22 February 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
VFX Spotlight - Screen Scene Managing Director Jim Duggan
2013/12/13 09:50:00 :
Still from VFX in Game of Thrones.
In our latest VFX Spotlight, IFTN speak to Jim Duggan, Managing Director of Dublin-based post-production house Screen Scene.

Founded in 1985, over 25 years in the film industry have seen Screen Scene grow from 3 people working a 16mm Steenbeck flatbed editing table to a full-fledged production house employing the latest technology in varied operations encompassing film and television editing, sound dubbing, animation and visual effects production.

With over 65 full-time employees, Screen Scene's Upper Mount Street premises boasts over forty working environments including picture cutting rooms, sound editing suites and screening theatres, and recent work includes visual effects production on Irish co-productions such as BBC's 'Ripper Street', HBO's 'Game of Thrones' and Sky's upcoming Ray Winstone-starring 'Moonfleet'.

A producer and editor in his own right, Jim Duggan has worked as visual effects and post-production supervisor on many significant Irish projects as various as 'Waiting For Godot', 'Once', and 'The Guard'.

First off, Mr. Duggan, thanks for taking the time to speak to IFTN.

To begin, why don't you tell us a little about the main VFX areas Screen Scene specialises in and some of your projects to date?
We specialise in VFX for features and television drama - some credits to date include 'Game of Thrones', 'Secret State', 'Ripper Street', 'Last Days On Mars', and the upcoming 'Moonfleet'.

What have you found to be the most common misconception about visual effects and their place within the industry?
The generation of Visual Effects is much closer to the production model than the post model. There is a huge amount of prep and collaboration required to ensure all goes well and budgets are maximised and grief minimised. Phone conversations that start with “we are shooting a green screen shot tomorrow” are not good...

Some filmmakers have been vocal against the saturation of VFX seen in Hollywood pictures, arguing that it forefronts style over substance - what would you say to that?
VfX are a tool for the film maker and the story teller. Like all tools, they need to be used wisely and in the service of the story. Big VFX blockbusters have an important place in the cinema and the industry, but there is also room for clever use of visual effects to simply create mood and tone and story…not all VFX are swooping dragons or end of days blockbusters.

More and more, actors are often asked to perform with characters or in environments that aren't actually there -can you describe your experience of working with actors when they need to be incorporated into VFX shots and what was the process like?
Shooting green screen etc is challenging for actors, and like any part of the process needs careful management so that the tech doesn’t take over. I think actors surrounded by green screen and nothing else on a set creates a certain type of look and feel, and sometimes that's what's required. Our most successful work is often a combination of practical art department work on set with added VFX, rather than creating entire environments.

Which is more challenging for a post-production studio - creating effects designed to blend into existing environments, or creating these environments from scratch?
Both come with their own challenges and we do both, typically it's about the feel someone will want at the end of the day…and budget!

Technology has afforded amateur filmmakers the opportunity to produce high-quality work at home. What kind of impact do you think this will have on the VFX industry?
Again there is room for all types of set ups big and small, driven by art or industry, or a desire to work alone or in a team. Budgets and schedules and scope drive those decisions as much as anything else. 10 people on 10 machines can do something 10 times faster - not necessarily better - than one person on one machine, so there is room for everyone and all ways of working.

Experience should ensure that you choose the way of working that’s best for your show and its schedule. If you choose the wrong approach something is going to have to give way: there is nothing worse than doing 100 shots and one being bad, because that’s the only one everyone notices. Those situations usually come about because of too much strain on the approach you have taken to the producing the shots…same as shooting them I guess!

And finally, can you tell us about any of your studios current or upcoming projects?
We are currently finishing 'Moonfleet' for Sky - we have created a storm at sea which we are very proud of. 'Ripper Street' features some fantastic atmospheric VFX which really help to enhance story; the VFX on Ripper are used very well in that respect. We are also looking forward to 'Last Days On Mars' getting its cinema release, that rover and those dust storms are fantastic!

For more information on upcoming Screen Scene projects or to view a portfolio of past work, visit their website.

A showreel of past visual effects work can be viewed below.

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