Hasraf Dulull is a London-based visual effects supervisor who has worked in the industry for more than a decade. Dulull began his career creating video games cinematics; in 2005 he moved into film VFX as a compositor. Through hard work and dedication, he rose to the position of visual effects supervisor. Hasraf's recent supervisory work on the television series Planet Dinosaur (BBC1), America: The Story of US (History / Discovery) and Life Beyond Earth (NOVA / Discovery) landed him several VES (Visual Effects Society) award nominations. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with him about his background and VFX work.
When did you first become interested in visual effects?
I became interested in visual effects during my time working in games cinematics...but to be honest, it was when I saw the film The Matrix and started following publications such as Cinefex. That's when I really found a love for the craft of VFX.
How did you land your first job in FX? Was it difficult?
I remember working in video games and doing these cool cinematic scenes, but saying to myself...why am I "emulating?" If I want to work in film VFX, why don’t I just work in film! Games cinematics were great, but that was my foot in the door into the CGI industry. Back then, it was not as easy as it is now to move from games CG work to feature film VFX; I got several rejections saying my work needed more integration of CG with live action. I was also told that I needed to pick a route and specialize rather than trying to do it all. I used those rejections as opportunity to hear what I could do better or what I was missing. I took those criticisms and feedback very seriously and a few months later approached the same studios with my new reel; I ended up getting a job in feature films. I started off as a rotoscope artist, then moved to junior compositor, then on to senior compositor, lead compositor, compositing supervisor and finally VFX supervisor. It was hard work, but I loved it — and I got to work with amazing artists, directors, producers and studios. I learned so much from that experience.
A still from Dulull's film Fubar Redux (2012)
What do you love most about working in VFX?
The thing I love the most about working in VFX is making what seems the impossible happen on screen by being clever with the tools and techniques and doing that with a great bunch of talented people in the team.
What's the most recent project that you've worked on? Tell me about it.
The most recent project I worked on was a TV drama series called Parades End for HBO and BBC. I went out to Brussells to work at the VFX facility doing the work on the show. My role was sequence supervisor. I was brought in because of my experience of leading a compositing team and working with the show VFX supervisor to figure out how to get the sequence done in its tight schedule. The sequence involved a slow motion explosion, but I cant give too much away as the series doesn't air until September. Before that I was at Prime Focus in London where I VFX supervised several shows including a feature film about 1980's gangs society in Glasgow called The Wee Man, which when you look at it, is a very non-VFX film... so all the VFX were invisible things like muzzle flashes, set extensions, blood wounds etc.
Dulull's film, Fubar Redux, was shown at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
Do you work from home, or at an office?
I tend to work at the VFX facility when supervising a team. But during pre-production of a project I often work at home in my home studio doing script breakdowns and Skype and Cinesync sessions with clients.
Do you find that you work best alone, or in a group?
I dont like being in a room on my own as I like to be surrounded by people, so I often sit in the same room as the artists and compositors, making it easy to collaborate on solutions to problems in a shot.
What else do you do in your free time? Do you have other hobbies?
Spare time.. whats that? Well...when I'm out of the studio, I tend to spend time with my cats and my partner May. I also get involved with short films and make my own — the most recent being Fubar Redux, which is still doing the rounds in festivals and press since its release in April this year. I am also currently producing other directors' short films too, as I love working with new talent and ideas. I also find running and cycling a great way to clear my head and not think about work or VFX.
Fubar Redux was crowd funded on Kickstarter.
Is there anything that you don't like about the visual effects industry?
The only thing I dislike about the VFX industry is that budgets are getting smaller and yet the ambitions keep growing... I really do think the VFX industry needs some sort of support union organisation that can protect its vital investment - the artists!
Do you have any advice for aspiring FX artists?
The advice I would give any aspiring FX artists is look at the current VFX studio showreels (MPC, Dneg, etc) and familiarize yourself with the type of work they do to give you an idea of the quality of VFX required. Also, join forums (such as the lovely VFX Global) and connect with other artists. Always look at other artists work for inspiration. Read the job vacancy before applying: If it says looking for creature artists, then make sure you have creature work in your reel and not just any 3D work. Also, use tools that most studios use (Maya, Nuke, Zbrush, etc.) to ensure your employability. Be honest and enthusiastic about your work when meeting studios. Lastly: Keep trying, no matter how many studios say no to your application. Keep in touch with the studios and push yourself and the work to be better. Show experienced artists your work for critique and never give up.
All images copyright Hasraf Dulull.
Connect with Hasraf:
Film Website: www.fubar-movie.com