5 Minutes With… VFX Producer Megan Smith

5 Minutes With… VFX Producer Megan Smith

Join Megan as she charts her course from children's animation to high-end VFX and her top tips for the producers of the future

Date

23 April 2021

Reading Time

5 minutes, 48 seconds

Hi Megan, can you start by telling us how you got into visual effects?

I was incredibly lucky to be offered an internship at The Foundry straight after completing my degree in 2013. It was my ticket into the world of VFX and my first insight into life in Soho! I felt very fortunate to be surrounded by the team who develop software that artists use everyday and enables us to deliver the work we continue to create. I then worked in Children’s Animation for a little while and soon went back to VFX after being offered a Production Assistant job at Method and things kind of took off from there!

Did you always want to get into film and TV or did you have earlier aspirations?

I would love to say yes but I didn’t really know much about the film and TV industry during my time at school and college, and I remember people labelling VFX as “camera tricks” which is quite hilarious and probably makes me sound much older than I actually am! I knew I always wanted to work in a creative industry, but it wasn’t until I enrolled in an Art Foundation course where we got to experiment with different mediums that I gravitated towards animation. I then went on to complete my degree, specialising in VFX & Animation at Falmouth University.

What was the best bit of advice you were given when you started in your production career?

One quote that’s always stayed with me from earlier on in my career is “we’re not saving lives”. Working in VFX can be incredibly stressful sometimes, especially during crunch time when hours can be quite intense, so reminding myself of this message now and again actually really helps with those pressures. Also being open to the fact that you’ll make mistakes and recognising and learning from those mistakes can make you much better at your job.

What brought you to Outpost?

After years of long commutes to and from London, I was keen to escape Soho and experience VFX life outside of the city. I had previously worked with some of the team here at Outpost so I enquired about a Production Manager position they had available at the time. I genuinely spent about an hour after my interview walking along the beach hoping I’d got the job! I started back in 2018 as a Production Manager, moving up to Producer a year later. Since then, the level of work we create and projects we work on have grown massively but, most importantly for me, it still remains quite a close-knit team who I enjoy working with each day!

How have you found the transition from production support roles to being a producer?

I feel like I’ve been very fortunate during my career so far to be surrounded by people who are willing to show me the ropes and teach me new things and I’m very open to the fact it’s a constant learning curve. While working as a Production Manager I produced smaller projects which put me in a good position when I took the step up to Producer, working closely with clients on much larger projects. The financial side of things can be a little daunting at first too but it’s something I genuinely enjoy.

Since you’ve been here you’ve worked on a variety of projects across different styles and genres. What are your favourite kinds of shows to work on and why?

I genuinely love that we get to work on a mixture of different briefs, from the gruesome cattle battle sequence where we slaughtered hundreds of CG cows in Watchmen to creating something as delicate and dreamy as the Fata Morgana in Summerland. Some of the most rewarding work can be the more invisible VFX set extensions like our recent work on News of the World, where we created an entire town from a car park with a few blue screens.

What would you say is your biggest career achievement to date?

Awards aren’t everything but winning an Oscar for our work on The Jungle Book while at MPC was pretty great! Seeing your teams’ names scrolling in the credits never gets old for me either, even if I have accidentally spelt an artist’s name wrong before (sorry Tom)!

How have you adapted the way you work with your teams to manage disruption caused by the pandemic?

It’s been a difficult year for everyone, but it’s been really interesting to see how the VFX industry as a whole has transitioned so quickly to this new way of working. I would say communication is key, now more than ever. We have regular Teams calls to discuss the plan of action for that day and continue to check in with each other when needed. I think it’s important to be contactable during the usual working hours but have an understanding everyone is juggling more than usual given the situation.

Any inside secrets you’d like to share with anyone hoping to become a producer?

Be as proactive as possible, reach out to your colleagues or industry professionals asking for advice, info on their first steps into the industry and their path to becoming a Producer. I think it’s important to not only focus on production tasks but to learn as much as you can about each department and the VFX industry as a whole.


Finally, some quickfire questions:

What’s the one thing you always keep on your desk?
My iPad, so I can listen to podcasts during long scheduling sessions.

You can eat one thing for the rest of your life – what is it?
One of my friends makes the most delicious cheese bread, I’ve received a few freshly-made loaves in the post during lockdown so maybe if I give it a shoutout I’ll receive another? Worth a shot!

What would be your superpower?
To teleport? No more commutes – think of the money you would save!

You’ve got a couple of hours to kill – what do you watch?
The Office, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia or anything with David Attenborough!

What are you currently learning?
To surf!

Any pets?
Eddy the Beagle!

Favourite way to relax?
A long walk along the coast.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
New Zealand, it’s beautiful! Or back home to good old Falmouth!

Pet peeves?
When people use the Media page in Shotgun.

Guilty pleasures?
Carrot Cake from a place called Coffee Lab, would highly recommend!

Favourite song?
Oh this is a difficult one! Let’s go with Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac or Every Piece Matters by Plini.

Last present you bought yourself?
Wax and a fancy bag for my surfboard.

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