The PEN: Stephanie Pocklington - Visual Effects Artist

I have known Stephanie since we were both in high school. But I will be honest, I didn’t know how talented of an artist she really was. Through social media I have been able to see Stephanie’s growth as a artist, starting out in film school in Vancouver to the exceptionally talented person she is now based out of Montreal. Her work speaks for itself and chances are, you have seen it on the big screen in many Blockbuster Hollywood movies. Stephanie has worked on films such as Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger, Fast and the Furious 6 and Elysium. You will be able to see some of her new work in Maleficent, which opens this summer. 


When I started as a 3-D artist it wasn’t a conscience decision. I had done some traditional art and graphic design-related freelance for clients and friends but realized that I had no training in 3-D software. I tried to teach myself online but found that without a mentor or schooling it can be quite difficult to learn with the internet alone. The university I was attending also had little in the way of 3-D software courses. I then applied to Vancouver Film School for 3-D Animation and Visual Effects to learn how to become a better freelance artist and how to provide clients with video-based content. Once I had begun, I realized that in Vancouver at that moment, were large amount of 3-D related jobs in the film and television industry. This was due to existing tax incentives so working in the industry was more attainable that I had once thought. Especially, as I was fortunate enough to be Canadian and not have to worry about things like work permits etc. 

 Before I started in the industry there were some things that I wasn’t aware of. Such as the long hours, sometimes unpaid and uncredited, that can be expected of visual effects workers. There can also be a lack of stability since work is project-based. The majority of workers are only on contract until the end of a project. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to have had my contract extended within the same company but to new projects when comes close to its’ expiration date. I think a lot of the time once a project ends so does a contract and one must find another company or another project for the next few months and even be willing to move countries for work. Because of this, it can be difficult to do things like buy a house and start a family. I’d imagine that this happens to many people working in film and television, in general though. The lifestyle can be exciting for some too, since you meet so many new people in so many new places and are together for long hours. A good team becomes like a second family for the length of a project. And that can be really fun =) There are also a lot of younger people since it’s such a transient and unstable business.

 I have worked in a variety of departments and there are definitely differences between them. Things such as, what is produced, how it’s produced, and even the types of people that you meet all vary. Techanim for example, can be more computer science / technical and can involve things like Python scripting while texturing and matte painting are definitely more painterly and in some ways, more creative in a traditional way. These kinds of skills can attract different kinds of people. You can get a traditional painting artist signing up for the job right next to a computer science major, from all over the world too. In all departments you must be creative. Whether you are solving a technical problem, simulating the way hair moves or painting a background or character.

 If you enjoy the work and can afford to spend time away from friends and family, then work as hard as you can for as long as you can. Whether it’s on getting better at the software at home or on the job. This will not only make you a better Visual Effects artist, but will show that you have the passion for the work, the product and the industry. A lot of people feed off of that energy and love to have those people around on a team. It’s not just about being great at your job. It’s about being a good team member since you’ll be spending lots of hours with people so it’s advisable to be pleasant to be around too.

If I had to pick a favourite piece of work there’s some work I did on Maleficent that I’m pretty happy about. But I can’t really talk about it until the film releases! Though mostly technical achievements, I really love problem solving and making awesome things happen as a side effect. I’m a sucker for creatures too, so anything I’ve done that’s creature-related I get excited about.

 It’s common for a 3-D artist to bounce around between those three categories; I think the kind of work does vary though. For example, I’ve heard that in commercials there may be more room for creative freedom but the deadlines are short and the work environment is fast paced and demanding. TV is similar in that regard. But those projects can have more well-known characters and plotlines that might make them more popular. Film can sometimes have a higher budget, the projects can have longer deadlines and the work quality is usually expected to be 110%. So it takes a large team to find just the right mix of technical and artistic solutions to make the end product awesome. I’m generalizing a ridiculous amount though, and I admit I’ve only spent time in film so it’s hard for me to know. I feel all of these qualities can be found between the three categories. I think moving up can also be about developing relationships with people you work with too. So that people know they can trust you with certain things when the work starts to get crazy. By moving around, between companies and categories, you may get less of that but the industry is small so you’ll always end up working with someone you may have met before.

 In the future, I would LOVELOVELOVE to work on a dragon. That’s a bucket list item right there. I’d love to lead a team one day too but one step at a time!

You can follow Stephanie on her website

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