We are proud to share with you this interview with a really talented FX TD, Luca Zappala. Actually, Luca worked for very famous companies such as Dneg, Pixomondo, MPC and Cinesite. Earlier in this year he started working with Method Studio. Also Luca worked on movie such as Dark Knight Rises, Hugo, Total Recall, Inception, 2012, Harry Potter and the deadly hallows Part 1 & 2 and many others blockbusters.
We’d love to share with you Luca’s demoreel on this page but because of copyright, we can’t do that so we really encourage you to watch it on Luca’s website.
Hi Luca. I’m really glad today to talk with a so talented FX TD guy. You have a very impressive resume I must admit.
So first things first.. Could you describe your background as an FX Artist?
Hi Sebastien, thanks for offering the time and space for this interview.
I used my first 3d software at the age of 15 and did small animations and stills all the way through high school. I was the classical geek. Also, coming from an artistic family, I used to film home videos with my brother and friends and draw a lot and read a lot. After that I was lucky to be selected to attend a publicly funded 3D course of the National Academy and Design centre of Montreal (but hosted by studios in Italy). I moved to London soon afterwards, in 2001. My career started as a generalist in the games industry , then made my way in the TV industry (series,documentaries, idents). Having strong technical and maths skills it felt natural to transit from generalist work to FX, which made it easier to switch to films in 2006.
What pushed you on that way? I mean can you explain what fascinated you the first time with Visual Effects.
I was always fascinated by practical effects, especially animatronics and miniatures. Also my late grandfather, an eclectic artist called Beppe Domenici, worked on papier mache creatures for giant Carnival floats. I used to spend a lot of time with him, and he taught me how to draw. He worked on a B movie in 1961 with Carlo Rambaldi (the man that worked at the Spielberg’s E.T. puppet back in 1981), building an enormous life-sized practical papier-machee iguana for the movie “Goliath and the Giants”. But then when I first saw Apollo13 I got really fascinated with the Saturn rocket, capsule and Lem and decided to have a go at modeling and texturing them. Since then there was no turning back. The models turned out heavy and nasty by today’s standards, but I had great fun having a go.
Fight club. Because the FX are integral to the story, not just an embellishment.
How did you get into the industry?
It was a combination of luck, timing and a lot of learning (independently and through courses). When I finally approached Cinesite they were about to be awarded a big chunk of work for The Golden Compass, that made it easy to be offered a one year contract as FX-td.
Can you describe what precisely a Lead TD does?
It depends on the company, usually she/he would be in charge of scheduling tasks for the team, ensuring the team has the support required to achieve set goals and lead the team. Often the lead TD would be the first person on board for a specific task and would prepare lookdevs, setups or pure r&d in anticipation for later.
You worked in so many leading FX companies; I can barely mention them all (Dneg, Framestore, Cinesite, Pixomondo, MPC, BBC to mentions some of them)
Which one did you prefer? I mean work is work but talking about co-workers, work environment, projects and so on..
You have to take into account many factors, but considering how nomadic the industry is and how companies are starting to look similar to each other it is really hard to pinpoint one. I might say Cinesite, because it was the first big one I worked for and really enjoyed it. It is interesting to note that perhaps working on your ideal movie could end up being a really bad experience (perhaps because of a stressful schedule or not exciting tasks) whereas sometimes some projects become really exciting unexpectedly.
According to you what are advantages and drawbacks working for such companies?
In general, big studios with solid infrastructures where the process is fragmented across departments tend to pigeon-hole artists in the same type of tasks for months or years, whereas smaller companies allow a bit more flexibility and freedom.This although allows a level of specialization and quality that would be hard to achieve otherwise. Having said that it is important to note that with the current job insecurity out there, highly specialized artists find themselves with short contracts whereas generalists with specializations in one or two areas are more likely to stay in employment for longer, being more versatile from a company point of view.