From Lahore to Lucasfilms
This summer, when the audiences see the The Hulk and the Hulkbuster going head-to-head inThe Avengers: Age of Ultron, they would be well advised to remember that a Pakistani visual effects artist played an integral part in making that scene a reality.
Originally from Lahore, Wajid Raza has now settled in the United States and is working at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a motion pictures visual effects company and a division of the Lucasfilm, something which would be a source of envy for countless fanboys.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Raza shared the humbling experience of contributing to films like The Avengers, Rango, Star Trek Into Darkness and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in multiple capacities.
Since getting his first major break as part of ILM’s team for their first feature-length animated film Rango in 2011 he looks back at his career thus far saying, “Working on that project was both very challenging and enjoyable.”
From then onwards Raza has gone onto lending his skillset to even greater franchises like the Avengers and Star Trek as lighting technical director and pipeline technical director respectively.
Despite holding a Master of Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), digital arts and visual effect was not something straightforward for Raza. The ‘sub-continental culture’ of choosing between engineering and medicine did come into play and he acquired a degree in computer sciences from the Government college of Lahore.
“After I finished my bachelors program, my parents supported me to pursue my passion of studying computer graphics. And one thing led to another, and I was able to land a job at ILM,” recalls Raza.
Though it was not until he saw Lord of the Rings during his second year in undergraduate college that he realised that visual effects may be his ‘true calling.’
“It seemed like the perfect meeting point of my two interests. So I waited two years to finish my undergrad, got accepted for an MFA program at SCAD and used it as a stepping-stone for my career,” told the young VFX artist.
Despite making it to the big leagues in the visual effects industry it has not always been smooth sailing for Raza as he recounted how initially working at ILM with no prior experience was ‘an overwhelming experience’ for him.
But like all things Raza gradually found his feet due to the highly collaborative workplace environment there. “The work culture and values at ILM are still unparalleled in the industry.”
Raza’s career seems to be coinciding with the revival of the Pakistani film industry but he believes that the industry is still in its infancy from a VFX standpoint.
“The need for visual effects is either very rudimentary (i e basic compositing like green screen replacements, color correction etc.) or entirely non-existent. That said, I do see potential in Pakistan as a viable market for offshore movie work from US and China, but that means availability of stable infrastructure (especially resolving power crisis) and building skilled labour that can do international standard work,” tells the young VFX artist.
To a question about how aspiring animators and visual effects artist should go about their career if they intend on working in Hollywood he replied, “The international market is very competitive at the moment, so pursuing a degree in fine arts and computer graphics is now essential. Always focus on quality (instead of quantity) whether you are preparing to apply at a school or trying to find work. Watch good contents (TV/film) and take up challenges that can help you grow.”
2015 – AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (currently in production) – Lighting Technical Director
2014 – TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – Production Engineer (Technology)
2013 – NOW YOU SEE ME – Production Support (Technology)
2013 – STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS – Digital Artist (Technology)
2012 – BATTLESHIP – Pipeline TD
2011 – PIRATES OF CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES – Pipeline TD
2011 – RANGO – Layout Artist