you feel on your first day at DNEG?

Free – it really felt like a new beginning. I started in February 2018 – it was a miserable day outside but as soon as I walked in the studio I remember feeling so happy. We were in a temporary office, the team was super small: 4 animators freshly hired, and 2 artists from DNEG in London and Vancouver here to show us the ropes, everything was a work in progress as it usually is when a new studio opens. And yet, it felt so liberating and exciting.

What’s your best memory so far at DNEG?

It was after a tough dailies session where everyone received a lot of notes. My teammates and I were just all sitting down together, taking stock of what had just happened, thinking about our notes. We all looked at each other and started laughing. Never forget that you have a team around you, you are in it together!

Finish this sentence: DNEG is…

Unique. It is a special place for artists, where you won’t feel like a number, where you will be treated well. When you join DNEG you become part of something… unique!


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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