Genevieve Camilleri is a Compositing Supervisor, currently working for Mill Film and mentoring CG Spectrum students
Readers of ACR are familiar with CG Spectrum, an online school dedicated to teaching all things CG- from Animation and 3D Modeling to Game Development and Digital Effects. Thanks to its enviable student outcomes, industry-driven curriculum and practical approach, CG Spectrum boasts a top-notch roster of instructors- industry pros and award-winning artists- who bridge the gap between students’ current skillsets and industry demands.
Among its 10-month diploma options is the school’s Nuke Compositing course that’s designed to get emerging artists up to industry par and ready to work in the field (if you’re curious what a compositor does, check out our quick guide here). Today, we look at the course in more detail with mentor Genevieve Camilleri. You’ll see Camilleri’s name on a string of blockbuster film credits like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Maleficent, Doctor Strange, and Mad Max: Fury Road, to name just a few.
Working her way up the comp career ladder with tenacious perseverance over the last decade, Camilleri is one of the few female Compositing Supervisors in the industry who brings fresh perspectives to her work while eagerly honing and developing her own skills. When not mentoring CG Spectrum students, she works for Mill Film in Adelaide.
ACR: Genevieve, before we dive into CG Spectrum’s Nuke Compositing Diploma course, I want to start with you. Your educational path was anything but linear. What did you study?
Genevieve Camilleri: Straight out of high school, I was accepted into a double degree in Biotechnology and Media Communications. I completed my first year of the course and then attended a 5 hour chemistry lab on the very first day of my second year. I walked out of the class and instantly knew that was not what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life.
At the time, my dad was working for a TAFE (technical training institute in Australia) and he suggested I try out a few subjects from a course they offered called Multimedia. So I went ahead and completed two subjects and loved every minute of it. Being both creative and technical at the same time, it really drew me in. I then went on to complete a Bachelor of Multimedia and Digital Arts as well as a Graduate Diploma in Film and Television VFX.
ACR: At what point did you hone in on VFX as a graduate pursuit and career choice?
GC: I have always had a huge passion for film and computer graphics but I had never been exposed to the idea of it being a career until I was in my last year of completing my Bachelor degree. The Multimedia course was very broad and I gained sound knowledge across various mediums- 2D animation, 3D modelling, web design and installation art. No matter what subject I was doing though, I always found myself wanting to combine CG elements with filmed footage. At the time, I didn’t know this was actually “VFX”.
It was only when a fellow student told me about a Graduate Diploma specialising in Film and Television VFX at the Victorian College of the Arts (now Melbourne University) that I realised VFX was actually a thing. I began to look into the course myself and soon realised it was exactly what I wanted to do; my passion for film and the knowledge I just learnt through the multimedia course could be combined and specialised into a thing called Compositing.
ACR: From your graduate studies, how did you make the leap into industry?
GC: As I was coming towards the end of completing the Graduate Diploma, a lecturer informed me about a paid internship that Film Victoria was offering to new graduates. I decided to apply for the position and a few weeks later I received a phone call to say I was the host company's preferred candidate. I spent one year at a small advertising company called Complete Post working on a range of TV commercials and small film projects as a junior compositor/designer. After completing the internship, my career naturally progressed from there.
ACR: Fast forward to modern day and you have a string of blockbuster credits to your name. Amidst your robust career, why did you decide to become a Mentor of Nuke Compositing at CG Spectrum?
GC: VFX is such a fast paced industry and the tools and techniques used are constantly changing. Every project and studio I have worked for does things slightly different and I am always learning something new. I thrive on experiencing new things, so I wanted to try something a little different while sharing my knowledge and passion for the VFX industry. For me, having hands on classes with the students as well as still actively working in the industry keeps things fresh and creates an open learning environment not only for the students but also for myself.
ACR: Does teaching online pose any additional considerations for you that may differ from on-campus teaching?
GC: From my experience, it is very similar to on-campus teaching. As VFX is all computer based work there isn’t really a difference between teaching online or in-person, especially with today’s technology. The only main difference I would say is that online teaching allows for a little more flexibility in that the students and myself can easily change the day and time of our mentoring session if needed as there is no physical room or travel time needed.
