Here we catch up with Connor Tong, a NextGen graduate from NESCOT College who has gone on to become a 2D Junior Artist (Visual Effects) NextGen apprentice at world renowned VFX studio DNEG. Thank you Connor for sharing your journey and giving an insight into a typical day in the life of a NextGen apprentice.
"I first gained interest in becoming a VFX artist when I was at college doing a sports course. Having realised I didn’t have a knack for sports management at the time, I decided I wanted to do things with animation. So, I dropped out and moved into media knowing that creative IT was a skill I excelled at during my time at school.
"I did the NextGen Level 3: Games, Animation and VFX Skills course at Nescot College, graduating in the 16/17 academic year. The course taught me the key skills I needed to excel in my future career in the VFX industry and covers many areas, including the use of industry standard software, so we were all able to learn and understand how these pieces of software are used professionally
"After completing the first year, I started looking at the possible options available to me for when I graduated. The first option being the 2D Junior Artist (Visual Effects) NextGen Apprenticeship which I heard about through my tutors and various NextGen events. I claimed it as my plan A as I didn’t particularly want to have all the costs that go along with attending university (my plan B). So, I applied for the apprenticeship very early on, I was very fortunate to be invited to an interview and was offered the position shortly after.
"Starting at DNEG was a massive adrenaline rush! Being at one of the top VFX houses in the industry really did have a huge positive impact and what an honour! But, as with any job on your first couple of weeks, it was quite nerve-wracking. It took a while to adjust but everyone was friendly and welcoming, making any new recruit comfy during their time here.
"Being an apprentice, you have the roles and responsibilities of a regular artist but you get taught on the job! As artists, we mainly focus on our shots which are scheduled for us on a weekly basis and they generally cover the week. Some artists from departments have their shots reviewed in mid-progress to see how they’re coming along but in my department this isn’t the case. Any 2D junior artist starts with roto, before moving into prep and eventually compositing.
"As an apprentice I split my time between college and work; 80% at work where you have basic to advanced training and 20% at college where you have extra basic training to cover what’s required in the curriculum, so you will learn the ins and outs of pretty much everything in the VFX industry. The best part of the apprenticeship is that an applicant doesn’t need to know specifics about film software or techniques as the idea of the scheme is to build you from the ground up, though having a bit knowledge is always handy!
"So, during my time as an apprentice at DNEG I have previously worked on films such as Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Mission Impossible: Fallout and with the potential to work on more, I am always busy and have made the best possible choice I could make for myself and my career!
The best advice I can give to anybody considering applying for a NextGen / VFX apprenticeship or getting into the industry is… DO IT AND PERSEVERE! I kept applying for similar roles as backups whilst waiting to hear back about the apprenticeship and so many benefits have come from it. Not to mention you will have your foot through the door, making it easier to get future jobs as you make helpful contacts every step of the way."
Thank you once again Connor, you are truly NextGen. Also, check out this great video NESCOT College made with Connor about his experience studying the NextGen Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills there.