Michael North, a resident Paint Artist at Luma Pictures and former Media Design School student, has worked on some of the biggest films in the industry. From 'A Wrinkle in Time' to the legendary 'Alien: Covenant', his passion is put to work.
What is it you do?
"I make things disappear! As a Paint Artist at Luma Pictures, it’s my job is to remove unwanted elements from footage. This can include tracking markers, wire rigs, camera and lighting rigs, actors, and really any object or person that needs to be removed or altered so that the footage is ready to be used by the compositors and other departments. It may not be glamorous, and I don’t get to point at the screen and say “Look at what I did”, but nonetheless it's challenging and rewarding work that I enjoy on a daily basis!"
What’s it like working on the big league films? Is there a lot of pressure?
"I definitely felt a bit of pressure when I first started, getting dropped in the middle of production on Doctor Strange. It was 100% self-inflicted though. Everyone at Luma was so friendly and supportive and help was never far away. I think it’s totally normal and expected to feel a bit lost and unsure of yourself when you first start out. It’s amazing though what a little bit of experience does, and it won’t be long before junior artists are asking you questions!"
Can you tell us about one experience you’ve had while working in the industry that had the biggest impact on you?
"Earlier in the year Luma opened its doors to 150 odd students from Australia and New Zealand for a tour of the studio and a meet and greet with some of the supervisors and artists. Talking to other students hoping to enter the industry was a great experience and made me realise that it’s important to help the newer artists coming through, and to give them the same sort of support and good advice that I received when I was trying to get my first job."
What are some of the most important lessons you learned during your time at Media Design School?
"I learnt that it’s important to do things in life that interest you. Prior to VFX, I was in a career I did not enjoy, lacking any motivation to improve or progress. Deciding to return to school and study something I had always wanted to study, was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I think even if there are obstacles in your way or sacrifices you have to make in the short term, choosing something that will make happy in the long run is always a wise decision."
What tips would you give others looking to get into your field?
"It probably sounds obvious - but work hard. MDS does a great job of giving you a framework for your learning, but its so important to put in the hours outside of school to supplement your studies. Also, and this is advice directed at people that want to get a job in roto/paint/compositing, consider that your course has been designed to be quite broad, you learn something, and then you move on to the next thing. You’re not going to be spending a lot of time doing roto or clean-up work in class because: a) that’d be boring and b) there’s so much else to learn! So, my advice is to download silhouette and get roto’ing, and get really familiar with clean-up workflows and techniques in Nuke so when it comes time to creating your reel, you’ll be able to showcase impressive personal work. If you wish, you can contact me on LinkedInLinkedIn for more advice."
How has Media Design School helped to pave the path that you are currently walking on?
"I think MDS provides a great environment for learning and for bringing out the best in their students. The first and second year gave me a really solid foundational knowledge, and the third year is basically full-time production mode which was intense and fun. By the end of my studies I definitely felt well prepared for the industry which proved to be true as I was able to hit the ground running (more or less!) when I started at Luma. I’m grateful to the school and in particular some of the great faculty members, and I would whole-heartedly recommend MDS as a great place to study VFX!"
What are your plans for the future?
"My plans are to stay in Melbourne for the foreseeable future. I love the city and I love working at Luma. It’s a fantastic studio with great people and there are various exciting projects on the horizon that I’m looking forward to being a part of. Outside of Luma, I plan on creating content in the form of tutorials and helpful advice for students that want to do what I do."