One of Us 2D Supervisor Kazia Roach on finding your passion and being the best artist you can be

What’s the best thing about working at One of Us?

My favourite thing is that it’s very much an artist-based studio, built around the quality of life that the artists need, not just what the company needs. We have trained mental health professionals and are supported in a lot of ways, and the leadership team is conscious that they don’t want to see any artist burnout. There’s a lot of respect, and everyone is together in the same space regardless of level or experience.

What have you been working on recently?

Recently I’ve been part of the team working on Luther for Netflix, as the 2D Supervisor. It follows on from the TV series with Idris Elba, so it’s quite exciting. We had quite a few different shots, including a lot of fire, a lot of ice – lots of different elements. Most of the shots for compositing tended to be setting up 3D scenes, and the fighting sequences were some of the most challenging shots, having to stitch a lot of different elements together.

What inspired you to work in visual effects?

It might sound silly, but it was the first Tomb Raider film. I was a big fan of the games, and when the film came out I really wanted to be an actress and live like Lara Croft. I was interested in archeology in high school, but realised it wasn’t much like Tomb Raider! Because I’d also wanted to be a pirate and an astronaut and a lot of things I couldn’t actually be, film and VFX allowed me to create those worlds instead.

Tell us about your career path; how did you get to where you are now?

The VFX side started out as a hobby, interestingly. I studied film and wanted to be a production designer and make sets, but whilst I was on my film course I realised a lot of the other students were working on short film projects that weren’t really what I was interested in, so I started directing my own more adventurous pieces, and taught myself the VFX needed to make it work. 

After that, I applied for roto training – but when I applied I didn’t really know what it was! But I think they saw the passion and gave me the training that helped me reach where I am now. 

What are the main responsibilities of your job role?

In my role, the main task I have is to establish the look of the shots we’re working on, setting up the templates and talking with clients and supervisors to make sure we can achieve the right things. 

But my favourite aspect is being able to make people’s lives and jobs easier. Whether that’s creating a template that’s really easy to use, or helping support artists to become even better and make sure they’re enjoying themselves – teaching them all my messy methods! 

If the artists you’re working with are able to do their best work, then it is beneficial to everyone.

What do you need to be good at in your job?

I got into this role without studying, it was a hobby, and I found that the guys who came from a VFX course come well-equipped with the technical skills, but not so much out of the box thinking.

Those of us who were self-taught will figure out different ways of doing things, even if it is a little bit messy sometimes. 

Being able to try and capture both of these skills will really help you be the best artist you can be. You definitely need to know and follow the rules sometimes, but you also need to be able to experiment and think outside the box. 

Focus on being creative, and have that passion and you will get there eventually. You need to really understand your tools and their capabilities, as well as what those tools can do beyond what you might assume.

What are the benefits of learning lots of different disciplines? What would you say to someone who is set on specialising early on in their career?

I did a bit of everything when I started, and still do. I specialised in compositing but if you experiment with everything you’ll get to find out what you enjoy. And of course, you’re not locked in to anything – we have a lot of generalists here. 

What’s important is that you go in the direction of what you enjoy, and that includes things that are outside of VFX as well. If you are good at photography, that will benefit your work – if you love to paint, you can bring that mindset to your VFX too. As humans we’re not binary beings and we like to do lots of different things – so don’t feel like you have to give anything up if you don’t want to!

What’s the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the industry since you started working in it?

One thing that I think is interesting is that around 10 years ago, when I was still a junior artist, there was a lot of fear that compositers would lose their positions to lighters, so many started learning lighting instead. But in reality, the opposite happened, the industry adapted but there are still more compositers, and few lighters who can composite well. 

The same is happening now with AI and the worry that this will eliminate VFX jobs, but I don’t think it will. Of course, it can make our life easier and save us time for the things that are more interesting, but as humans we still like to see things that are created by other humans. People like one offs that can be created by real artists, and I don’t think AI will change that.

What show/exhibition/film has most inspired you recently?

Dune was awesome, I love the way they used set pieces in conjunction with VFX, like the ornithopters which were lifted by cranes, and then the wings were added with VFX. 

I find that I’m constantly inspired, and I see things that immediately make me want to make art – the ability for self expression in this industry is what I love.

What strategies do you have for coping with the pressure of your work?

If you’re overwhelmed, ask for help! It’s important to let people know, most supervisors would rather help you out than have you suffering. 

Especially when you’re new, it can be scary saying that we don’t know things – we want to act as if we know everything. But in reality it just takes us longer to feel confident, and we struggle when we don’t need to.

As a supervisor, we understand that you don’t know it all – it would have been great if I had known that when starting out!

Tanya Combrinck
Author: Tanya Combrinck

Tanya is a writer covering art, design, and visual effects. She has 15 years of experience as a magazine journalist and has written for publications including 3D World, 3D Artist, Computer Arts, net magazine, and Creative Bloq.