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Wielding the FX Magic: An Exclusive Interview with Jesse Gozo

INTERVIEW
April 12, 2024
Interviewed by:
Mearg Taddese

Embark on a captivating journey into the world of visual effects with Jesse Gozo, a Senior FX Generalist at Lunar Animation. From childhood daydreams to crafting cinematic wonders, Jesse invites you to join the conversation.

Explore his favorite projects, confront unexpected challenges, and contribute your questions to shape this collaborative narrative.

Let’s kick things off. Can you briefly introduce yourself?

Hi, my name's Jesse Gozo. I'm a Sr. FX Generalist at Lunar Animation in Sheffield, UK. Uhh, I go by @mistergozo on Instagram where I usually post my hobbies, lol.

Taking a trip down memory lane, tell us about your childhood. What inspired you growing up, and how did those early experiences lead you to your current career? Were there any unique challenges you faced during those early stages?

I could say I was a pretty peculiar kid growing up. I could spend the whole afternoon in my room staring up at the ceiling and imagining things and cooking up (innocent) fantasies in my head. They'd usually be me as a hero saving the world etc.; inspired from the JRPGs I played on my brother's PS1.That probably had some role into what I am now or how I usually create personal works --  I'm not just creating/simulating effects, but I'm also passionate about creating/telling stories.

That’s interesting background, Moving into your creative mind, what lights the spark for you? Where do you find the most inspiration when you're deep into a project?

I love watching VFX breakdowns. I also love browsing around ArtStation, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and LinkedIn. Mostly other artist's personal works and concept arts.

Could you share a tale from the trenches. What's the most challenging or unexpected task you've encountered during production, and how did you navigate through it?

I had the privilege to create water sims for some big Netflix live-action adaptation to an Anime. It was challenging on all fronts - creative and technical. I don't have a lot of experience on water sims, and the direction for the FX was very specific. I was on SideFX's Houdini YouTube channel perusing for FLIPs workshop and most notably Igor Zanic's BGHUG talks. That helped remarkably especially the idea of stitching multiple FLIP sims seamlessly.

Let’s shine a light on one of your favorite projects. Walk us through the creative process and the magic that brought it to life. What makes it stand out in your portfolio?

This was one of my favorite projects I got to work on at Lunar Animation early 2023. It showcases most of my skillsets:

Did most of the cloth FX setups (character, confetti, paper, etc.)

• Asset procedural assembly for the fruit stand (pre fractured and ready for destruction)

• RBD on the fruit stand

• Thor's Stormbreaker FX

• Fireworks (using my supervisor's HDAs)

• Explosion and debris kick up

• Atmospherics and wind dust

• Thor bifrost (rainbow bridge) FX

I only had a couple of weeks to do these FXs and that's also a bit of a flex ;)

That’s a lot of cool stuff! Time to switch gears a bit. How do you manage your time, especially with side personal projects? And when stress creeps in, how do you handle it and keep your energy levels up?

I only ever start working on side personal projects when I know I don't have a lot to do on my main production work. Doing side personal things on top of stressful production schedule can induce a quicker burn out. So it's all about trying to balance things, but that's easier said than done.Sometimes I chat with other artists from different departments about what they're working on and that usually gives me some motivation and lights up that creative spark in me - especially on days when I'm on the verge of burning out.

As you’ve climbed the ladder to supervision or a lead FX position, what's your secret sauce? Any tips for those aspiring to grow into similar roles? Are there any gotchas or obvious statements that you wish you knew earlier?

I had the privilege of leading the FX on one of the cinematic trailers for Raid: Shadow Legends and their collaboration with Monster Hunter. I did the majority of the character cloth/groom FX setups; and most of the FXs in the cinematic (ground debris kick up, env smoke and atmospherics, dragon breath, etc.) and also providing support in integrating these FXs into Unreal Engine.There were more responsibilities and tasks that I was new to - like managing my team's morale and schedule. If I could give advice to my past self, I'd say to not be afraid to ask more questions and open for conversations, as what's obvious to you may not be obvious to other artists. In spite of this, I enjoyed the lead opportunity and responsibilities and working with my team and collaborating with other departments. There are still loads to learn and I'm looking forward to that.

Reflecting a bit, what are the things you wish you knew or learned earlier that would have made a significant impact on your current situation?

