Luigi Russo, a VFX artist at Big Buoy on how Top Gun made him aware of the filmmaking industry but Star Wars got him obsessed with the prospect of working in post
Luigi Russo first came aware of post production as an industry when he watched the intro to Top Gun back in the '90s - a fact that's he's tentative to admit! He learned that films can be more than just a good idea and a camera, and that the best way to bond with people is to play volleyball together - exclusively in denim.
These days Luigi is a VFX artist at London studio Big Buoy. He chats about his career below.
Q> As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Luigi> As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to work with moving pictures. When I turned 12, I got an old JVC camcorder from my family, and from there I never really stopped. I wasn't a very good student at school, so I convinced my teachers to accept all my assignments in video format, as it was the only feasible way of me getting good grades. So I guess it paid off to be a bad student after all.
Q> When was the first time you were aware of our industry?
Luigi> This may be a bit awkward for me to admit, but I would say it was probably when I first watched the intro scene from Top Gun. Back when Laserdisc was a thing, my father bought this huge, bulky telly, together with a very sophisticated (for the time) home theatre speaker system. I remember that over-the-top warm grade, and the jet engine SFX making the windows of my parents' flat shake. It was an incredible experience and it was also when I realised that films can be more than just a good idea and a camera. It taught me that the best way to bond with people is to play volleyball together, exclusively in denim.
Q> What first grabbed your attention and made you want to work in our industry, namely in VFX?
Luigi> Like the vast majority of people working in VFX, I would say Star Wars is definitely the reason why I'm working in this industry. After The Phantom Menace came out, I became really obsessed with visual effects. I taught myself After Effects, and spent hours making lightsabres out of brooms - something that I later put aside for a period of time where I thought that I might like to be an editor. However, that fortunately changed a few years ago, when I was working as an online assistant on Horrible Histories for CBBC. The VFX team working on the show gave me a few shots to key and license to go crazy on the effects. That was the moment when I remembered how much I loved compositing, and how much I missed doing it.
Q> What’s your favourite part of your job?
Luigi> I would definitely say that it's problem solving; I love it when you get a really complicated shot and need to figure out a way of delivering it. Here at Big Buoy, we have a very close 2D team, and we're always comparing setups and talking about clever ways of doing things. It's really refreshing (and annoying) when someone shows you a great result, but in a much simpler way to how you would have approached it! I'm also a bit obsessed with learning- I enjoy the fact that this industry is always changing and that you need to keep on your toes-looking out for the next software or workflow that may change everything.
Q> What would you say is the proudest part of your career so far?
Luigi> I think that 2019 was an important year for me - I'm very lucky to be surrounded by really talented people that I admire, working on really cool projects. For example, I am fortunate to have recently completed the VFX for a short horror film directed by Jamie Gyngell, which went on to win at the 2019 Homespun Yarns showcase. It's not every day that you can convince someone to buy pork belly to use as a plate for a shot!
Q> Lastly, what advice would you give to someone setting out in our industry?
Luigi> Keep pushing! I know it can be very tough and frustrating when you're starting out, as you have so much to show and say and you might feel like you're sometimes not exercising what you're capable of. Just don't forget that almost everyone was a runner and/or an assistant at some point, and they do care about you.
If you are working in the industry, introduce yourself to the senior members of the team and ask questions/offer help.
If you're looking for a job, you should try to connect with people that inspire you, and send your CV or reel to every single place you think you'd be a good fit for! Sometimes studios and facilities are looking for a person like you for months and you may miss your chance because you didn't put yourself out there. Don't forget to have fun as well, and to enjoy the process!