“It’s about being there for my team whenever they may need me. I feel content when they put their trust in me.“
As Head of Compositing at DNEG in India, Pranay Agarwal’s journey into VFX is a prime example of following one’s passion with a healthy dose of determination and strong will. Since joining the studio in 2011 as a mid-level compositor in Mumbai, he has also spent 6 months at DNEG’s London studio after being promoted to Head of Compositing. Pranay has worked on Stereo and VFX shows like Sin City A Dame to Kill for, Pacific Rim: Uprising, The Fate of the Furious, and Greyhound to name a few. Read on to get to know him and find out how he’s become one of the driving forces behind DNEG India’s awesome compositing team.
Hi Pranay! What brought you into the world of VFX?
I am from Delhi and my cousin used to work for DD Metro (the national news and entertainment channel). There wasn’t any other channel except DD Metro available at that time and I was fascinated by the things I saw on it. The work done on various programs had me mesmerised. From a very young age, I was inclined to create my own rules and not follow others. I have always wanted to see my creative side come to life. This was the main reason why I joined this field. It enabled me to use my fondness for computer programming and creativity, and make a career out of it. That being said, at first my dad, who is a Chartered Accountant, wanted me to shadow him and follow his footsteps. When I told him about my career choice, he was actually supportive of it. He gave me a piece of advice which I always follow “put your heart and soul in whatever you do, else don’t do it”. He supported my aspirations and didn’t want me to regret later on taking up something I didn’t like. Though explaining to him what I do still remains a task! And he keeps checking jokingly if the studio knows how much responsibility they’re entrusting me with. It motivates me. During the pandemic, for the first time, he had a chance to really find out what I work on and how I work, and I could see the pride in his eyes which meant the world to me. He proudly tells all his friends about me. Its humbling yet motivating and assuring at the same time.
How did your journey start? Any career highlight(s) so far?
I joined my cousins at their studio, where they were creating content for DD National and DD Metro. I used to help transport VHS tapes from the editor to the DD Metro office. From there, I moved to production and that piqued my interest in computers and graphics. I first joined a famous animation house in Mumbai to do a course in VFX and animation, then took up a compositing course and loved it! I joined DNEG in 2011 and have seen the company continuously grow over the last 11 years. Initially I joined as a mid-level compositor and gradually moved up to a Head of Department role. Shortly after being promoted I went to London for 6 months. It was tough for me when I came back, I was worried about the increased responsibilities. Luckily our management team was there to support and reassure me that I could do the job. I actually now make it a point to be that person for my colleagues and the team I manage.
Speaking of career highlights – I worked on a native stereo documentary which was almost 50 minutes long. One of my Supervisors helped me through and very patiently showed me the ropes. He guided me to finish the show and I am very proud of that feat. I also got to do stereo work on TRON: Legacy which I was really excited about. TRON released when I was a kid and had quite an impact on me – also my son’s name got featured in the movie which is quite something! Being in India and getting the opportunity to work on a native stereo Hollywood film 11 years ago is one of the biggest and fondest memories. Another game changer for me was Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, where I acted as Supervisor. That was a very big leap in my career!
What is your day-to-day like as the Head of Compositing at DNEG in India?
Everyday is unique. I am a firefighter most of the time – I fix issues, resolve challenges, and move on to the next task. But my job isn’t just about that or scheduling meetings. It’s about being there for my team whenever they may need me. I feel content when they put their trust in me. When I look back at the end of the day and see how much we managed to accomplish within a few hours, it motivates me for the next day.
What do you like most about your job?
The hustle here, I love it the most! The compositing department is the last in the line. We are the ones who are delivering the final film! I take great pride in the fact that we put together the final pieces and get to be the first ones to witness the magic of cinema. Every time!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
You need to be really be passionate about what you do to thrive in this industry. As much as your creativity and artistic senses are important, you also need to have that passion. Keep your creativity alive, be fast and effective and never lose your drive.
Time for some rapid-fire questions – What’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?
I have a painting of my kid and myself that was painted by a friend of mine. It’s very special, it will always be on my desk.
What’s your ‘special power’ at work?
I believe in doing my work smartly, quickly and effectively. I can’t rest until I have checked all things off my to-do list. I am a firm believer in “never stop trying, keep moving”
What do you look forward to every day?
I look forward to opportunities for growth, and there is plenty of opportunity at DNEG. On a side note, I really admire Merzin Tavaria, our President, Global Production and Operations. He is always on his toes, ready for anything, constantly looking into scaling up the studio!
What is your proudest moment to date?
When I got to see and hold an Oscar!
Finish this sentence: DNEG is…
FAMILY and a trampoline ride!
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.