Uprising in association withLBB & Friends Beach

New Talent: Tommy Coulter-Liston

Production Agency
London, UK
Big Buoy / Smoke & Mirrors’ Tommy Coulter-Liston discusses invisible art, how to break into the industry and why Flame and Nuke go hand-in-hand
South-East London born and bred, it’s hard to believe 25-year-old Tommy Coulter-Liston only left running two years ago.
Juggling raising a young family around training on the job, he quickly progressed into a full time contract as a Nuke artist at Big Buoy / Smoke & Mirrors, where his willingness to learn only continues to grow.


Q> Growing up, did you always want to be a Nuke artist? Tell us a bit about how you got into the industry?

Tommy> Growing up, I had never heard of Nuke and wanted to be an offline Editor. I loved playing with iMovie on the Mac, adding little effects to my videos. After a couple of work experience placements on a Bollywood film and the ‘Horrible Histories’ series, my love for film and TV led me to a enrol on a University degree in editing. I would always incorporate VFX components into my projects as I wanted to learn. After graduating, I handed my CV out to post houses across Soho and secured a position as a Runner at Smoke & Mirrors. During my eight months as a Runner, I learnt what Nuke actually was and started to get to grips with it, before moving into the studio as a full time Nuke artist. 

Q> Who or what are your inspirations?

Tommy> It has to be ‘Titanic’ Director, James Cameron, who specialises in VFX. As a child I’ll never forget being inspired by the large scale practical effects, intricate miniatures and cutting-edge digital VFX-it just blew my mind. I was also inspired by Film Riot on YouTube: a how-to trip through the art of filmmaking, explaining how to produce VFX heavy projects on a budget.

Q> Which jobs have you been working on recently, and are there any that have challenged you to work in new ways?

Tommy> I have been working on various projects over the past few months, from the Sun’s Office Knockabout campaign to Lexus’ AI job. Being a Nuke artist, I have had the opportunity to work closely with our Flame artists and we have formed a great team, utilising both skillsets to complete the job effectively.

Q> What are your favourite things to create?

Tommy> I really love fixing shots and doing clean-up work. A great example is a beer commercial we did recently where the beer tap was inside the glass whilst pouring out the liquid. I was asked to lift the beer tap out of the glass, which resulted in a combination of rebuilding the background, painting out the original tap and glass, then moving the elements around and finally re-comping the tap and glass back on top. Hearing the clients’ reaction just makes it all worth it.

Q> What’s your favourite part of your job?

Tommy> VFX is an invisible art and if you don’t know what I’ve done, then I’ve done the job right. I really love showing clients the before and after shots when a job is finished and reflecting on how far it’s come. A positive client reaction just gives you that buzz.

Q> What advice would you offer to aspiring Nuke artists trying to break through into the industry?

Tommy> Get talking to people. Most of us are approachable, love to problem solve and are happy to answer questions. Let people know you have an interest and share any personal work for constructive feedback. Willingness to learn is one of the most important things. That’s what I did and that’s what I’ll continue to do.
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