SHOTS Rising Star: Jim Spratling
MPC LA's Nuke Artist Jim Spratling Selected for SHOTS Rising Star Talent Showcase
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Koen Vroeijenstijn joined MPC LA as head of 3D in 2016. Over the course of his career, he has worked as a supervisor and lead artist on many highly acclaimed films and commercials. Among them are Guardians of the Galaxy, Elysium, Fast & Furious 6 and Kung Fu Panda, and commercials including Star Wars: Battlefront “Become More Powerful” and Xbox Gears of War “Tomorrow,” which has over 16 million views on YouTube.
A native of The Netherlands, Koen moved to Los Angeles a decade ago to work as a lead artist at DreamWorks Animation. After five years there, stints at other top film and commercial studios followed, as well as collaborations with an enviable list of A-list directors. We asked Koen to share some learnings from his esteemed career with us, as well as some insights about what inspires him outside the studio.
What were your inspirations for getting into VFX (this industry)?
I sort of stumbled upon visual effects while at university. On the side I was trying to paint and draw, but never got that quite right. I eventually came across some software called 3D Studio. Using this, I finally found a tool that allowed me to easily visualize the ideas in my head. It felt very natural. This eventually grew into a career where I am able to bring what is in other people’s minds to life.
What were some of the challenges that you ran into earlier in your career?
Early on I tried to combine work with studying. I loved the combination of abstract thinking while studying physics, along with the much more concrete problems you run into when creating animations for others. However, most of the time, one of the two deserved a little more attention than it got. An additional challenge was that in the ‘90s I was part owner of the small company where I worked. While I loved creating beautiful things and solving complex problems, finding new work and selling ourselves to stay busy was something I struggled with. I would make a terrible car salesman.
What is the biggest project you’ve worked on and which project are you most proud of?
I worked on many large projects while at DreamWorks Animation, which were huge three-year projects with immense crews. However, the one that felt the biggest for me was Elysium, the second film by Neill Blomkamp.
I was working at Image Engine at the time, and we were responsible for a large portion of the shots. I felt very involved and loved the challenges that this project presented. The one I am most proud of came next—Fast and Furious 6. I became a CG Supervisor on this film. It returned me to my generalist roots after having specialized in effects for a few years. Live action evolved quite a bit during the time I worked in animated features, so there was a lot to learn, which I loved. After running the risk of starting to fly on auto-pilot by being very familiar with the problems, I had a whole new set of challenges, and a supervisor and producer I loved working with.
Is it more challenging to work on films or on commercials and why?
I think the challenges of the projects I work on have changed over the years. While early on I very often ran into problems we did not really know how to solve, more recently this has shifted to being able to solve similar problems in less time on smaller budgets. This seems to be the same for films and commercials.
What excites you about joining MPC?
While MPC LA is a mid-sized creative studio, there is a huge creative company behind it. By bundling the forces of the different offices, sharing knowledge, experience and tools, we can tackle much larger and more complicated projects than just one office alone. I hope to build on the current relationships, so we can divide and conquer even more fluidly.
What are your interests or hobbies outside of work?
I try to spend as much time as I can outside in peaceful quiet places, preferably around nature. I have two small daughters who are getting to the age where they can join me on early morning walks through the canyon. For a more active distraction, I love playing tennis. It allows me to find and use the weaknesses in my opponents in a way you would not really get away with in real life.
What is your poison?
I really just love a simple cold beer.