OPINION James hattin
The VFX Legion founder on how to get your remote foot in the door
VFX Legion’s James Hattin on how to get your remote foot in the door at a facility
presenting yourself as a remote artist might seem easy, but it’s a surprisingly challenging task. Last issue, we discussed the skills and technology needed for the job, so now let’s look at what it takes to effectively communicate your ability to work remotely.
it’s an area i’m pretty experienced in. i run a boutique visual effects shop, VFX Legion, that started with a remote-only model in 2013. it was one of the first in the industry and it’s still going today, although we’ve modified our business to include more traditional facility services to accommodate high-security work. We’ve worked with hundreds of artists throughout the world, and have been contacted by hundreds more over the years.
There’s no secret sauce to getting hired on to do freelance remote visual effects work. it’s a lot about making contact at the right time and the right place. Sometimes, it’s all about luck. if someone sends a reel just as we’re staffing up and i like what’s on there, i’ll reach back out to them at that moment.
other times, i see strong work or get a solid reference, and that person is put onto a list as someone to ‘try out’.
More than anything, it’s about being a bit of a squeaky wheel without belabouring the point. That’s a tricky balance to achieve.
often, there are key times throughout the year that VFX facilities are hiring. For episodic work, that tends to be in late summer and again at the first month of the year. This is the best time to remind certain facilities that you are out there and available.
Communication is also key. part of being a remote artist is the ability to communicate effectively through email, as well as video chats.
At Legion, we use the Zoom video chat platform for all of our kick-off meetings, dailies and interviews.
Ready to reach out? Here’s a closer look at what you’ll need to convince a studio that you’re ready to be a remote artist: a killer reel – the most important part of being a VFX artist, especially a remote one, is a solid, relatively up-to-date reel. it should only contain your best work and come in under two-and-a-half minutes.
A minute-long reel of excellent work is perfectly acceptable. in any case, it should offer a clear picture of what was done on the shots, and showing before-and-after work is even better. Sometimes, work can be so good that the recruiter may completely miss the effect. That might sound like a compliment, but it won’t help your case.
You’ll also need a savvy cover letter: we’ve seen a lot of formal cover letters. We’ve also received cover letters that were written for a completely different facility.
While a ‘one-size-fits-all’ cover letter might save time, it’s better to take a close look at a company and really speak to what they do – and why you would make everyone’s lives so much better if you were hired.
Legion is a special case, but humour does go a long way here though – resumes are boring: a concise, one-page essay is great for an artist to cover his or her relevant experience. We certainly look at them to see where a person is located and perhaps what software they specialise in. Sometimes, we look at the names of facilities they’ve worked for to see if they might be a good fit for remote work. As an aside, i almost exclusively use reels to decide whether or not to offer an interview, and then i see how the artist communicates. if it’s a good fit, then much of what is on the resume is irrelevant. i once hired someone for VFX work who had mostly editorial experience on their Linkedin profile and resume, and it ended up being one of our best hires. Having a strong skillset and a good-looking reel is the best thing you can do to get a foot in the door.
Still, connections make up a significant piece of the puzzle. Who you know and where they are now are important points to consider.
Legion has always placed referrals over cold calls when it comes to talent.
As you wend your way through your career, stay in touch with people. We at Legion have long arms when it comes to the people that we know around the world, and a good word from almost any of them would have huge dividends for at least getting a few shots for a tryout. it never hurts to keep up with past colleagues.
You’ve got this. You are ready to go. Get out there and find someone to work for, because when it gets busy, it’s all hands on deck – and two of those could be yours.
VFX Legion has remote artists working all around the world