We recently spoke to Meah Materego-Wardeck about how a work experience placement with Framestore, organised as part of our NextGen Insights programme in 2019, changed the trajectory of her career and inspired her to study VFX and Animation.
Would you mind introducing yourself and what you currently do or where you study?
My name is Meah Materego-Wardeck and I'm currently in my second year studying The Art of Computer Animation BA at Escape Studios.
When did you become interested in VFX/Animation and how did you find out about the work experience opportunity with Framestore?
I was in Year 12, in sixth form at the time and I was studying maths, computing and art A Levels. I had just seen the Avengers Endgame movie and I thought, wow, it would actually be really cool to be part of creating something like that, creating the effects and scenes.
I researched VFX and realised that it could actually be a career option. It was around that that time that I was starting to look for work experience placements for school. So, I searched for ‘visual effects London’ and then I found Framestore. I emailed them a long email asking about work experience and included everything I had been doing, I sent a link to my coding projects that I had created from studying computer science plus pictures of my artwork, really just anything that could show some sort of experience I had in a similar field.
At first, they didn’t have any placements, but I carried on emailing them every so often to check. Then, Phil Attfield at NextGen emailed me and said they were running some work experience with Framestore and would I be interested. I was really, really glad of the opportunity. So, I think persistence is really an important thing, or just determination and trying because if I hadn't have got into Framestore, I would have tried with another company.
What did you do during the work experience when you were there?
I was there with a group of other students for four days in July 2019. We had our own little computer work station section within their work area where there were loads of animators working. This is where I was really first introduced to Maya and I could start to play around with it. We also got to go to some dailies at the time while they were making Wonder Woman.
We saw all of these animators showing their work, and when the Animation Supervisor was talking to them and giving feedback, I remember thinking they were pausing on such specific frames and being really picky because I couldn’t see anything wrong with it! But now, I'm in the same position looking at my own work and I completely understand that level of detail.
The majority of the time, we worked on the tasks we were set, and we got to sit-in on meetings and speak to all these people who are actually working in the industry. That was the main thing that inspired me, being able to just watch and see how the artists were working in this environment. It was so relaxed, and just everyone was getting along with their work and each other. I remember walking around and I saw Doctor Strange’s cape, and was just thinking, this looks like a great place to work! It opened my eyes to all the different options in the industry as well, all the different departments we visited showed that it's not just all VFX. There are so many different roles you can do, just to see that was so inspiring.
I think at the time I didn’t know much about the industry and didn’t realise what a privilege it was to go to Framestore. When I talk with my uni friends now and mention I did work experience there I understand how special that time was. It's an amazing opportunity for young people.
What were your next steps after the work experience?
I already felt like my A Levels were a really good combination of art and computing, so finding VFX and Animation was like finding the perfect middle ground for me and it was something I really wanted to pursue. While I was at Framestore one of the other students mentioned Escape Studios, so after the placement I carried on researching and looking into options and my next steps. That’s when I applied to do my degree there.
How are you enjoying studying at Escape Studios?
I love it, it's so great. I think a lot of people right now at university are realising that they don't really like what they're doing, or they're kind of just sticking it out, I don't feel that way at all. I feel so lucky that I really think this is something I can do, and it's a degree I'm going to use, so I just feel grateful.
I love how it gives you a chance to explore many things. Like right now we're doing a group project, and everyone is taking on different roles. I’m working as a lighting artist, which I'm quite interested in and is actually really cool, but I might not have looked at that role otherwise. The fact that they always let you explore and work at different things within animation or VFX is really amazing.
Do you have any advice for younger people who might bethinking of their study options after GCSEs?
It's unfortunate that in some schools you’re never really told about VFX, animation or games as an option. There are so many jobs in the industry so I would definitely say to do your research and to try and learn as much as you can. For someone starting out it can look really complicated ,especially the software, but there are so many tutorials on YouTube and there’s a wealth of information on every aspect of VFX and animation. You can research ,try out some techniques and trial the software with tutorials.
Even if you’re already doing A Levels, you can try out animation in many ways, you can make an art project into a flipbook, which is really early level animation, or try stop motion if you're into photography. There's always a way!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us Meah! You can check out some of her work here.