This is John Dowell. He began writing games for the Atari and Amiga computers as a teenager and in his early 20s. He watched a heck of a lot of movies and went to Eastern Washington University to study Electronic Media and Film.
All of this nurtured his interest in VFX, but didn’t train him for it. He even took a job as a Fox News cameraman in Spokane, Washington, driving a reporter round in a van and filming fires and car crashes…still not the VFX he felt sure he wanted to do.
Then when his news editor didn’t give him the pay rise he felt he deserved, he loaded up his car and set off, leaving north west US for the south west US: Los Angeles – the home of Hollywood and the VFX industry.
His first jobs weren’t even in the VFX business, but eventually while doing non-creative data entry work at Paramount Studios he wangled his way onto the first rung of his new career: as Render Wrangler.
During this time he was working in his spare time to develop new VFX skills that would help move his career onto the next level. This is when he developed his production reel – a vital demonstration of an artist’s capabilities.
In 2011 John came to the UK to work on a prestige project with the well-respected studio Double Negative. Here he is working as a generalist, but spending most time on hair and cloth.
For some time now John’s been interested in the convergence of low cost digital software and hardware, with a growing public interest in creating visual effects and the free distribution platforms of the internet (mostly You Tube).
To that end he created the FX Filmmakers Forum, a monthly, London-based meet up group for people interested in experimenting with these technologies to see the level of VFX production that can be achieved with the minimum of expense.
See the Droneworld scene in the video below for an example of what can be achieved with an inexpensive camera like the Panasonic GH2, free software like Blender and the enthusiasm of like-minded VFX enthusiasts.
Also, check out an earlier podcast with VFX taxi-driver, Mark Fozbee. He’s a member of the FX Filmmakers Forum group and has lots to say on the fascination for VFX and how it can be used cheaply and effectively.