UNIVERSITYof Bolton students are gaining a foothold in the film creative arts industry. JAMIE BOWMAN reports

IF you’ve watched any of cinema’s biggest blockbusters over the last decade, there’s a good chance you’ll have seen the hard work of graduates from the University of Bolton’s hugely successful VFX (Visual Effects) course.

Former students on the course have been hired by companies that have worked on films, including the latest Star Wars episodes, Harry Potter, Blade Runner 2049, Inception, Jungle Book, First Man and Gravity.

The course, which has been running for more than 10 years, teaches the techniques to create the visual effects, which are added after filming has been completed, using the latest technology with VFX the process by which imagery is digitally created or manipulated and integrated into a live action shot.

Last week, as part of Bolton Film Festival, the university organised a VFX Festival, where students from across the North West had the opportunity to listen to industry speakers, including graduates from the course, as well as get a first-hand tour of the university’s facilities.

Matt Lilley, assistant teaching professor and VFX lecturer, said: “There are great opportunities for VFX work in the UK right now.

“The UK has the largest concentration of Oscar-winning VFX studios in the world and a lot of the VFX you see in many of the Hollywood films is actually done here in the UK. In fact the last six Oscars for VFX have been won by UK-based VFX companies.”

One of the most famous VFX houses is Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), responsible for the visual effects in movies, such as the ground-breaking Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park and the soon-to-be-released Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker.

One former student on the university’s VFX course, Louisa Ellison, is now a graduate production assistant at ILM which was founded by Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator George Lucas. She said: “I’m so grateful for the encouragement and support from the amazing lecturers at Bolton.

“Being taught by people with industry experience really shows through theirteaching methods and knowledge of the industry.

“The course stays current with software that is constantly advancing and develops students ready to go straight into the industry as prepared as possible.”

Louisa added: “Bolton sets up some great opportunities with guest speakers and studio visits, which proves they do everything they can to help you get to the next step in starting your career. They also continue to help and guide even after you graduate and I wouldn’t have got where I am now without everyone involved in the course. I can’t thank them enough for keeping me focused.”

Matt, who worked on the film Monsters: Dark Continent in 2015, said: “We have guest speakers from VFX studios in the UK and abroad.

“We also run a VFX London trip where we visit these amazing studios and get an insight into the inner workings of VFX studios large and small.

“We run an industry project with multiple Oscar winners DNEG, who have worked on movies such as the Harry Potter, James Bond, Fast and Furious and Mission: Impossible series, Ex Machina, Interstellar and Inception, as well as TV shows like Doctor Who and Black Mirror.

“They set a number of different projects and our students choose one to complete assisted by VFX staff at the university with feedback given by DNeg.

“Our students not only undertake this project but also get to present this work to the VFX artists working at these studios. It is a truly amazing opportunity.”

The collaboration brings positives for DNEG too who have been able to recruit talent from the Bolton course.

Harriet Edge-Partington, DNEG, Talent Acquisition Partner, said: “Since the opening of our first studio in London in 1998 we’ve always focused on building close working relationships with filmmakers. We thrive on the collaboration and the creative energy this provides, and we are dedicated to delivering excellence on every project we are involved with.

“We’ve brought home the Oscar for ‘Best VFX’ for three out of the last four years. In total, we’ve been honoured with four Academy Award wins, four BAFTA Awards and eight Visual Effects Society Awards for our visual effects work on shows like Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, Ex Machina, Interstellar, Inception and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2.

“We have now run the DNEG Industry project with the VFX degree at the University of Bolton on three separate occasions. We have always found the work that the students have produced to be of high quality and very relevant to the skills required for junior roles in the industry.

“From the previous two industry projects that we have set, we have hired eight Bolton graduates into our studio.”

For those graduates who have left Bolton and entered the industry the successful culture of the course in creating a VFX studio environment for students to work in is one they were happy to revisit.

Former student Robert Collier, now an FX Artist at MPC Film Montréal, which has provided VFX for The Lion King and The Jungle Book, said: “The lecturers are incredibly knowledgeable on all aspects of the VFX pipeline and are passionate about passing on this knowledge.”

“The course has a really great community vibe and everyone is there to push each other to be the best they can be.”