MY INTERVIEW WITH WREN WEICHMAN OF CORRIDOR DIGITAL
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Wren Weichman— one of the VFX artists behind the videos at Corridor Digital, a production studio and entertainment company most well-known for their creative YouTube content. As an aspiring VFX artist myself, I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to seek advice and input from a fellow VFX artist who not only did the work professionally but for fun as well.
What kind of artist do you see yourself as? Do you have a specialty or a specific skill when it comes to VFX?
I see myself as a generalist. In the VFX world that basically means I dabble in lots of different areas without a specific specialty that I exclusively work within. Beyond that though I take pride in creating all kinds of different art beyond the scope of effects. So I'm a little weird that way I suppose.
What made you decide you wanted to become a VFX artist in the first place? Was there a movie, show, or person that inspired you and made you dream of joining the industry one day?
Honestly the thing that inspired me to learn VFX to begin with was the revelation that you could even DO visual effects on a regular home computer. I had discovered an After Effects tutorial website called VideoCopilot. I never had a particular desire to become an effects artist in the industry. I knew I just wanted to make videos.
What’s your background in VFX and Film? Did you study the subject in school or are you mostly self-taught?
I went to college for engineering but I'm basically entirely self-taught when it comes to VFX. What I mean is that I don't have any formal training. However, when working with others, you inevitably learn a lot from them. I've grown as an artist because of the people I've learned from and the projects I've attempted over the years.
What was it like having to find a job in the field once you were either finished with school or finished developing your skills yourself? Do you remember what your first VFX-related job was?
My job is incredibly unique in that not only am I an effects artist, but I'm a youtuber as well. In fact, my primary job these days is creating videos rather than specifically creating visual effects. And that's how I started too, by making YouTube videos.
I didn't really transition from the industry to it. I do remember taking on a few freelance jobs early on though. I did things like muzzle flashes and blood hits mostly.
If one didn’t grow up around artists or film industry professionals, VFX may sound like a really arbitrary profession. How would you describe the pros and cons of this field to someone who doesn’t really know much about VFX?
I pretty much never knew anyone in the film or effects industry until I had already decided to pursue it seriously. The pros are that you get to make some really incredible stuff that can be very rewarding. It's incredibly technical, so it can SEEM like it's really hard to do. However, like any tool, once you know how to use it, stuff that may seem really ambitious isn't all that hard.
The downsides to the VFX industry is that it's an unregulated industry. Artists working for any of the industry leading houses will tend to see lots of long hours and overtime, which can become a grind at a certain point.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you ended up joining Corridor Digital?
I got my start making YouTube videos shortly after Corridor Digital started. In fact, they were a huge inspiration. I wanted to do what they did. Before long, they started seeing my stuff too and after moving to LA they offered me a job.
For the first couple years I basically just made behind the scenes videos to accompany the main short films Corridor put out. I treated it as an internship, really, just trying to absorb as much information and knowledge as I could. Eventually I started working on effects and even directing short films for the channel.
That was years ago at this point. The last few years I've been more of an on-camera personality.
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve done, either personal or with Corridor Digital?
I think my favorite project I've done is when I built a Drone Nerf blaster. It was incredibly ambitious and I struggled for weeks to complete it. In the end, it worked fantastically and resulted in a really fun video. That's not VFX though, so perhaps the video titled VFX Artist Reveals the True Scale of the Universe is my favorite. I feel like I did a lot of things right with that one so it's incredibly satisfying to see it perform so well too.
I’m currently working on creating a VFX short film myself as a final project for my senior year and it’s my first time producing a project of this scope myself. What advice would you give to people like me who are aspiring to become VFX professionals and are only getting started in gaining the experience needed in this industry?
Producing is a huge part of filmmaking, even if you're not a producer. The thing I've noticed most about successful artists is that they're are the ones who have that "go-get-em" attitude. They have the drive to *make things happen* rather than wait for things to happen. That's really helpful when you don't really know what you're doing.
A producer is able to coordinate different people to get a job done. They're able to utilize resources to achieve what they want. They're able to understand scheduling and the importance of time. As a VFX artist producing a film, these are all important attributes to make things happen.
So my advice is to break large problems into smaller problems. The big "problem" is that you're making a film. That gets broken down into categories: writing, filming, editing, post/VFX, sound, final polish, and publishing. Then within each of those categories are of course longer lists of steps. This can be overwhelming sometimes, but less so than just looking at a giant wall of a problem you don't know how to solve yet. Break it down into small pieces that you CAN solve, and then move on. Eventually, all those small steps add up to one large step.
As far as more specific advice, keep a VFX list of ALL the shots you're working on with a status indication of each shot. Keeping a checklist that you can mark shots off of to measure your progress is both really helpful for gaging your use of time, and rewarding!