Technical directors or TDs essentially ‘make movies possible’. It’s a career path within visual effects that would suit those inclined to the technical aspect of making films.
This Q&A with MPC Film’s Head of CG Mathieu Assemat and Head of Character Lab Tom Reed provides a look into the inner workings of life as a TD. They also discuss the newly established TD department and how it can facilitate personal growth and career progression.
Why should talent join the TD team or why should one consider becoming a TD?
Mathieu: Being a TD is working at making movies possible. Every movie will have some kind of specific challenges that the TD, working along with the supervisors, will help overcome. It’s a perfect position for people with a technical mind and problem-solving skills.
Tom: A great TD can become a real force for positive change for the whole team they are working with. Streamlining workflows, inventing new approaches to improving quality, and working as a central figure in the team makes the TD role perfect for anyone passionate about the best movies and problem-solving.
What sort of skillsets are you looking for in someone applying for a TD role?
Mathieu: A TD will need to know at least Python. C++ can be a bonus. A TD will also need to have strong communication skills and a good methodology. Any previous experience with CGI/VFX workflows is a plus.
Tom: A great TD is a strong communicator who listens to and understands the challenges faced by the team around them. They will use their technical coding knowledge and skills (Python primarily, with C++ a bonus) to collaborate on plans and create new toolsets that fit seamlessly within the wider production pipeline.
How can people from other industries or other departments within visual effects make the jump to working as a TD? Who should apply for the role?
Mathieu: The VFX industry is no different than any other industry in the way that a lot of challenges can be overcome by redefining workflows and improving toolsets. Anyone who is a fast learner and curious enough can adapt to the position. We have had people from multiple industry and departments joining over the years.
Tom: The TD role is ideal for the problems-solvers of this world. If you flinch at seeing people repeat manual processes over and over, and are passionate about elegant structure and operation, and have the coding skills to match, then the TD role could be for you! From within the VFX community, the TD role lends itself to those with a more technical background – rigging, FX, tech-anim and lookdev. However, there have also been great animators who have become fantastic TDs!
There have been some changes to the TD role and the team as a whole. Can you explain what those changes are and what the new structure entails? What does a TD do and what does the role involve?
Mathieu: The TDs have now become a unified group. This means it will be easier for them to seek support. The challenges differ between our software group and our TDs. It’s for that we now have the TDs working much more closely with the projects. They have a closer relationship with the supervisors and the artists. This helps for quicker reaction as well as better support from the artists for testing new workflows. It also opens more doors for evolution as no TD will be stuck working on the same discipline but will have more room for learning.
Tom: The TDs now have a department to call their own, allowing for enhanced sharing of ideas and better sense of community! By forming the TD department, there’s also much better career support, with growth and development planning built in by design!
Why did you decide to make some changes to the team?
Mathieu: The past shows could never have been done without the TDs. But listening to feedback, some people felt stuck in their discipline. Having a disconnection between each and every TD also meant some work was duplicated. Based on feedback, we tried to make this job more efficient, enjoyable, and to open more doors for evolution.
Tom: This change came about as a result of direct feedback. The TDs have always been power players withing their immediate sphere of influence but there wasn’t a set route for personal growth. This new evolution will facilitate this, enabling greater opportunities to evolve as your skills do!
Why is this a great opportunity to progress in one's career? Where can one go from being a TD
Mathieu: This role has a lot of opportunities. It can be a transition role: an artist wants to become more technical, or a technical person wants to develop creatively. The values of a good TD are similar as in a good supervisor, a good manager, or a good programmer.
Tom: As a TD, you have the potential to make a real impact on the success of a project and the quality of life of those you work with. You will learn the pipeline, interact with creatives at all levels, and become a go-to problem solver. All of this makes a TD an invaluable asset to any team and could lead into many areas – both in management and creative – potentially all the way to the top! – thefocus.com
Apply to become a TD at MPC Film in Montreal or in London.