Monthly Archives: April 2007

Peter Giles

Peter is the Director of the Digital Media Division at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) which runs Australia’s leading postgraduate and professional programs in Digital Animation and Emerging Media. Projects from these programs have won both national and international recognition for artistic and technical excellence.

Peter has produced projects for radio, television and interactive media and he has worked on a wide range of industry training initiatives. He is the past chair of the Sydney chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH.

Things to remember about Climbing the Ladder

A big thank you to Peter Giles (AFTRS), Nick Hore (Animal Logic), Jason Bath (Fuel) and Lara Hopkins (Rising Sun Pictures) for their excellent session on career paths and how to get into the industry.

Playing to a packed house, the panel described an industry where, although there are lots of people doing foundation level training, there is a chronic shortage of artists at the higher levels needed to achieve international feature film-level work. Peter Giles described how the AFTRS is providing more attachment-style schemes and shorter courses designed for people working in industry who want to add techniques and professional-level skills to their repertoire.

The questions that captured the audience interests were:

How do you know how to rate your own work?
Where can you find examples of good work (and bad work) so that you can make comparisons?

The panel recommended checking out the advice on their websites:

and the value of participating in the dlf:

All of the companies have job boards and general application advice on their websites and recommended that applicants approach them through those mechanisms. The consensus is that you take your application seriously and that what you provide should reflect that attitude. Jokey approaches were generally not recommended nor were applications full of spelling mistakes and similar errors.

The companies suggested that keeping in touch and sending in updated showreels on a six-monthly basis was the best tactic. They pointed out that an updated showreel should be significantly updated with more and better work each time. Applicants that send in the same reel time and time again generally did not make a good impression. Nor did those who pestered houses constantly. If you are not successful on a first or second application, it is wise not to take this personally. The houses are driven by the work they have on hand and recruit accordingly. If you are not hired straightaway, it will be a reflection of the level and kind of work they have on hand at the time you apply. This is why it is important to keep building your skill set and sending in updated reels.

What is the industry looking for in Australia?

—€œA generalist with a specialty.—€

Ultimately the VFx houses are looking for talent – someone with an eye and the capacity to execute work that is visually impressive. Two well-rendered frames are much better than five minutes of mediocre work.


  • say what you can do – demonstrate your skill set and be willing to take on the basic tasks of a role rather than pitching yourself at the senior-level goal that you are pursuing (note: it’s ok to let people know what your goal is, just don’t overstate where you are on the path to that goal)
  • list all of your skills, including administrative abilities
  • do not let the software be what holds you back; flexibility about software is valued
  • a good work ethic is crucial


  • the capacity to take on more responsibility for your own work and to teach juniors and start to lead up teams
  • having a strong understanding of the process
  • usually an average of three years experience/some on-set experience
  • and a good work ethic is still crucial


  • very strong skill set in specialty and wide-ranging knowledge of process
  • expected to be able to do high-level work very quickly
  • usually more than five years experience
  • this also is the point at which people tend to become higher-level specialists (particles, lighting, etc.) or generalists that have enough skills across the process to be a team leader
  • not only do you have a good work ethic yourself, you have to inspire it in others.

Ultimately, getting a job will come down to your skills as an artist. Keeping it will depend upon how well you play with others. Most people get ahead and rise up the ranks by developing their own knowledge and skills and also by training others through knowledge sharing.

For those of you who want to build your knowledge of animation, our May event will feature David J. Smith, a character animator who has worked with Moving Picture Co., Lost in Space, Rhythm and Hues, Click3x, Blue Sky Studios, Animal Logic, and Fuel. His feature film credits include: Ice Age, Babe, The Nutty Professor, Rogue, Pinata, Kazaam, Speed2, Happy Feet.

For those of you who are filmmakers who want to learn more about the craft, we have Steve Murphy (former Head of Sound, AFTRS) presenting on that most powerful side of the art. Check out his bio — he’s even more fun in person!

Steve Murphy

Steve Murphy was given a book called What is Sound? in First Grade, and he is still asking that question. Soon after he won a reel-to-reel tape recorder in a competition, and used it to make his first sound recording: the theme to Green Acres, live from the family TV. His life in screen sound was just beginning.

In 1978 Steve entered the Australian Film and Television School and had the best education in sound anyone could have hoped for. After graduating, he worked on commercials, corporates, and short films, then moved on to the big time of telemovies, mini-series and feature films. He has worked on location and in post-production, enjoying the catering in the case of the former and the air-conditioning in the case of the latter. He has learned that films and celebrities come and go, while bacon and egg rolls pretty much stay the same, and one black hole of a sound studio is just like any other, no matter where it is in the world.

Thinking that others should learn the real truths behind film-sound, along the way he began teaching others how to work for more hours than is really healthy while complaining about how the sound department is, at best, taken for granted. From 1988 to 1994 he was Head of Sound at AFTRS, and is proud to say his best students didn’t listen to him and have gone on to be quite successful.

For 16 years Steve worked for Dolby Laboratories as a sound consultant, and, after his time at AFTRS, he continued to record, edit and mix sound for film and television productions of all formats and genres — a few were actually quite good.

Steve has returned to teaching, and now works for TAFE NSW, at North Sydney College. To ensure he is capable of completing a Sudoku puzzle in his retirement, he is keeping his mind in shape by undertaking doctoral studies at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Despite working in the industry for over a quarter of a century, Steve remains passionate about sound and film — so don’t get him started!

Maurice Giacomni

Born in Lausanne Switzerland, Maurice started his professional career in 1974 as a graphic designer and animator for a major Swiss television network.
In 1983 a Sydney-based film company invited him to come to Australia to train its animators on a series of one hour films for television.
After successfully working as a freelance animation director, Maurice established his own studio in Sydney, CATFLAP ANIMATION, in 1988.
At Catflap, Maurice has directed over 300 television commercials and several short animated films including —€œGorgeous—€ which won the Australian Film Institute award for best animation in 1994. His most recent work has been 2 series of 30×5 minute episodes developed for the A.B.C Children’s Television Department entitled —€œPetals—€.

Ryan Weston

Ryan was born and raised in the States, and through a regular exposure to comic books, animation and the traditional summer blockbuster movie season cultivated a love of art and visual storytelling. He went through grade school intending to become a graphic artist, however an industry downturn forced me to reconsider my options. He enjoyed the programming classes at his high school, and so decided to instead pursue a future in software programming and continue to self-teach traditional art skills in his spare time. Four years and a university degree in Computer Science later, Ryan began a career as a software engineer in the Telecommunications industry.

After two years of fixing software bugs and being on-call 24/7, Ryan transferred to a Research and Development facility in Wollongong, Australia.He was fortunate to work with a great bunch of talented individuals doing innovative work while remaining active in the underground music scene in his free time, contributing artwork and screenprinting skills (12 years and counting). However, as the R&D lab began being systematically disbanded through funding cuts and layoffs Ryan decided the time was right to combine his wealth of technical experience with my continued passion for visual art. Ryan left to pursue a career in visual effects, returning to school to acquire a Diploma of Screen in Computer Graphics & Animation.

Working in the software development pipeline of a challenging and exciting R&D environment was a great experience to hone my teamwork, problem solving, adaptability, communication and technical skills. Ryan is currently working diligently on showreel material that he can combine with those professional skills to find entry into the film industry as a visual effects artist.