ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA—For aspiring visual effects artists, the path to stardom increasingly begins in Adelaide, South Australia. Rising Sun Pictures, which is based in Adelaide, has garnered international acclaim for its work in creating visual effects for films and television shows including
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Game of Thrones
and the upcoming
, but it’s also got a growing reputation as a training ground for future talent.
RSP’s education program, operated in alliance with the University of South Australia, offers graduate certificate programs across a range of visual effects disciplines, and it amassed an impressive track record for helping students move from the classroom to industry jobs. Over the past two years, some 22 students who’ve trained at RSP—where the program is limited to 10 students per semester—have gone directly into paid employment at visual effects studios in Australia and elsewhere.
“It’s fantastic,” says Anna Hodge, manager for education and training. “Most students come to us after they’ve earned an advanced diploma of degree. For them, we’re like a finishing school. We teach them the industry skills and practices.”
RSP’s program is unique in that students train on the premises of a world-class visual effects studio and their teachers are all working professionals. Classes are organized like real-world productions and students are expected to conform to industry standards for quality and efficiency. The classes are also highly creative and offer young artists a chance to spread their wings in their selected discipline. Students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Compositing and Tracking and Graduate Certificate in Dynamic Effects and Lighting programs recently teamed up to produce an original short film. It was accepted into the prestigious Adelaide Film Festival where it will have its world premiere next month.
Other visual effects studios that have hired RSP graduates include Animal Logic, Cutting Edge, Resin VFX, Iloura, The Gingerbread Man, Foundry and Apple. Studios value the practical skills and work discipline that RSP-trained artists invariably bring, says Lincoln Wogan, VFX producer at Resin VFX, which recently brought on three of the school’s grads.
“Finding good, capable junior compositors who can fit into a team and workflow has become less of a challenge thanks to the Rising Sun Pictures Graduate Certificate in Compositing and Tracking course,” Wogan observes. “RSP graduates are skilled, have great attention to detail, understand workflow principles and are essentially ready to work. It is one of the first things we look for on a resume when hiring a junior. It is as close to a quality guarantee as you can get.”
Not surprisingly, the biggest beneficiary of the influx of talent is RSP itself. Recently five students went directly from the classroom to staff positions and are now hard helping to craft visual effects for Hollywood blockbusters. “Recruiters are always contacting us about talent,” says Hodge, “but if we can employ them ourselves, it’s a good thing.”
Success begets success. Applications for future slots in the graduate certificate programs continue to rise. Students come to RSP from all parts of Australia. The studio expects to welcome its first international students next year.
In response to growing demand, RSP is looking to expand its program. It plans to offer master classes as well as units within UNISA’s Media Arts degree next year. “What we offer here is best practice when it comes to work-integrated learning,” says Hodge. “It’s a unique program and it ensures the availability of a well-trained and enthusiastic workforce that is ready to step into jobs not only here in Australia, but around the world.”