News 05.11.21

MEET RSP VFX SUPERVISOR DAN BETHELL



RSP VFX Supervisor Dan Bethell Relies on Deep Experience and People Skills to Create Breathtaking Cinematic Illusions

In 2019, VFX Supervisor, Dan Bethell, re-joined the team at Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) for his second tenure at the studio. Bethell immediately dove into work on Mortal Kombat, Simon McQuoid’s high-energy screen adaptation of the popular video game franchise. Bethell (alongside Dennis Jones) supervised a team that delivered over 600 shots, including the film’s climactic battle, a sequence of finely-tuned mayhem that spanned more than 10 minutes. Earlier this year, the film was named a finalist for Best VFX at the Australian Effects and Animation Festival (AEAF).

Throughout his VFX career, stand out projects for Dan have been Mad Max: Fury Road (directed by George Miller) and Thor: Ragnarok (directed by Taika Waititi).

“For George Miller and Taika Waititi, it’s always about the story. I’ve learned so much from them about engaging the audience and how important that is to visual effects. I constantly remind my team about the intent, what we want to achieve in terms of impact and audience reaction, what story we are trying to tell. The opportunity to work with visionary filmmakers like George and Taika is super inspirational for me. It keeps me coming back.”

Dan Bethell
Dan Bethell. Image provided by RSP.

Bethell’s career path is marked by serendipitous twists. Growing up in Cambridge, England, he developed an early interest in technology through his mother, a computer programmer. He studied computer animation and visualisation at Bournemouth University and landed his first job as an R&D tech focused on programming and pipeline development at the visual effects and post house MPC. A few years later, he was contacted by RSP who were looking for someone to fill a similar role. Bethell worked between both the Adelaide and Sydney studios, where he gravitated toward the creative side of the business and earned his first credit as a CG supervisor on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. After several years and projects at RSP, including X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Terminator Salvation, he received an invitation from VFX Supervisor, Andrew Jackson to work with him and George Miller on Fury Road.

That eventually led to Bethell spending 8 months in Namibia, traversing towering sand dunes and capturing action sequences of amazing complexity. “That was where my love of filmmaking and collaboration blossomed,” he recalls. “Andrew comes from a very practical filmmaking background and his approach to shooting stunts in the desert was eye-opening for me. Since then, I’ve been doing as much on-set supervision as I can, and I bring to it that same collaborative spirit.”

The role of a Visual Effects Supervisor requires a discerning eye and deep technical knowledge, but more than anything, it demands leadership skills. Film projects typically last for months, the workload is constantly changing, deadlines come up fast and expectations are sky-high. Keeping the crew focused, pumped up and operating at maximum efficiency is essential.

Bethell says he didn’t set out to become a supervisor, it happened to him naturally, but he recognises that he has certain qualities that make him good at the job. “I’m quite patient,” he observes. “I’m also pragmatic, a realist and a bit of a stoic. That’s what allows me to work on a huge set, and keep calm under pressure. I’ve also worked to develop soft skills like empathy and understanding, I strive to create an environment where there are no conflicts, only differences of opinion. It’s important to understand the other person’s point of view. In the end, we’re a team and have the same goal.”

Cognizant of the stresses of his role, Bethell makes sure to carve off time to unwind and relax. He enjoys going for long runs (another habit he picked up in Namibia) and taking strolls with his dog. “Simple things keep me fresh,” he says.

“I really enjoy the time I get to unplug and refocus. It restores my energy and enthusiasm. It’s why I continue to love what I do.”

Dan Bethell. Image provided by RSP.

Having tallied more than 20 years as a visual effects artist, Bethell has built an impressive resume. He’s travelled the globe and contributed to some of the most popular films of all time. He’s helped bring thousands of eye-popping visuals to the big screen, but what sticks with him are the relationships he’s formed along the way.

“It’s always about the people, the projects are amazing, but what I cherish are the teams. Working with so many talented people has been a great privilege. It’s mind-blowing.

Dan Bethell