Mathew Monro first enrolled at Media Design School after becoming disillusioned with the modern painting world. After starting his diploma, he quickly realised that there are many facets to art and that he could have a “viable, creatively-driven career in the blossoming VFX industry.” Now an Assistant Technical Director at Weta Digital, Mathew tells us more about why he ditched traditional art for VFX and his involvement with the latest Hobbit film.
You mentioned that you'd become disillusioned with the modern painting world. When did you first decide that you wanted to swap your paintbrush for a mouse and follow the career path of a technical director?
My main passion has always been drawing, sculpting, and painting (especially figurative pieces) however this did not fly at the University where I was initially studying. They were much more concerned with lofty abstract ideas behind works, rather than the technical skill of painting as a craft, and the more I fought with my tutors over what I should and should not be painting, the less faith I had in what the modern art world actually considers to be 'Art'.
I then wanted to become a concept artist for games/films, however there were no University courses in NZ that focused on this career path, so I saw taking a Diploma in 3D Animation as the next best option. Little did I know I would fall in love with 3D Art and VFX.
What inspires you to create the most?
Inspiration comes from everywhere, but if I'm ever lacking in inspiration, I often go to www.artstation.com to check out the amazing works that people are creating at the moment. Nothing gets me fired up more than seeing someone else's epic creation and wanting to create something equally as epic!
Is there a particular film out there that you wish you'd worked on or created yourself? Which one and why?
This is going to be cliché, but the original Star Wars trilogy is one of the reasons I am so passionate about film, and it seems like the ultimate project to have worked on. Everything about its execution is flawless; it feels incredibly real and still stands up to this day. It really is the benchmark for modern VFX filmmaking.
What is the project that you've worked on that you're most proud of and why?
'Over The Moon' is definitely the standout at this stage. I'm incredibly proud of my classmates for what we managed to achieve in such a small amount of time, and I put everything I had into the pieces of the film I worked on. I am especially proud of the Astronaut suits and Connie's Rocket Ship, as I managed to take them from previs stage right through to photo-realistic assets.
How did you feel when you finally graduated from Media Design School?
I was stoked and nervous at the same time. Happy to be moving on from the world of education for the first time since primary school, but anxious about leaving the comfort and safety net of it at the same time.
On reflection, what is the one main thing you wish you'd known about your industry when you were a student at Media Design School?
Just how many hours you will be at work in this industry. Films, TV shows, commercials and games don't just magically appear out of thin air. It takes a large, dedicated team of people to push them out of the door by the deadline. However, this makes for some awesome camaraderie in the workplace and is intensely rewarding when you create something to be proud of.
How does it feel to know you're working on a project as massive as The Hobbit?
It's awesome! I'm a complete Tolkien geek, so I couldn't wish for a cooler first feature credit to have. It's amazing seeing behind the scenes of a place like Weta Digital and the absolute computer wizardry that goes into making such a huge film that's dripping with VFX.
What's next for you? Any idea where you are headed?
I'll ride this train for as long as I can and see where in the world it will take me. I've also got a few personal projects that I'm slowly chipping away at on the side, so who knows what's round the corner?