This semester, second year students across the Visual and Special Effects degrees are being treated to a series of guest lectures by a number of experts from the Visual and Special Effects industry. The lectures are part of the SFX5000 Employability module and are aimed at demonstrating several different career paths that are available to the students following the completion of their degree. They will not only be provided with current and insider knowledge on a range of topics, but will also receive opportunities to network.

So far, guests have included Miriam Hammond (above), a Freelance Special Effects Prop, Set and Fabrication Artist; Eddy Strickland, 3D Generalist and Compositor and Director of his own company, Gelato Visual Effects Limited and Rachel Crook, a freelance prop maker who is currently the head of a props department at Factory Create, working primarily in children’s television. The speakers have passed on advice on a number of different topics, from the ups and downs of working in the highly competitive industry, to how to present yourself and your portfolio when applying for a job.

Last week’s guest speaker, Eddy Strickland, graduated in 2011 from the BSc Visual Effects for Film and TV course at the University of Bolton before going on to work as a Freelance 3D Generalist & Compositor. After five years of Freelance work, Strickland set-up his own company, Gelato Visual Effects Limited, an independent, boutique visual effects studio, based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, who produce high-end CG for TV and advertising. The company is now two years old and so far all of Gelato Visual Effects’ employees (bar one) have been University of Bolton graduates.

When asked about his time at the University of Bolton and how he approached his studies, Strickland (above) said that he went through University as a generalist – he didn’t pigeon hole himself and he tried to learn every part of the pipeline- which he believed granted him more opportunities in the industry once he had left university. He advised the University’s current Visual and Special Effects students to learn technique instead of learning software as software usually varies at different companies, whereas technique remains the same. He also advised the students that show reels of their best work were the most important thing when it came to getting employment or work and if the students were to go for a job in a bigger shop, they could also add a cover letter.

Strickland highlighted the perks of owning his own company, such as being able to make his own decisions about the way the company was run. Gelato Visual Effects is probably the only VFX Company in Manchester in which there is no hierarchy in the office, everyone is treated as equals and no one is in charge of anyone else. Strickland believes this helps everybody in the office, as they are all given the opportunity to grow and learn during every project. He did, however, make the point that having his own business and being a Director isn’t all fun and games and takes a lot of hard work, explaining that during the last five years of working, he had only taken three days holiday and that he also tends to work from 6am to midnight most days.

“In the creative industries getting face to face with people from the industry can often be difficult but is extremely important and helpful for understanding your potential career path. So these lectures are a chance for students to network with industry professionals and potential employer to build those valuable connections. Additionally, these highly sought of roles can often seem unreachable, so we often bring back several of our Bolton Alumni to demonstrate that a career in this industry is totally achievable.” Said Sam Taylor, lecturer in the School of Creative Technologies.

Today Rachel Crook (above) has been at the University of Bolton to talk about her job as the head of a props department at Factory Create. Crook is a skilled and enthusiastic freelance prop maker who works primarily in children’s television. She has been working in the creative industries for six years, previously creating props for theme park rides and museums. There are another three exciting speakers lined up in the coming weeks to further educate students on the VFX and SFX industry.

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