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IFTA Q&A Series: Niall McEvoy on VFX
09 Apr 2024 : Luke Shanahan
Niall McEvoy
To mark the 21st anniversary of the IFTA awards, we are showcasing Irish talent who are blazing a trail across our industry, working in front of and behind the camera.

Hosted in association with IFTA, this Q&A Series connects with Irish talent who represent a range of disciplines across our industry.

We find out about their approach to craft, working on the projects they’ve been nominated for, and the best piece of advice they’ve been given in their career.

Niall McEvoy is IFTA-nominated in the Best VFX category for his work on Paradise. McEvoy’s previous credits include Grabbers, Game of Thrones, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

IFTN: How did you first get into VFX professionally?

NIALL: “Well, it’s kind of a long story, so I’ll be as brief as I can!”

“About 16 or 17 years ago, when there was very little going on in Belfast, I’d done an art degree and another degree in film. I had a pretty strong background in graphic design, but I wasn’t sure what to do next. At the time, working in film in Northern Ireland seemed like a pipe dream. By chance I got an opportunity to work in the Art Department. I did a handful of super low budget projects back to back. These were great because I got to try my hand at so many things including some pretty extensive on set experience.”

“It went on like that for about a year until a pretty large studio picture came to town. Compared to what I had been doing, this thing was massive. Part of my job was distributing drawings across all the departments, delivering them to each of the offices. It was a great opportunity to meet people, get to know them and what they did. I struck up a particularly warm relationship with the VFX team. As the months went on, all the sets were up and the shoot was well underway, things got pretty quiet for me in the art department. At the same time, the shoot got busy for the VFX team. I don’t remember who made the first move, but before I knew it I was on set with those guys helping to wrangle camera data while Nathalie Portman, James Franco and Danny McBride pretended to fight a massive creature that wasn’t there. It was completely ridiculous and I loved it!”

“But when that circus left town I went back to working in the art department. Until one day a phone call came from London. Paddy Eason was the VFX supervisor on a small comedy horror called Grabbers, shooting in Donegal. In the film a pod of whales washes up on the shore of a Donegal beach. As if by magic, this actually occurred in real life and Paddy needed someone in Ireland to go to that beach at a moment's notice and photograph this ill-fated pod of whales! So I did it. Then Game of Thrones came to Belfast. No one knew much about the show at the time but what was clear was that there would be a lot of VFX. So with what little experience I had, I got the chance to meet the team and the rest, as they say, is history!”

IFTN: What have you learned through your experiences that would be of use to aspiring VFX artists?

NIALL: “This last year has been a tough one for our industry. The strikes and a general contraction of all things related to film and TV production has had far reaching implications for all of us. Very established and normally busy and successful seasoned professionals have seen a slow down, and it’s been incredibly difficult for those starting out to get a foothold.”

“What I would say to those aspiring to have a career in VFX is to be strong and if it’s something you really want to do, don't give up. If the improbability and sheer good fortune I experienced at the beginning of my career is anything to go by, you just never know what’s round the corner and what can happen. As my Mum would say ‘If it’s for you, it won’t go by you’. Just remember to stay positive, keep an open mind and keep learning. Oh yeah, and watch plenty of good films!”

IFTN: Is there one thing about your craft that you would like the public to be more aware of?

NIALL: “Last year I noticed an unusual trend for denying the use, or at least downplaying the importance, of VFX/CGI in the completion of a project. Either the filmmakers themselves or at least their marketing departments suggesting that they opted instead for ‘traditional filmmaking methods’, but the truth is nowadays VFX is everywhere. Even when you least expect it, it's there somewhere and you won’t notice it because it’s good VFX and therefore seamless. Sometimes VFX is used for important things that are impossible to accomplish practically, other times it’s employed for a totally banal reason to aid production. But believe me, it’s used way more than you think!”

IFTN: Are there any recent films that have really impressed you with their VFX?

NIALL: “I’m always really interested in the Oscars every year, but particularly this year I think because of Cillian. I thought this year's VFX nominees were particularly strong and for me it was a two-way race between The Creator and Godzilla Minus One. Watching The Creator on IMAX was pretty next level from a visual perspective with near flawless work across the board. What Godzilla Minus One was able to accomplish given the budget they had was truly remarkable and a very worthy winner. But I’m a great believer in the idea that good CGI is invisible CGI. Therefore there is a lot of incredible work out there, too much to mention, that just won’t get noticed because it's excellent!”

IFTN: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?

NIALL: “Relax! Sure it’s important to work hard, but it’s equally important to enjoy what you do. I definitely think a person does their best work when they’re happy, comfortable and relaxed. Not to mention that they're certainly easier to work with, which is probably the most important thing.”

“Filmmaking at every level is a highly collaborative exercise. At times it can be stressful and uncomfortable and so long as you can keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs, you’ll flourish. I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from some of the greats across all departments and this is something I’ve observed in them all.”





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