By: Crystel Newman | Categories: Education

Graduates of Rising Sun Pictures’ (RSP) educational programs, taught in collaboration with the University of South Australia (UniSA), have much in common. They share a desire to succeed – they are focused, hard-working, eager to learn and optimistic about the future, however, each one is also unique. The graduates come from diverse backgrounds, have followed different paths and are pursuing personal goals and ambitions. Ben Cooke, Aden Manning, Emily Adams, Tommy Ford and Danae Lowe have each benefited from training at RSP, and each has used that experience as a springboard to launch rewarding careers in the visual effects industry. Here are their stories.

Ben Cooke: “Super Rewarding!”

Ben Cooke studied at RSP in 2019 shortly after earning his Bachelor degree at UniSA. He completed degree courses in Dynamic Effects and Lighting and Compositing and Tracking. After beginning his career at Resin, Adelaide, Ben spent three years at RSP as a teaching assistant and FX artist before taking on the role as an FX Technical Director at DNEG, Sydney.

Ben credits his career success to his time as a student at RSP and the opportunity to train in a studio environment under the guidance of working professionals. “It was overwhelming at first,” he admits. “We were there from nine to five every day, it was a full-time job. And there was so much information to ingest. But it was great! It prepared me for working in industry both in terms of mastering the software and in soft-skills like time management, how to handle all the tasks that are thrown at you as a young artist.”

Upon completing his training, Ben landed a job with Resin. Eight months later, he was back at RSP in a staff role as a teaching assistant and as a Junior Artist. When RSP opened its studio in Brisbane in 2022, he relocated there. “When I started at Brisbane, we were just 10 or 11 people,” he recalls. “A year later there were 50 of us, and I moved up to mid-level. During that time, I worked on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania and Nautilus. I’m a big fan of the Indiana Jones movies, so the chance to leave a mark on that was awesome, super rewarding.”

Aden Manning: “A Fantastic Career.”

As an Asset Modeller/Look Development Artist with the Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML), at the University of Adelaide, Aden Manning is working with technology that is rapidly transforming the visual effects industry. AIML is a globally recognised leader in research and development in artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision and deep learning. Aden’s role is to translate synthetic data collected through generative AI into dazzling, photoreal 3D visualisations. He’s built everything from battleships to Victorian clocks.

Motivated by a love for games and film, Aden earned his Bachelor’s in Creative Arts, Visual Effects and Entertainment Design from Flinders University. He went on to work as a 3D artist at several small game companies across Australia, but then chose to deepen his skill set by applying for a Graduate Certificate course in Dynamic Effects and Lighting offered by RSP in association with UniSA. “I heard about RSP from friends, and it sounded amazing, so when the opportunity came up, I decided to go for it,” he recalls. “I always find it interesting to explore the unknown and this course was geared toward things I hadn’t done in game work—Houdini, Nuke and the key elements in a VFX pipeline for film.”

Aden considers his role at AIML a dream job and believes that similar opportunities are available to other aspiring artists…if they are willing to work for it. “If it’s what you want to do and keep pushing yourself forward, you won’t regret it,” he insists. “You’ll be rewarded with a fantastic career.”

 Emily Adams: “Push Through.”

Emily Adams is a Junior Production Coordinator at Rising Sun Pictures and part of a busy team working behind the scenes to keep visual effects projects running smoothly. “I reach out to artists to make sure they are on track with the schedule set by the production manager,” says the Adelaide native, whose credits include the Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels and the upcoming sci-fi thriller Mickey 17. “I create meetings, exchange notes and coordinate with producers and supes to ensure tasks and timings are adhered to.”

Emily earned a Bachelor of Film and Television (Visual Effects Specialisation) from UniSA in 2022. Considering a career as a visual effects artist, she spent her last year at RSP where she learned the basics of lighting, look development, dynamic effects and compositing. As much as she enjoyed it, she came to realise that a production role might be a better fit for her talents and interests. “I like being organised, making things go in a logical order and seeing the results,” she says.

A few days before finishing her degree program, Emily was hired by RSP as a Production Assistant. Having been on site at the studio for nearly a year, she found the transition to a staff role seamless. Nine months later, she was promoted to Junior Production Coordinator and, three months after that, moved into her current position. She earned her first screen credit on The Marvels, something she calls a “bucket list item.”

Emily is determined to continue learning and gain the type of experience that will allow her to advance her career and move up the production ladder. Looking further, she is confident of her career prospects. “It may get hard at times, but you have to push through,” she says. “I was hesitant, even scared, to apply for the program at RSP. I didn’t think I was good enough. But I went for it and now look where I am!”

Tommy Ford: “Know How to Adapt”

Tommy Ford recently graduated from UniSA with a Bachelor of Film and Television (Visual Effects Specialisation), a program that included a year’s training at RSP. He is now engaged in his second contract with ModelFarm, a boutique visual effects company with studios in Adelaide and Brisbane. In his first stint, Tommy was involved in lighting for the animated children’s series LEGO® DreamZzz. Now he’s working on a feature film slated for release in 2024.

Tommy was originally interested in the games industry but turned his attention to film and television effects while studying at RSP. “I learned what is expected of you as a junior artist,” he says. “How to problem solve, how to check your work before submitting it to your supervisor and how to accept feedback. I also made strong friendships. It was awesome to work with other aspiring artists who shared my interests and ambitions.”

Since completing his training at RSP, Tommy has continued to develop his skill set. At ModelFarm, he learned how to light animation using the software Unreal Engine. “It is important to have the flexibility to move between different platforms, especially at the beginning of your career,” he observes. “The artistic and technical skills I gained at RSP have given me the confidence to tackle any challenges that come my way.”

“The visual effects industry is going through big changes through the integration of AI and virtual production,” he adds. “I’ve learnt to be open to using new tools. If your training is solid, it doesn’t matter where technology leads. You know how to adapt.”

Danae Lowe: “’Can Do’ Attitude.”

Danae Lowe knew she wanted to be a visual artist in film and television but the path to achieving that goal in Brisbane where she lives wasn’t clear. She earned a degree in animation but wanted to extend her skills in FX and lighting. She investigated options for further training, but most were either programs in other states or online courses that didn’t offer the personalised attention and hands-on experience she was looking for.

She discovered that RSP, in tandem with UniSA, offered a 12-week Graduate Certificate course in Dynamic Effects and Lighting through its studio in Brisbane. She applied and was accepted.  Classroom  instruction was delivered via Zoom, and she took part in the sessions held live at RSP’s Adelaide studio. She was mentored by FX and lighting artists in Brisbane who later became her peers. “I enjoyed the social aspects of meeting people who have been part of the industry for years,” she says. “The Brisbane office is relatively small. It’s a tight knit unit and I quickly felt part of the team. The course strongly encourages networking, and I made friends and connections across both the Brisbane and Adelaide studios.”

After completing the Graduate Certificate course, Danae was offered a position at RSP’s Brisbane studio as a Technical Services Operator. Her role involves wrangling data, both internally through the studio’s pipeline, and externally through transfers to clients and other VFX studios. “I manage data as it moves through our farm and make sure that our shows have the assets they need,” she explains. “It’s fun to see how it all fits together.”

While Danae enjoys her job immensely, she hopes eventually to move into an artist’s role. Ultimately, she’d like to become a VFX Supervisor or even a director or producer. Given the drive she’s shown at this early stage in her career, any of those results are possible. “I have a ‘can do’ attitude,” she reflects. “If I don’t know how to do something, I ask questions and I learn. I pick things up quickly and I’m always looking for something new to add to my skills and knowledge.”

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