Do you love the performing arts? Can you go one step further and say you’re creative, technically minded and motivated enough to be an essential factor in making productions happen? If your answers to these questions are “yes,” you may be perfectly suited for a job as a visual effects (VFX) artist or a producer. These two occupations vary in responsibility; a little research will help you choose which is best suited to you. If you’ve got what it takes -- creativity, knowledge, experience and a conscientious work ethic -- you can look forward to a fun and rewarding career.
A visual effects artist creates effects and animation for TV, movies, video games and more. In this job, you might be working with film extras, digitally duplicating them for a scene. Or, you could create simulations of monster ocean storms or plane crashes. You could even create entire universes using a combination of reality, fantasy and technology. This job requires that you be highly knowledgeable in your craft so your supervisors or other lead personnel can rely on you to get the job done in a timely manner. Your attitude is also key; you’ll often work long hours to meet deadlines, and an upbeat mindset will make your job easier. A bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, art or a related field, combined with a solid portfolio of your work, will help you get a job as a VFX artist.
A producer is the lead on movies, TV shows, live theater and other performing arts productions. As a producer, you’ll guide the entire project from start to finish, hiring the director, overseeing cast selection and pulling together a crew, including a VFX artist, if required. You’ll be responsible for the project’s budget, and you may be a major funder of the endeavor. You’ll be the problem-solver involved in every aspect of the project; you're who people will go to for solutions. To become a producer, you'll need a bachelor’s degree, in addition to years of related work experience.
There are some significant differences between these two professions. As a VFX artist, your work will be hands-on: you’ll be creatively and technically involved in the creation of the effects required. A producer rarely has this degree of involvement in creating effects. Producers are often involved in several simultaneous, unrelated projects. As a VFX artist, you’ll generally focus on one job at a time. You won’t have to worry about finding actors, maintaining budgets or solving overarching production problems, as producers do. Instead you’ll be concerned about turning out first-class special effects to meet a producer and director’s expectations.
In spite of the differences, there are still some similarities between these two jobs, one being that educational requirements are comparable for each. Another similarity is that each position requires an understanding of the technical principles behind what’s necessary. For example, a producer should know that, using visual effects, it’s entirely possible to create a realistic environment representing space, while the VFX artist will know how to make that environment a reality. In addition, both positions require planning to determine the best methods for achieving results. Teamwork and communication are also essential attributes shared by both jobs.
- Wall Street Journal: Working as a Visual-Effects Artist
- Effects Corner: What Makes a Good Visual Effects Artist?
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Multimedia Artists and Animators
- Slate: What Does a Hollywood Producer Do, Exactly?
- FilmSlate: Ask the Filmmaker: What Does a Film Producer Do?
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Producers and Directors
Michelle Reynolds has been writing about business, careers and art since 1993. She was the publisher of a newsletter, “Working Parents Monthly," as well as a graphic design guidebook. Reynolds also served as human-resources director at a resort/spa for eight years. She is an artist and promotes the arts and other artists through ElegantArtisan.com, a website she developed and maintains.