Gin Godden shares her story of starting out as a model for Jean Paul Gaultier and transitioning into VFX Production
What have you been working on recently?
The wonderfully bonkers TV series Britannia – Season 3, a fantasy episodic drama loosely based on the Roman invasion of Britain, written by Jez and Tom Butterworth starring Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Wanamaker, Mackenzie Crook and David Morrisey.
What inspired you to work in visual effects?
As a model, a very long time ago, I was cast in some small roles, giving me the opportunity to see scenes being shot for VFX first-hand. I was often on what then seemed to me to be enormous film sets, in front of very large crews… and a lot of greenscreen.
For two roles in particular, I spent most of the time standing in front of this greenscreen wondering what would be created to fill the background. My curiosity was piqued and from then I decided it’d be much more interesting to be a part of the team behind the camera. I went on to work my way up through production and animation, finally finding my way to VFX where I’ve been for more than 10 years now.
Tell us about your career path; how did you get to where you are now?
I’ve had a very random and varied career path. After those first couple of roles, I went on to be cast by a director who agreed to put me in the role as a production runner on a charity music promo in exchange for my featuring in it. This allowed me to get some relevant experience for my CV. From there I worked as PA, PM and 2nd AD on music videos for directors including Walter Stern, and on promos for Madonna and Massive Attack, among very many others.
Eventually, I moved over to TV commercials production, working up to Line Producer until a PM / Producer holiday cover gig came up in an animation studio. I stayed for about three years enjoying producing for new talent – animation and design directors hand-picked from art college in the main part – in what was then an industry figuring out the best application for some very quickly evolving digital technology. From there moving into VFX was the natural next step.
What are the main responsibilities of your job role?
Broadly, a producer’s responsibility is to deliver a job on time, on budget and on brief. Beyond this, the responsibilities tend to get tweaked to fit the job.
My last role as VFX Producer required me to interface with the VFX vendor as part of the production team. During pre-production, I would flag anything that might require VFX and facilitate those discussions with the Directors, Production Designer and Producer while we agreed the route to take forward to stakeholders higher up the food chain. Once in production, the role became more reactive, pre-empting the requirement for asset shoots in response to the filming underway, ensuring specific practical VFX requests to production were not forgotten, and making sure all VFX shots were executed, logged, reviewed and flagged to editorial.
Post production for this project was especially tricky. For everything to come together for delivery, it was critical I had an open channel at all times with the Post Production Supervisor. Between us we spun the plates of editorial and VFX across eight episodes simultaneously, aligning for reviews with Execs and Directors, to a schedule shortened by the pandemic and a VFX brief that had also grown in response to restrictions on travel, numbers on set and key personnel availability.
What do you spend most of your time doing?
Reviewing footage, reviewing schedules, reviewing budgets.
What do you need to be good at in your job?
Understanding a brief and motivating a team.
What were your career goals when you started out, and how did these change as you progressed?
Not sure I had any specific career goals. Instead I’ve taken opportunities and flexed them to get to the field I wanted to work in.
What are the benefits of learning lots of different disciplines?
It’s been a huge benefit to me to be able to understand different roles. Being able to offer practical support to other crew and departments who would not usually reach out to VFX brings greater communication and tighter collaboration. Where clients need things sooner, faster, bigger this can help manage creative aspirations along the way and limit last minute surprises. Knowing how and why different teams have to work the way they do can inform how you set up and run your project, making your processes more efficient and appropriate.
What would you say to someone who is set on specialising early on in their career?
At least have a taster spell in as many disciplines that interact with your desired role as possible. It will help you understand the information others need from you in order for them to do what you need them to.
What’s the most challenging part of your role?
Marrying creative aspirations with restrictive budgets.
What’s the most rewarding part?
Delivering a piece that everyone is pleased with – from artist to end clients.
What kinds of projects do you most like to work on?
I like a variety. I might be as excited by a script as I would be by an aesthetic or an new technical application, or a new piece of kit. There really isn’t one kind.
What’s the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the industry since you started working in it?
Accessibility to kit – democratisation of technology. I’m hoping it’ll lead to more POC, who often cannot afford to go to art school or university and don’t have the network, having greater access to the industry.
Who or what has most influenced your career and why?
The fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. If he hadn’t scouted me and made me his model, I’d never have found my career. I’d never have been on set or anywhere near film and TV production.
What show, exhibition or film has most inspired you recently?
I May Destroy You by Michaela Coel, as much for the show itself as the reasons the show exists. Not a heavy VFX show but the commitment and dedication behind it should apply to any production.
What project are you most proud of?
Right now, Britannia – Season 3. It really has been one of the biggest and most daunting challenges I’ve experienced in my career.
What do you miss about being in a less senior role?
Being able to sit back and watch and learn from a distance. This is why the runner role is so valuable. You can be invisible while soaking up all the experience, and you can be inspired along the way with no significant expectations being put on you.
What skills are most needed in the industry today, and what do you think will be most needed in the future?
The ability to sketch out an idea quickly by hand seems to be a bit scarce. In a visual industry it’d be good to retain some basic draughtsmanship skills for presentation to clients, who might be imagining something entirely different, before getting into a suite and burning through chunks of the budget.
I’m not sure what will be needed in the future. I would have said more virtual production tools but that requires quite a change in mindset in terms of the creative development of a project. Some may struggle with having to commit to so much so early on in production.
What sort of soft skills are valuable in VFX?
Good manners can get you a long way. A sense of humour at the right time can energise a flagging team. Awareness that you are only one part of a complex jigsaw puzzle will help you empathise with a stressed HOD.
What strategies do you have for coping with the pressure of your work?
I’m all for seeing a day’s progress by making a list and ticking things off.
What’s your advice to artists for creating a killer showreel?
Make sure your showreel is as impactful as you need it to be with the sound off as well as on.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Take every opportunity. Every experience is valuable, even if it only goes to underscore that you definitely do not want to do something. If nothing else, you’ll have a greater network and will benefit from other perspectives.