Meet Lola’s Tim Zaccheo and his take on the CG world
When did it spark that Visual Effects was the dream career path for you? Or was it one of those accidental things you fell into and then realized you’re quite good at!?
I think the first time it occurred to me that I might like to work in film was on the bus on the way back from the cinema having just seen Back to the Future for the first time in the winter of 1985. Visual effects as we know them now didn't really exist at the time, but I knew I wanted to do something creative to do with filmmaking. Not acting, obviously...
Do you think it’s a lot easier nowadays for graduates to get a job in post?
I think it's easier in some ways, but harder in others. When I was looking for a way into 3D computer animation there really weren't all that many companies offering that kind of work - not in London anyway, and not in Film. On the other hand no one was leaving college or university thinking "I want to work in feature films as a 3D computer animator" either, so there was probably less competition for jobs then than there is now. These days literally hundreds of people graduate every year looking for work in the VFX industry in this country - and most of them, it seems, head for London looking for work in one of the big facilities. The upside is that the industry is very busy right now and always on the lookout for bright, hardworking graduates to help ease the workload. If someone were to leave college tomorrow with a half decent reel and the right attitude, there would almost certainly a job waiting for them somewhere.
You were working at The Mill before Lola? I know you were a fan of the buffet breakfasts The Mill provided if you were lucky enough to get in there first, but do you prefer working for bigger or smaller companies?
Ah, The Mill's buffet breakfasts!!!! I don't know if they still do those do they? Like most things, there are good bits about working for a big company, and bad bits. Same can be said for working for a smaller company really. I guess in simple terms, bigger companies attract bigger projects but as an employee you are perhaps a relatively insignificant part of a much bigger picture. Smaller companies like Lola offer you the chance to be involved much more closely with clients, and often to be part of their projects from a much earlier stage.
Are there ever times when you wish you didn’t work in vfx?
Not often . . . maybe sometimes at around 3.30pm on a Wednesday afternoon.
How hard is it to keep up with the ever changing and unpredictable industry? There must be times when a new bit of software comes out and just as you’re getting your head around it, it changes again!?
Things don't change quite that quickly! It is true, though, that you have to keep on top of things and be continually on the look out for new tools and approaches to work. Clients are pretty quick to pick up on new trends, which often come about because suddenly something undoable before is now possible. One minute everybody seems to want great crashing walls of water everywhere, the next minute everything has to have hair - and then it's all about CG oil fires and explosions. . . there's always a piece of software or a new tool out there to help you do these things but they take time to learn - and cost money of course!
This ties in with my next question, how important is research and development to you as head of 3D and also for a whole company to keep on top of?
Sometimes a client will know exactly what they want - they'll have seen the new commercial for this or that, exploiting the very latest in VFX technology, and that's what they want. You need to be one step ahead and already have the required pipeline developed in order to deliver the work with a minimum of additional R and D - quite often there won't be much of a turnaround on a particular project. Other times a client will come to you with something more abstract, just the beginnings of an idea - and they've come to see if you can help flesh it out. At times like this it's important to have a good overview of the possibilities, and it's even better if you can show the client examples of any research you've already conducted that may help to take their idea further.
What’s been the smoothest and best job you’ve worked on whilst at Lola?
A lot of jobs are pretty smooth-ish . . . I really enjoyed working with Terry Gilliam on Dr. Parnassus. We seemed to click from the very beginning, and perhaps because we joined the show quite late in the day - the deadline looming very large on the horizon - he seemed very happy with the work that we did almost right away. The shots we did looked really nice too.
Do you have any nightmare anecdotes you could share?
Can I take the fifth?
Hmmm Ok fine. Last question as our tea's going cold! If you could work anywhere in the world; what company would you work for and what would your perfect role be?
My dream would probably be to work at Pixar - not as an animator I don't think, I'm almost certainly not good enough at animation anyway, but doing simulation stuff - fluid simulations; water, fire, smoke - visual effectsy type things. I have a friend who's worked there for about 10 years now and loved it . . . that would be nice.
That's our 5-minute tea break over, cheers Tim!