I wish I was more aware of all the visa situation on different countries. And also the unfortunate culture that the VFX industry is going through with the layoffs etc.

What's your favorite part of your job? Is there a particular feature or tool that you love and couldn't imagine working without?

Houdini

How is it like working at a big studio? What do you find different from working at a small studio and team?

I started my career at Polygon Pictures and it was incredible and I learned quite a lot. I'd say that working at a big studio, you usually have the privilege of a full and robust pipeline. Most tasks could just be a one-button click and your tasks are narrowed down into a specific part of the pipeline.I'm now currently in a relatively smaller team, and my tasks have broadened a fair bit. Since there's no specific way of doing things and I have the creative freedom and an infinite amount of approach to tackle FXs etc., I'm enjoying it a lot and I think I'm learning a lot more as I'm expanding my skillsets, touching areas in post-production where I normally don't get the chance to do so working in bigger studios.

Shifting to a broader topic, what's your perspective on AI in our industry? Some artists have strong opinions—do you fear it, love it, or have a neutral stance?

Neutral I think.

Let's have some fun! If you were to predict the future of VFX, how do you see it evolving in the next 10-15 years?

Realtime, please.

On the path of personal development, how do you continue to challenge yourself and grow as an artist?

I already have plans and specific concepts/ideas on personal works that should tackle weaknesses in my skills, and address the gaps in my skillset. I've been diving myself into film and cinematography lately, and that has expanded my perspective too.

We noticed a couple of piano instrument performances on your YouTube page. Can you tell us about it?

The piano stuff is completely unrelated to my VFX journey xD I do it as a hobby. I had aspirations to become a concert pianist way back in the past, but VFX stole my heart.

I study classical pieces occasionally but I’m more into the anime piano community. What a surprise, eh.

 For artists who want to check out your work and learn more about you, where should they go? Feel free to share your website and social media links.

Instagram

LinkedIn

Vimeo

You have a free workshop here at DoubleJump with us, Anime Impact FX series. can you tell us about it, how it started, the journey of preparing a tutorial, and your experience with DoubleJump. and if you have plans for the future.

I worked on this as a personal project back in 2020 when I saw the original material from Wataru Ikeda as I was browsing around ArtStation. Needless to say, I failed at that attempt as I lacked the skills to do the FX justice. At that point, I only touched Houdini for a little over a year since I only started learning Houdini around mid-late 2018.

I decided to make another attempt early 2023, as I have only just recently purchased a good PC rig and a Redshift license for Houdini. Initially, I only wanted to do and focus on replicating the FXs, but somehow it expanded to working on an environment and a story. Creating the story for that shot played a big role for La Van (the lighting/comp artist) on drafting the mood and lighting for the scene. It also helped in translating the stylized magical FXs into a more realistic tone and feel.

Recording the tutorials was a little bit more involved as I was changing/optimizing the setup whilst recording. I didn't intend this personal work to be made for a workshop; it was more of a personal learning. So quite a few of the setups are unnecessarily complex and it could be dissolved into a more simple workflow in my opinion.

Creating the workshop was fun and it's a first and hopefully not the last experience for me. ;)

Yes, we hope it is not the last as well. Lastly, what do you have for the community?

I'm happy to share the HDAs that I've been using working on the Anime Impact FX series.

As we wrap up, what final words do you have for your fellow artists?

Keep that creative passion burning. Whether that means watching movie/anime, playing games, traveling and eating good food, etc.

Are you a studio who is hiring?

Send us your job opening to hello@doublejumpacademy.com and you will be added to the next job openings list.
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I have worked with Urban in the Past on a workshop and with Corbin as FX supervisor during my time at ILP. They are both extremely creative, passionate and always put helping the people around them up to the for front. I couldn't imagine a better team of people to put together a school like DoubleJump. Always people and education first.

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Griffin Animation Studios

"William goes in depth into his workflow and approach he takes to creating large scale environments, u get to understand his thinking behind the why he does things not just the how. There is some comp tricks taught along the way in nuke as well that have been helpful to apply to my own projects to elevate them just that bit more even if environments isnt my main focus. Of course as well the huge community of DoubleJump is a bonus always ready to help when u need it with a bunch of friendly folks."

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Fx Artist/TD - Enrolled in: Epic Environments for Movies

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Senior VFX Artist at Atomic Arcade

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Luca Goury

This was done under - Unreal Engine Complete Automotive Masterclass