/News 15.04.21


In January, BAFTA-nominated Visual Effects Supervisor Frazer Churchill relocated to Sydney from London to join VFX powerhouse Industrial Light & Magic. They chatted to him about his career and his first impression of the Australian VFX industry and its potential to eventually rival London.

Why did you decide to move to Sydney from London?

My wife’s Australian so we’d been thinking about it for a while and the Australian government is getting very serious about incentivising and supporting film production, VFX and animation. It seemed like the perfect time to come.

How has the transition been from London to Sydney so far?

It’s a big move and it still feels a bit strange being here. Our departure from the UK in late December coincided with Lockdown 3 and the virus was mutating in new and unexpected ways. Travel corridors were closing and we were on our way to Heathrow when this was happening. The check-in desk had to call ahead to Australia to see if we were authorised to arrive. It was a tense few minutes while they waited on the phone, nervously smiling at us. All of our belongings were on a truck headed to Dover, ready to be loaded onto a ship, so not boarding the plane would’ve been pretty disastrous for us. 

I think we were on the last flight out of the UK before Australia closed its borders. It was a close call, luckily everything else went pretty smoothly and here I am!

What has been your impression of the Australian VFX & movie industry so far?

It’s been great working at Fox Studios Australia, it’s a busy hub and I can definitely see it being globally attractive. I think demand for film studio space, crews and VFX will outstrip supply here for a while. Build it and they will come!

What skills do you bring to ILM Sydney?

I’ve always had very definite ideas for the creative path of the VFX in a movie and I can make effects without going down creative blind alleys. People tend to appreciate that.

What makes ILM Sydney special? 

I think we can offer something unique to filmmakers who want to make their films in Australia. We’re based on a studio lot and we have a StageCraft volume here. In sharing work with our other offices around the globe we’re working while you’re asleep! There’s been a huge amount of talent and innovation happening at ILM and it’s an honour to have been invited into the family.

What inspired you to get into VFX?

Like many people my age I sat in a movie theatre in 1977. The lights went down, the curtains opened and an enormous Star Destroyer flew over my head. Mind instantly blown and here I am many years later trying to recreate that experience for others. Seeing Star Wars: A New Hope at the cinema literally changed my life.

Talk us through a few of your career highlights:

Being a founding member of DNEG was inspiring. As a bunch of runaway renegades from MPC it felt like we were in uncharted waters. We were all close friends and it was satisfying working together and seeing the company grow.

Children of Men was somewhat defining for me as a young VFX Supervisor. My work with Edgar Wright and his filmmaking team on Scott Pilgrim vs the World and The World’s End was also formative. Tim Burton liked The World’s End so much he hired me for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and working with him was an incredible experience.

Frazer Churchill. Image courtesy of Industrial, Light & Magic

If you hadn’t become a VFX Supervisor you would be working as? 

A music producer. Making music is a great way to spend your time.

What excites you the most about VFX? 

The creative possibilities are endless. Helping filmmakers realise their vision and having that vision exist forever in popular culture is a very powerful drug.

We got to the point in VFX a few years ago where we didn’t need to spend all of our time and effort trying to make things ‘look real’. Realism can be achieved much earlier in the process and can ultimately be guaranteed so we’ve become freer to be more creative and not wholly in thrall to the gods of photo-realism.

Your biggest passion outside VFX?

Travel, music and movies.

Most unique/challenging location you have filmed in?

Aerial photography is always exciting. I recently shot a lot of aerials over New York City, with legendary pilot Al Cerullo. He’s a Vietnam veteran and is a seriously skilled pilot. I asked him for some very acrobatic shots over the East River. We got very low and very close, something I’ll never forget. NYC looks incredible from above.

The Sahara Desert was also memorable, getting caught in a sandstorm and a plague of locusts were just a couple of the challenges it threw at us.

How do you see the future of the VFX industry in Australia? 

People are impressed with the way COVID’s been handled here, the weather’s great, the people are nice and those beaches! Filmmakers and talent will always want to come here and I think with the right investment from the government the future’s looking bright. It’d be great to see more big productions come and shoot in Australia and then place their VFX, Animation and Post Production here. I see Australia eventually rivalling London.

Head over to ILM’s YouTube channel to see their skills in action!

Luke Hetherington
Executive in Charge, Singapore & Sydney ILM Studios
[email protected]

Featured Image Credit: Courtesy of Industrial, Light & Magic

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