“Being hungry for knowledge, and listening, learning, absorbing, and being passionate about what you do are really the most important things; and the things that will bring you the most joy.”
Over the past few years, filmmakers’ appetites for Virtual Production have grown tremendously, and so has DNEG’s Virtual Production department. Steve Griffith joined our crew in London in 2021 as Executive Producer to lead the DNEG Virtual Production team. Bringing decades of industry experience, with previous roles as Head Of Production, and Vice President of Production, Steve has worked on the likes of Jumanji: The Next Level, Stranger Things, Dumbo, Welcome to Marwen, and Murder on the Orient Express, to name but a few. Keep reading to find out more about Steve’s journey in VFX and Virtual Production, what his current role entails, and more.
Hi Steve! What brought you into the world of VFX, and specifically into the world of Virtual Production?
My aunt and uncle worked in visual effects. My aunt used to work at ILM back in the day, around the time of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters, etc. So when I was a kid, I toured ILM and was exposed to VFX when these shows were in production. Fast forward to when I was in college, and I was an intern on the Matrix Revolution and The Matrix Reloaded. At the time I actually didn’t think I was going to go into VFX, I wanted to do a MBA and teach English overseas for a while. That being said, because of the internship I did, I was offered the opportunity to join a few VFX studios based in Los Angeles. That’s how I started working for Digital Domain as a Coordinator in the early 2000’s on Peter Pan.
Now Virtual Production, how did I get here? Fast forward again, some 20 years later, I’m still in VFX, working on Murder on the Orient Express. I was at MPC at the time and we got this call to stitch a huge amount of plates together… to be put on a LED wall. Stitching plates together was fairly basic work but for a LED wall, that I had never done before! George Murphy, who was the VFX Supervisor on the show, wanted to build this giant LED wall outside of a train and project the plates. At first I was very skeptical AND we had very little time to stitch these plates together… But then I saw the movie and I said to myself “that really works!” I could see all the reflections on the windows, the actors and actresses looked like they’re tied into the environment. It made sense to me after seeing the final product but, at the time, being in the middle of it, it didn’t make any sense at all. Now it does, obviously! When I was on the show, I got to meet Fred Waldman, who along with his team had built the LED wall we used outside the train. Years later, we bumped into each other again, and started working on a bunch of different projects together to educate people on Virtual Production. It was at the time of the pandemic. I joined DNEG Virtual Production in 2021, and the rest is history!
What are your career highlight(s) so far?
I have many! I’ve moved around a lot: I worked in L.A, Australia, India, Vancouver, Montreal, now London, and got to work with people that I’ve admired throughout my career like the Coen brothers, Clint Eastwood. These people are the reason why I fell in love with film, so getting to work with those directors was really cool. And then there is the human side of movie making. I’ve been on set a few times and it really is a different kind of bonding experience – everyone comes from very different backgrounds.
What is your day-to-day like as an Executive Producer for Virtual Production?
Two words: education and evangelism. Actually three: add strategy to the mix! I help clients and supervisors to understand what Virtual Production is, what they can do with it, and what’s the best way to use it. DNEG Virtual Production is growing so a lot of what I do also revolves around planning our expansion: where do we want to go, how do we grow our team, what key positions are we going to fill, what kind of outreach work do we want to do with universities, what do we want to offer our clients, etc…
What do you like the most about your job?
When I started, it was all about credits. I wanted to build a resume. But that wore off pretty quickly and it became about the people that I worked with. Building personal relationships with the people I work with is so important, as is understanding how much value they bring to the projects we’re on together. People are not lines in an Excel document that need to be managed.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
That’s a good question because we’re doing a lot of recruitment right now, talking a lot to universities. Let me just start by saying that to work in this industry you have to love it. Also, don’t worry about the future, live in what you’re doing now. A lot of people tend to focus on ‘what’s next’: am I going to be a supervisor or a producer, what am I going to do in five to ten years? Don’t get me wrong, these are important questions but so much can change, and you – as a person – will grow.
So if you’re getting into this industry, being hungry for knowledge, and listening, learning, absorbing, and being passionate about what you do is really the most important thing, and what will bring you the most joy. Finding joy on a day-to-day basis, that’s the most important thing. It’ll bring you fulfilment.
Time for some rapid fire questions – What’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?
A bunch of emails I haven’t responded to!
What’s your ‘special power’ at work?
Not taking things too seriously.
What are you most looking forward to every day?
How did you feel on your first day at DNEG?
I was excited. Who you’re going to meet, what it’s all about. I always love the first week of starting a new job, there is so much to absorb.
What’s your best memory so far at DNEG?
Having our LED stage go live in the UK – that was pretty exciting! Having the stage built, shooting on it. It took a lot of work to get to that place.
DNEG Virtual Production LED volume in London
Finish this sentence: DNEG is…
Diversity. We offer a lot of different services in a lot of places in the world. We are tackling a lot of challenges and celebrating a lot of successes. There are a lot of people working together to bring the studio to the next level. It’s exciting to work in an organisation where you have passionate people trying to create something new and also improve what’s already there, all while delivering really good work in a lot of different areas. DNEG is a very diverse company and I am really enjoying being part of it.
DNEG Virtual Production, a partnership between DNEG and Dimension Studio, offers filmmakers and content creators an industry-leading, end-to-end virtual production service. To find out more about DNEG Virtual Production click here.
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,India and Australia.