A Date with A Visual Effects Artist: Effandi Mohamed

When I was asked to interview a visual effects artist, I was more than glad to do it.

When I was asked to interview a visual effects artist who does effects for Hollywood movies, I was thrilled.

But when I was asked to interview a visual effects artist who did effects for The Dark Knight, my hands were shaking in excitement.

Everyone, meet Effandi Mohamed, a visual effects artist at Double Negatives (Dneg for short).

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As I crafted my questions for the interview, my head started to go blank. I certainly could interview an actor, writer, musician, or even a director. Yet, I had no idea what to ask a visual effects artist! This is a sign that Singapore needs more people in the visual effects industry so journalists can interview. Thankfully, Effandi was able to understand that.

Our interview took place at Starbucks Tampines (they had a major makeover and I AM THRILLED!), even though I was reluctant fearing that it was too casual an atmosphere for an interview. Effandi assured me that Starbucks was a good venue, “Chill ahh… We’re in the creative industry! We have to be relaxed and casual!” That being said, I dumped my bag on the sofa and immediately queued for a Caramel Macchiato.

The 29-year-old visual effects artist who enjoys football, traveling and photography is someone whom we can call a role model. Despite having worked on mega Hollywood blockbusters, Effandi stayed calm and humble through out the interview session. I asked Effandi on the prospects of Singapore’s role in the visual effects industry as well as the future of local films incorporating visual effects.

How did you land a job in the visual effects industry?

I was studying at CG Protégé and Dneg staffs dropped by to visit the school and informing us they are recruiting talents from Singapore for their London office. They like what they see from our works and requested us to submit our showreels if we’re keen on working with them. Back in 2004-2006, the 3D industry was slowly picking up its pace in Singapore, considering it is a multi billion dollar industry. It was a very competitive market in Singapore at that time and therefore I decided to try my luck with Dneg.  Few weeks later I was interviewed by Dneg’s HR Manager and 2D VFX Supervisor and I was very nervous during the interview. A week later, I got an email from the HR Manager that I was accepted and they are flying me off to London soon.

Have you always considered a career in the media industry specializing in visual effects? What were some of the difficulty faced?

It has been a dream of mine since I watched Armageddon, Matrix and some other VFX movies and to have my name in the credits of a Hollywood blockbuster. When I graduated from LaSalle in 2001 majoring in multi-media art, there was not much demand for 3D works in Singapore and therefore jobs in the 3D industry were limited to those lucky few. Nevertheless, I still took the risk of studying what I love, not knowing much about where my future was headed, really.

Without hardship, there is no success. It took me ten years to get to where I am now. I had to make do with a job as a videographer and video editor at the Singapore Police Force for five years while I waited patiently for the 3D industry to boom. Perhaps if I didn’t get an F9 for English during my O Levels, I would probably have had a better job upon graduation. I guess everything happens for a reason – I’m happy where I am now.

What do you like most about doing visual effects in Hollywood movies?

A visual effects artist has to be meticulous and really pay attention to detail. Mistakes can be seen obviously and the precise technicalities challenge me to do my best and that’s what I like about doing visual effects. Of course, end of the day our name will be credit and been seen around the globe which I find it really cool.

What were some of the movies you have worked on?

Angels & Demons, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Quantum of Solace, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Dark Knight.

How did you feel when you found out you were working on the Dark Knight – the biggest Hollywood blockbuster since Titanic?

Actually, I had no idea it would turn out to be a box office hit. In fact, I belief neither did any of us at Dneg when we’re working on it! We knew we had to be very precise with out work since it’s in IMAX format. It be nice if The Dark Knight could smash Titanic all time record.

So do you think Singapore is ready for post-production work like visual effects?

Seriously speaking, the visual effects industry in Singapore is still an infant industry. Give it a few more years; coupled with government support, trainings in schools and public awareness, the industry will certainly grow. Singapore government needs to give all the support it can give to the industry because a lot of things are involved to create stunning visual effects like special effects, building miniatures sets, props etc.

Comparing Singapore and Hollywood, how different are the two film industries?

Huge differences, man! Hollywood uses loads of big trucks full of actors, camera crew, make up crew artists and whole lots of equipments etc just to shoot one scene! Imagine the scale of production compared to Singapore! Besides, they are able to have bigger budgets and therefore they can use it for visual and special effects. They have proper filming studios when we ourselves do not.

What do you hope to see in the filming industry in Singapore?

We need more filmmakers who are willing to take the risk and integrate visual effects in their films. This is the only way for this industry to succeed in Singapore.

What do you hope to see in Singapore’s visual effects industry?

Strong government backing with financial support – in large amounts, of course! *wink * This financial backing will of coz help to improve in all aspects to build this industry from education, luring companies and creating more jobs for fellow Singaporeans.
Hopefully we’ll see more established CG companies setting up studios here in our little island, and perhaps more Malays will get involved in this industry. We can’t be sitting at our office desks being contented with whatever we have. We need to be chasing our dreams; even if takes us a long time to achieve it.

And yes, we need more ladies in the industry (chuckles).

What is your advice for potential visual artists and wannabes?

Work hard – it’s not just the creativity but also the technical know-hows and artistic value of your work. With both elements, you can be the best visual artist if you really want to.