For as long as I can remember, making movies has been my dream. As a child I could often be heard saying, "that is going to be in my movie someday," whenever something cool happened. It was kids stuff like crashing my bike or jumping off the roof of the garage, but the sentiment was genuine. I once told my mother, "someday you will see my name crawling up the big screen." Years later I made good on my promise. And today, the novelty of seeing my work in the theatre has still not worn off. So how did I go from a little kid with big dreams to a feature film visual effects compositor?
Growing up in a small town in New Brunswick, film school was not an option. I would have to find my own way. Since elementary school, I was always the kid behind the scenes. While everyone else was practicing their song and dance routines for the talent show, I was setting up lights and plugging in speakers. I was the DJ at the school dances. I was the lighting designer for the school play. I was the sound guy for the band. In high school my motto was, "stick with me and you'll have no class." Not that I wasn't a classy guy, but I would frequently miss class to setup for some event. And I would take my friends with me. It was here at St. Malachy's High School that I discovered my love for theatre. I spent endless days and nights climbing the catwalks of that old theatre. It was a wonderful time of discovery.
After graduting I went on to Bishop's University in Quebec where I majored in Drama. This is where I really began to explore! My focus was of course on technical theatre, lighting and sound design. But I also took acting, art and directing classes. I was learning how to tell stories with imagery and sound. Centennial Theatre would hire student 'assistants' to work on productions produced by the school, and for touring performances hosted at the theatre. I had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people from many different disciplines. Countless orchestras, dancers, classical musicians, rock bands at of course stage plays. I was lucky to work with The Barenaked Ladies, Big Sugar and blues legend James Cotton to name a few. On Thursday nights the theatre would run movies. It was the only cimema in the small university town, and I was one of the projectionists. I still have frames that I spliced from films like Who Framed Roger Rabit. It soon became clear that I was learning more working at the theatre than I was at theatre school.
Life however, can sometimes get in the way. The reality of working for a living turned out to be much harder than I thought. I moved to Ottawa where I spent a few years simply enjoying life. I worked a few different jobs. One of them was at the help desk of a computer consulting firm. I worked the late shift supporting international clients. NT, Macintosh and UNIX workstations everywhere. So there I was in a room surrounded by computers waiting for the phone to ring. Needless to say I spent a lot time learning and playing. One night I stumbled across an application called CorelDraw and it opened my eyes. I would take pictures of my co-workers and make them bald or give them nose rings. I started modeling simple 3D geometry. Suddenly I was creating art on the computer and it was a revelation. The corporate world was clearly not for me. And so it was off to Toronto to follow my childhood dream.
This turned out to be the most important move of my life. Not only would I get my chance to make movies, I would also meet my leading lady. I did an internship as an editor with Nirenberg Communications where I was introduced to the Video Toaster and LightWave. It was here that I created my first music videos, and animations. However crude they may have been at the time, I was hooked. I got a job at a post production company called CFA Communications and for the next eight years I submerged myself into the world of video. I started in quality control, spot checking video tapes at the duplication center. I later moved on to VTR Operator for the edit suites. In my spare time I spent hours teaching myself how to edit on an Avid, or Velocity system. And it wasn't long before I got my chance to take it one step further. The company opened a new audio project studio and with my sound background they gave me a shot. I finally had my own suite, a small recording studio running Pro Tools. Soon I was cutting corporate and commecial videos, recording voice overs, designing and mixing soundtracks and even creating motion graphics. It wasn't until the company purchased a system now known as Avid DS that I got my first taste of digital compositing. Owned at the time by Softimage, it was a full featured editing and compositing package. When the DS was aquired by Avid, CFA turned to a more economical system called Quattrus which came bundled with DFX+ from Toronto based eyeon Software. This was my first look at node based compositing and after all those years I had found what I had been searching for. I decided to focus all of my attention on feature film compositing.
I read everything I could find about compositing and visual effects. I Became an active member of the on-line community. I Started going to product demos and trade shows to expand my network. I was offered a position at Red Rover Animation as a compositor on an animated television series called Get Ed. By the end of the first season I had worked my way up to compositing supervisor. As cool as that project was, I still wasn't doing what I had moved all the way from Saint John to Toronto to do. Make movies!
Enter Spin VFX and my first feature film The Marsh starring Forest Whitaker. I had finally achieved what I had set out to do all those years before. My mother finally got to see my name on the big screen. And I have never looked back.
Today I live in Mississauga, Ontario with my beautiful wife and two wonderful children. I love technology, books and video games. When I'm not working I enjoy running, karate and photography. I am the compositing supervisor at Spin VFX in Toronto, where we have just completed work on Legion for Sony Screen Gems. Now playing in theatres. And when the movie is over, I'll be the guy waiting in the audience to watch his name crawl up the screen.