ACR: I imagine there’s a range of experience levels among your students in the 10-month Nuke Compositing Diploma course. How do you and your CG Spectrum colleagues accommodate their differing needs?
GC: The beauty about the online course is that the mentoring sessions can be tailored to the students’ specific needs. So long as the course material is being met, then there is plenty of freedom to tailor the mentoring sessions to any specific area of expertise or questions the student would like to learn more about. I have had a wide range of students varying from complete beginners, to intermediate Nuke users, to successful motion graphic designers already working in the arts industry but with no prior Nuke or film experience. So some students I spend more time guiding them through learning the tools of Nuke and the more technical side of composting, whereas other students I will spend more time focusing on the creative side of their work.
ACR: What are some of the new technologies that excite you as an effects artist? And do they change up the production pipeline?
GC: As I mentioned earlier, the VFX industry is constantly evolving and new tools are being developed all the time so having a passion for learning certainly helps to keep skills fresh. Though it’s not new, Virtual Reality is certainly a technology that excites me. In the near future it could revolutionise the way the film industry works and how audiences are immersed within the storytelling process.
An example of a technology that changed up the way production pipelines work is stereoscopic (3D) films. Instead of creating a single image, studios had to develop processes and tools to deal with creating two slightly different images that could be seamlessly combined together. This meant double the data and in some cases double the work. But over the years pipelines were developed to make the processes much more efficient and artist friendly.
ACR: Switching gears a bit, you work in an industry that has been male dominated. Have you seen more gender parity in the workplace in recent years, or in your courses? And in your view, is it important to have more gender representation?
GC: As VFX is a very creative industry, I think having a vast representation of gender, race/ethnicity and life experience is extremely important; it not only brings diversity but also new perspectives to the way content is created. There is no denying that there is a gender imbalance within the VFX industry but it has certainly come a long way over the years. The very first film studio I worked at had a team of around 50 artists and only two females. Nowadays the numbers are much more balanced but there is still a significant lack of female leadership.
I personally have never worked or come across another female VFX Supervisor before, so to be one myself now I feel is quite unique but it shouldn't be. There are some very talented women already in the industry and I think as a collective we all need to encourage them to have the confidence to apply for more senior and leadership roles. This in return will naturally inspire other females to both enter the industry as well as to further advance their careers. As for students, I am actually yet to have a female student myself but definitely excited for the day I do.
ACR: You’ve worked on so many blockbuster films over the past decade. Any personal favorites along the way?
GC: Every film is unique and they all have their own challenges so in a way they are all my favourite as I do love a good challenge. However, to narrow it down to a few films, I would have to say Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Ted.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the fact that it marked a huge milestone in my career. To work for Industrial Light and Magic was always a dream of mine and to finally be offered the opportunity to work there as a Senior Compositor was a huge privilege and achievement.
Mad Max: Fury Road for the fact it was a huge mystery. The scenes I worked on had minimal to no dialogue and were set in the middle of the open desert so I had no idea what the film was about. The footage we were working on also had some truly amazing stunts I had never seen done before so I was very excited to see what the finished film would look like. And Ted for the fact it was a super fun and smooth project from beginning to end. The client knew exactly what they wanted and the scenes were hilarious to work on. No matter how many times I had watched a shot it still made me laugh every time.
ACR: Last but not least, Genevieve, what’s one thing that you try to impress on your students knowing that without it, they won’t hack it as artists in the industry?
GC: Ask questions and ask lots of them. VFX is very much a team orientated industry and there are many different ways to achieve the same result. If you don’t understand something or unsure of how to solve a problem then ask a mentor, peer or supervisor. There are some amazing artists who are all willing to help each other out so the quickest way to learn is to become part of the team.
ACR: It’s been a pleasure learning about your VFX career and how you bring your insight and enthusiasm to your CG Spectrum students. Thanks, Genevieve!
Check out more interviews at Animation Career Review's Interview Series.