Check out professional journey of Mary Lapena, covering various essential job roles of post production pipeline.
Mary Lapena has worked as a Visual Effects artist and Compositor for MPC, Luma Pictures, Mr. X, Zoic Studios and The Senate VFX. She’s shared her insight into how she got started in the industry, some of the projects she’s worked on and advice for people looking to start their career in VFX.
Why the creative industries? And how did you get into the creative industries?
I’ve always loved movies, being creative and technology. Growing up, I used to dabble in filming, video editing and Photoshop. While searching for a university course, I knew I wanted to study something creative with computers and I stumbled upon a course – Computer Animation & Special Effects. After graduating, I decided to focus on compositing, so I took the Compositing for Production course (12 weeks) at Escape Studios and the rest is history.
What’s your current role? And what’s your favourite part of your job?
I’ve been working in the industry since 2011 and this will be my 8th year. I am currently working as a Key Artist (Senior) Compositor at MPC Montreal.
To be successful in the industry requires a lot of hard work, determination and passion. There are several things I love about my job, from the people I work with, the opportunity to travel and work around the world and being able to work on a variety of exciting projects which makes going to work more fun and interesting.
Could you tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on in the past? Are there any that stand out for you and why?
I’ve worked on various projects over the years in commercials, TV and film. For features, some films I’ve worked on more recently include: Dumbo, Black Panther, Ant-Man and The Wasp, and The Greatest Showman. For Netflix TV I’ve worked on Narcos: Mexico and Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events.
The one project that I’ve worked on that stands out for me was Interstellar. At the time I was doing prep and the shots involved were complex which really pushed my skills and knowledge as an artist. It was made even more challenging as the plates were filmed at 4K and IMAX. The computers were not as advanced as they are today so there were a lot of slow days and a lot of optimization.
What are you working on at the minute?
I can’t currently say what I’m working on now, but the latest film I’ve completed was Disney’s Dumbo.
I came in on the project for the last few months of delivery and this is normally a busy period. I had to make sure I was organised to be able to hit the targets needed and prepared for some long hours. The key factor that made working all the longer hours more fun were my colleagues. Being part of a team, where everyone shared their ideas, were willing to help each other and be there for each other during the tough times is what I think made the film one of the best projects I’ve worked on.
How did you get into the industry?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Animation & Special Effects and did further studies at Escape Studios on the Compositing for Production course (12 weeks). Escape Studios then helped me get into the industry, by getting me my first job at Electric Theatre Collective (ETC) when they first opened. The journey I’ve had into VFX has been long and difficult sometimes, but I would not have done anything differently. The paths I’ve taken have all been worthwhile to get to where I am today and it has made me a better artist.
Any other advice you’d give to budding creatives?
Starting out in VFX can be really difficult, with factors such as timing, competition from other artists and knowing the right people. My advice would be to work hard and never give up, no matter how many doors close, another door always opens. Show willingness to learn from those more experienced and continue to expand your knowledge by your own self learning. Make sure you respect your leads/supervisors and always have good relationships with the people you work with.
The VFX industry is so small and you will end up working with old colleagues, so having good rapport will also be a great way to build your network and your reputation in the industry.
Mary Lapena studied a Compositing for Visual Effects course at Escape Studios in London, and has since worked on projects including Dumbo (2019), Ant-Man and The Wasp, Black Panther and A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV series).