Special and Visual Effects Technicians


Employment Prospects


The top special effects technicians work for special effects houses. These companies contract with individual film productions; one film may have the effects created by more than one special effects company. Industrial Light & Magic is the top company, having done the effects for such films as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Terminator: Dark Fate, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Avengers: End Game, Us, and Captain Marvel, among numerous others. Other major companies include Digital Domain (Black Widow, Shazam!, Ready Player One, A Wrinkle in Time, The Legends of Monkey King, Aquaman), and Rhythm & Hues Studios (Hellboy, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Skull Island, Aliens in the Attic, Night at the Museum, Life of Pi, and The Hunger Games). Some special and visual effects technicians own their own effects company or work on a freelance basis. Freelance technicians may work in several areas, doing theater work, film and television productions, and commercials.

Starting Out

Networking is an important aspect of finding work in the entertainment industry. The Internet Movie Database (https://www.imdb.com) is an extensive listing of professionals in many aspects of the industry. Another good resource is Variety411 (https://lany411.com), an online directory of film industry professionals. Aspiring visual effects technicians can visit https://jobs.awn.com to obtain a list of potential employers.

Internships are another very good way to gain experience and make yourself a marketable job candidate. Film, television, and theater companies are predominantly located in Los Angeles or New York City, but there are opportunities elsewhere. Again, since theater and lower budget film and television productions operate with limited funds, you could find places to work for course credit or experience instead of a salary.

Special effects shops are excellent places to try for an internship. You may find them in books and trade magazines, or try the searching online for theatrical equipment, theatrical make-up, theatrical and stage lighting equipment, or animation services. Even if one shop has no opportunities, it may be able to provide the name of another that takes interns.

You should keep a photographic record of all the work you do for theater and film productions, including photos of any drawings or sculptures you have done for art classes. It is important to have a portfolio or demo reel (a reel of film demonstrating your work) to send along with your resume to effects shops, make-up departments, and producers. If you want to work as a visual effects technician, you should create a demo CD or a Web site that features your work.

Advancement Prospects

Good special and visual effects technicians will acquire skills in several areas, becoming versatile and therefore desirable employees. Since many work on a freelance basis, it is useful to develop a good reputation and maintain contacts from past jobs. Successful technicians may be chosen to work on increasingly prestigious and challenging productions. Once they have a strong background and diverse experience, technicians may start their own shops.

Tips for Entry

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:

  • https://jobs.awn.com
  • https://www.mandy.com
  • https://www.creativeheads.net
  • https://www.visualeffectssociety.com/job-board

Read the Animation World Network blogs to keep up with industry news and events: https://www.awn.com/blog.

Start developing a digital portfolio of your work, or create your own Web site, so that you are ready to begin looking for jobs once you graduate. Include only your best work.

Learn about job opportunities in your state by visiting the Association of Film Commissioners International’s Web site, https://afci.org.