This time we take you to London and into the offices of Bluebolt VFX (interview with Alison Arnott). We have a chat about the history of the studio, previous and current projects, career advice and future challenges.

Can you tell us a little about the history of Bluebolt? When did the studio open and why?
BlueBolt turns 5 years this September – and is the passion project of a Producer and 2 ex-MPC Supervisors: Lucy Ainsworth-Taylor, Angela Barson & Chas Jarrett. Keen to start out on their own and nurture a boutique sized VFX house with high quality output for feature film & TV, BlueBolt was born.

What was the first projects you worked on?
In its first week BlueBolt got some shots on “Prince of Persia”, this was rapidly followed by a bunch of shots on Guy Ritchie’s first Sherlock Holmes film, which Chas was supervising for Warner Brothers.  Our first independent film was “Burke & Hare” directed by John Landis. Then our major break came when we were awarded the whole of season one of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”.  BlueBolt went from ‘3 men and a dog’ to a head count of 25 staff, them majority of which are still with us today.  Lucy was the VFX Producer for the entire show for HBO and Angela one of the main supervisors.

Which projects are you working on today?
This year we’ve worked on a range of Studio blockbusters, British Indie films and TV series. This includes recent deliveries on several films due out in the next 12 months: The Imitation Game, Angel of Death and Jupiter Ascending. Currently we’re working hard to deliver some big sequences on WB’s The Man From UNCLE, with Peaky Blinders 2 and Macbeth going into post right behind.

How many full-time staff do you have and in average how many freelancers do you employ?
We have a core team of artists, production & tech staff of around 25, and bulk up the rest of the team with talented freelance artists. At the moment we’re at our largest ever, with 50 members of staff.

Do you do the entire visual effects pipeline in-house or are you specialized in fields?
We specialize in CG environments mainly, we know we do this well and are top of our game. In-house we have a small but mighty 3D team of about 8 artists and a number of more specialized Matte Painters for all of our 2.5D projection work. Our level of compositing is incredibly high. Our pipeline team has expanded in the last year too, to support the number of projects in progress at the same time and push through renders.

What is your recruitment process like? Please take us through from the decision to find people and how you approach this and what happens to an application from when you receive it until you have hired a candidate?
We’re always interested in hearing from talented freelancers but being a small company we have a restricted number of seats to fill.
Production will tell us what artists we need to complete show schedules and we’ll advertise to fill these roles. When applications come in we look for strong showreels that demonstrate the level of skill they’ve applied for – and a CV background to supplement this. We’ll also invite people to meet us based on positive feedback from their references. At crunch time we need artists who will hit the ground running – so the quality expected from freelancers is high and we need people to hit the level they sell.

What do you look for in the applications and what are the do’s and don’ts when applying in your opinion?
We don’t want essays! Long cover letters or emails will be glanced over so best to sell yourself in a few sentences. Include a reel breakdown so we can see what you have achieved – if you’re applying for a matchmove role we know you’re unlikely to have comped the final shot but be clear about your contribution. If you’re invited in for an interview you’ll be asked to talk us through the shots in your reel so revise your history before meeting us.

What is a good showreel to you?
Your showreel should demonstrate your latest & greatest work. If you’re applying for a roto/prep role, then show this to the best level you can in your reel. Depending on your level, professional shots are better, but we also like to see personal projects alongside this, demonstrating your creativity or your technological brain. We’ll also look for work relevant to what we do at BlueBolt, so look at our breakdowns and try to make it relevant to us.

What is the best part of working for Bluebolt?
Team spirit – we’re a big family and a lot of the team have worked together for years. The projects – variety, quality and work to be proud of. We also try and avoid too many weekends and late nights, obviously its thrown at you when it suddenly changes towards the end of post, but we do try to keep it to a minimum.

What would you say is the proudest moment in Bluebolt’s history?
Our proudest moment was being nominated for so many awards on Game of Thrones, and not being a one hit wonder by going on to win a BAFTA craft award for another TV show.  Since then we have been nominated for several other awards which is a great testament to our work. The repeat business from Directors, Producers and Post Production Supervisors is key to continuing our business relationships.

Which challenges and successes do you foresee for Bluebolt in the near future?
We want to continue to be a top-end boutique facility. The fact that we cover both TV and Film so well is a testament to all areas of the company and to how we run the business, as each medium has different approaches and style but more importantly challenging budgets.  The challenge is to remain top of our game, continue with the amazing projects we work on, and to keep the team internally as happy as possible and have fun.

Bluebolt’s VFX Showreel

Allan Torp Jensen
Author: Allan Torp Jensen

Allan has worked on visual effects for feature films and television for 20 years. He has experience of the full VFX pipeline but has focused on compositing for the past 15 years and has been a Lead Compositor and Compositing Supervisor on various shows. He has worked with the talented people at Cinesite, Bluebolt VFX, Automatik VFX in London, and Weta Digital in New Zealand. For the past five years, he has worked remotely at his own Torper Studio on various high-end TV and feature film projects.