Client-Side VFX, Part One: Jenny Fulle
Jenny Fulle is a force to be appreciated. She knows this business inside and out and has formulated her business philosophy with that broad perspective. She is founder and VFX producer at Creative-Cartel – VFX. With more than 30 years in the business she has more than experience. She has the “eye,” which I think has got to be a genetic thing.
The Creative-Cartel was set up to provide visual effects production management and infrastructure for motion pictures. The idea was that many films could benefit from an “in-house” VFX department but the cost was prohibitive for any films other than the studio tentpoles. The goal was to make that model available to a broader budget range. They provide analysis and recommendations as to the right facilities to accomplish the work, based on specialized talents and cost incentives for all types of shows, especially those with more modest budgets. They try to provide a bridge from production companies and studios to the VFX houses. I asked Jenny to talk with us about her philosophy and how she goes about getting things done. I give you Jenny Fulle.
In my opinion, one of the keys to running a successful VFX business today is having a specialty and being the best at it. The days of facilities landing entire shows have become a bit of a rarity. As a VFX producer, I want to ensure that every penny of the budget I’m responsible for is being used to benefit the show in the most effective way possible, while ensuring that everyone is fairly compensated for the work they do. I don’t mind spending money on a specific pipeline (such as character or water) to do that specific type of work, but I don’t want to pay amortization costs for that pipeline to do wire removals and comps. That’s why when we’re breaking down the VFX on a show, we break the work into several categories including character, environment, 3D and 2D. Depending on the size of a show, we may sub-categorize categories (such as character work) into primary and secondary. Once we have a breakdown, we have the ability to target facilities whose expertise and artistry are well suited to the specific work, the budget and the filmmakers. One situation we try and avoid is awarding work to a facility that doesn’t yet have a pipeline for the work that we need them to do. R&D and building pipelines is an expensive undertaking better left for the tentpole shows. It is a lot more cost effective to ride the coattails of others that have gone before us, and in approximately 99% of all cases it’s possible.
There is no denying that the VFX community has grown worldwide, but I still believe that California is home to a disproportionate amount of world-class talent that we try to use as much as possible. Hence, we balance the requirements of the creative and budget by utilizing local superstar talent alongside those based in tax incentive or lower wage areas. All the while maintaining a strict ethos that no individual or company should ever pay for the privilege of working on a film. Nobody should work for free or at a loss. It’s not healthy or sustainable. Over the past four years, implementing this philosophy has resulted in us being able to keep an average of over 55% of the work we’ve done in California. Less than 5% of our work goes to countries other than the U.S., Australia and Canada.
While it’s difficult if not impossible to stay competitive, serve the interest of the production and keep 100% of the work local, I believe we have been able to keep a majority of our work in California by working with facilities that have been willing to think and work outside the box. That's work that otherwise might have been taken out of state in its entirety. The digital landscape continues to change. No one is going to come in and save the day for California-based artists. However, by resetting our expectations and tapping into the pioneering and innovative spirit that built our industry in the first place, I believe that we can continue to thrive.
The Creative-Cartel crew. Back row, from left to right: Connie Cochran, Dione Wood, Eric Torres, Tamar Shaham, Craig Mumma, Jenny Fulle, Jonathan Hludzinski, Whitney Richman. Front row, from left to right: Nick Bernardi, Arjuna Perera, Matt Brown.
The common thread with all of the facilities and individuals I’ve worked with in the past four years is that we’re all willing to be creative — not just with execution of the VFX work itself, but how we work together to get it done efficiently and effectively. If you’re smart and clever and working with smart and clever people, there is always a solution.
Thanks Jenny. Your input has been helpful. I appreciate your insight and attitude.
It was bad timing for Jeff Okun to talk with us about VES. He has a job and, as we all know, crunch time leaves no time for extra activities. But perhaps later. And I can always tap on Eric Roth's shoulder. Now there is an articulate fellow who always has something to say about VES. Stay tuned. This is one active time for the world of VFX and we all need to keep an eye on what's happenin' now.