Nice Shoes’ VFX artist discusses how the pandemic has changed the industry, working alongside his mentor, and the importance of ‘trying new things’
“Oh, literally all of it! When you’re starting out you need to give everything a chance. That’s how you find out what you’re in love with”.
Tyler Whelan is in love with film. Or, perhaps more specifically, filmcraft. The VFX artist talks enthusiastically about the moment he found his calling. “Working with VFX, suddenly it was like a whole new world had opened up. I was totally fascinated by it, and I worked my butt off to make sure it worked for me”.
That work ethic eventually took Tyler to Nice Shoes, who expanded their Boston studio last Fall. The capital of Massachusetts has been a home for the creative and VFX studio since 2016, where it began with a single colourist, Phil Choe. Since then, the studio has expanded on its successes and assembled a team which works alongside top-tier clients.
Back in the pre-Covid world, Tyler was only just getting his feet under the desk before the Coronavirus pandemic ensured that desks became off-limits. Amongst the ensuing remote working revolution, the Boston contingent of Nice Shoes has remained firmly rooted in the work and culture of their city, while maintaining a connection to the larger company and a global network of clients.
Having previously worked in New York and Los Angeles, Nice Shoes’ EP, and mentor to Tyler, Kirsten Andersen draws on 18 years of experience working in the unique Boston market. Nice Shoes’ EP, and mentor to Tyler, Kirsten Andersen, explains: “There’s always been plenty of nice work in Boston. It’s not like New York where everything is a thousand miles a minute, but we definitely bring a lot of that dynamism and energy into the market here. I find that our whole team - no matter what city they’re based in - is often a bit more hands-on than a lot of clients expect, which is something they tend to appreciate!”.
Although the pandemic has had a significant impact on the way the company works, Nice Shoes has been perhaps better positioned than most to ride out the storm. “What’s been kind of funny”, recalls Kirsten, “is that we’re all so used to communicating with each other whilst remote, all this change and upheaval hasn’t altered our day-to-day enormously. We’ve become quite adept at keeping strong lines of communication across the space that separates us, and that’s put us in a great place to survive this turbulent period”.
For Tyler, the changes have amounted to an exercise in creative problem solving. “It was a challenge, but ultimately my role is always about getting around obstacles, and this is no different. There are ways of mitigating those challenges for sure, I think there’s always a new problem that arises. And with new problems, are new ways of solving them. That’s part of the fun of this job!’.
That can-do attitude has seen Tyler and the team deliver top-tier work despite the restrictions of lockdown. Most recently, that has included collaborating with Grey and their client Gillette to help keep their campaigns on-track through the Covid chaos.
Above: Gillette’s Ready or Not campaign for Gillette ProGlide Razor and Sensitive Skin Shave Gel, a fully remote post-team up between Grey, Nice Shoes VFX artist Tyler Whelan, colorist Phil Choe, and EP Kirsten Andersen
“So much of what we do is the art of making things just right”, explains Tyler. “So in a sense, this campaign was the perfect opportunity for us to show what we can do. Of course, you’re often in a situation where you’ve done your job well when people don’t know you’ve done it at all”.
Tyler, the (VFX) Creator
“I always knew I wanted to work in video and media, but I started out really wanting to be an editor”, reflects Tyler. “I spent every waking hour working with film, oftentimes shooting one-off projects and just experimenting. But as soon as I started playing around with VFX, and especially working with Kirsten, I knew it was for me”.
And yet, Tyler’s passion for visual media didn’t begin with film. “I adore photography, and I’m particularly inspired by photographers;Robert Frank, Elliot Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, along with many others. And that’s possibly where that desire to pay attention to the minute detail of what’s in the frame comes from”.
The VFX artist's passion for moving image evolved in tandem with his love of music, he explains. “When I hear a piece of music, I almost can’t stop my mind conjuring up these images that sort of move in time to it.”
For Tyler, Nice Shoes is perhaps the perfect home in which to hone his craft. “I think we’ve found a certain sympatico here, which is so rare and valuable”, says Kirsten.
“You can’t put a price on trust”, agrees Tyler. “There’s a lot to be said, especially in this business, for the ability to speak openly and honestly. You can get such better work done when you have that environment, and we absolutely have that here. It’s an awesome thing”.
As our industry begins to rebuild following the pandemic, it’s likely that the successful model of the future won’t be the same one as in the pre-Covid world. At such a time of uncertainty, trust and honesty doesn’t seem like a bad place to start.