/News 15.07.21


Dhara Modhwadia from Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) talks about her role as a junior FX artist and how her love of all things VFX brought her from the west coast of India over Auckland to Sydney.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your way into the industry

I grew up on a farm on the west coast of India. At age 9 I was sent to boarding school where I was quite isolated from things such as the Internet and movies (I know!). After school, I knew I wanted to explore creativity, so at age 17 I moved to New Zealand to study for a Diploma in Digital Creativity at Media Design School Auckland. The school introduced me to 3D design which I found so fresh and challenging that I decided to learn more. I completed my BA in Art and Design and worked towards specialising as a 3D generalist. In my final year, there was an opportunity to explore FX and this was a turning point for me. I shifted my focus to FX and landed my first job as a Junior FX Artist in Adelaide, Australia. I worked on my first few large-scale feature films there and since then I have not looked back. To continue moving forward with my career I decided to move to the big Sydney, and here I am – at ILM.

What is your role at Industrial Light & Magic?

I am a Junior FX Artist. My key responsibility is to create FX animations which could include either; procedural or dynamic simulations, particles or fluid systems for an assigned project. Or in other words, I get to create explosions, dust, water and all that fun stuff! Day-to-day I take various setups from senior artists (or even sometimes create them) and put the FX animation into a shot for context. This process involves receiving feedback from both my FX Lead and CG Supervisor and making the appropriate revisions until the FX is ready to publish for the next department.

FX team at ILM Sydney. Courtesy of ILM.

What was your first impression of ILM’s Sydney studio? 

I joined ILM at the start of 2021 and the first project I was assigned to had a fast approaching deadline. I thought this would mean high levels of pressure, especially being a junior artist. However, there was a great level of support from my peers and seniors. I never felt like I was put on the spot, the workflow felt like a collaborative effort with all hands on deck. This truly made the process so smooth. It gave me the opportunity to contribute quite a bit and made me feel welcomed and part of the team.

What inspired you to get into VFX? 

The very first time I worked with 3D software was during my Diploma in Digital Creativity. We were tasked with creating an object in ‘Blender’. I decided to create a boat and I thought it turned out great. Then my teacher came along, rotated it into 3D view and it looked awful. I was blown away though, because suddenly I realised the tools that were at my disposal. I went home that day and watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how artists create 3D assets for use in feature films and games. One YouTube video led to another and suddenly I was watching how green screen replacements, digi doubles and even explosions were done. I think this was the moment that sparked an interest to challenge myself to learn more about VFX and I ended up doing my Bachelor’s after completing the diploma. 

Dhara Modhwadia. Courtesy of ILM.

Your favourite part of the job? 

As an FX artist, I generally use Houdini by SideFX, a vast program with considerable capability. That being said, there are endless ways of creating something and every artist has their own unique approach. The way I approach something can be entirely different from another artist. Hearing about the way another artist approaches building an FX is truly interesting to me – there is a lot to discover and learn from each other. Moreover, technology is ever-growing and as artists we are constantly adapting. The learning never stops, which I love. 

Can you share one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I’ve always felt that I had a natural eye for designing building layouts and interiors. One of my favourite past-times is to sketch an idea for any space, it could be a house, an apartment or a studio. I’ve never studied architecture or interior design but whenever I walk into a space, I can’t help but visualise potential ways to improve the layout.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

To start, I love photography – I’ve had opportunities to photograph events, bands and people, I guess you could say it’s become my side-hustle. I am also quite the social bird, I love meeting new people, exploring and travelling. Love sports such as snowboarding and basketball, the list would go on as I always give it a go with almost any sport. I love music, dancing, board games (like Dungeons and Dragons!) and of course watching MOVIES!!

Dhara Modhwadia. Courtesy of ILM.

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

Featured Image Credit: Dhara Modhwadia, Courtesy of ILM.

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

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