From roto/prep artist to Compositor, get inspired from Francesco Russo.
Francesco Russo has worked as a Compositor for Framestore, BlueBolt and 3 Mills Studios. He’s shared insight into how he got started in the industry, some of the projects he’s worked on and advice for people looking to start their career in VFX.
Why the creative industries?
My name is Francesco Russo and I am a Digital Compositor working on feature films, TV shows and commercials. My passion for cinematography started during my childhood when my parents and relatives used to bring me to the cinema quite often to watch movies of different genres from the Disney’s animated masterpieces to the action-packed ones, from the adventure movies in exotic places to the very dramatic ones. I have always been fascinated by cinema storytelling and this visual way to tell a story to people of different cultures and countries.
After studying classical studies at high school, I decided to study cinematography at university focusing on all the related technical and theoretic aspects of this huge and vast topic, dedicating the last year of my studies to the VFX industry with a particular focus on matte paintings. I was so fascinated by this industry and in particular by the profession of the compositor (who is the creator of the final shot of a movie, the same shot that each spectator see in the cinemas), that I decided to move to London to study compositing in 2011 after completed my degree studies in Cinematography.
I started a short and intensive compositing course at Escape Studios and after creating my showreel I started looking for a job in the VFX industry. During that time I had some interviews for VFX companies in London but I wasn’t lucky enough, especially because at that time companies were looking for mid/senior artists and most of them had junior positions already filled. But I didn’t give up and after a while I started my career in the industry in 2012, first as roto/prep artist and later as compositor, jumping from a VFX company to another and working on different kinds of products from movies to TV series and commercials.
What’s your current role? What’s your favourite part of your job?
I am currently employed as Digital Compositor at Framestore and have been there since February 2018.
As a Compositor my job fits at the end of the pipeline because I am the last person to work on a shot. The main goal of a Compositor is to assemble together all the elements coming from the different departments (live shooting, 3D renders, matte paintings, 2D elements, stock footages, 3D effects and simulations, etc.) to create the final shot. I think this is probably one of the most exciting parts of the process of making a movie, but it is also quite a lot of responsibility because it is necessary to establish the look of the shot studying the visual balance of all the elements assembled together, being sure to create a visually beautiful image but also a range of emotions.
Obviously not in all of the shots is it possible to keep this delicate balance (because some shots are very short in terms on length to be appreciated) so for this reason the shots with matte painting integration with beautiful and suggestive environment are the ones I prefer, because to me they are the ones that fully embody this balance.
What projects have you worked on? And what was your favourite?
I have worked on so many different products since I started my career in the VFX industry and it is quite difficult to remember all of them. For sure I have a very pleasant memories of the commercials I have worked on for Coca Cola and Dorset Cereals at Nexus Studio, as well as some TV shows at Bluebolt studio including “Taboo”, “Peaky Blinders” and “Fortitude”.
I have a more vivid memory of the work I have done at Framestore on “Avengers: Infinity War”, “Christopher Robin” and “Alita: Battle Angel” as well as the very creative compositing work done for Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs”. I can say that of the latest works I did I am very proud of my compositing work for “Isle of Dogs” and “Avengers: Infinity War”…and yes, they are both nominated for an Oscar, so what can I say.
What are you working on at the minute?
I am working at the moment on “Avengers: Endgame” sequel of “Avengers: Infinity War”. And this is the only thing that I can say at the moment because everything is top secret.
What advice would you give to budding creatives?
As I wrote before it wasn’t easy for me to get into the industry but if there is a suggestion that I can give its to start from the bottom and step by step with passion and lot of dedication (and also a bit of suffering) one will reach the top, one day, sooner or later. It won’t be a straight forward path and for sure it takes time to develop all the skills necessary for this job (in the VFX industry, like in many other creative jobs, skills are never enough).
When I started I was probably a bit too impulsive in doing a lot and doing more, I wanted to be a compositor straight away but this is a path that is necessary and builds day by day with easy tasks like rotoscoping (that you will discover is not easy at all, but is easier to approach than compositing, where you have to deal with many different tasks), moving forward to paint and prep tasks and then to compositing where you will be leading and supervising tasks on entire sequences of the movie.
Always apply for a job that you feel confident you can do and then continue to move forward once you’ve gained the skills that you need to grew up as a professional artist.
Francesco Russo studied the MA in Compositing for Visual Effects at Escape Studios in London, and has since worked on films such as Alita: Battle Angel, Dumbo (2019) and Christopher Robin. Francesco is currently working as a Digital Compositor on Avengers: End Game.