German based Visual Effects company, Rise, which has produced stunning scenes for some of the biggest blockbuster films and TV series in the world, including the Marvel movies and Westworld, has recently set-up a new office in London to be closer to the “best VFX industry in the world”.
Florian Gellinger, who co-founded Rise, is a fan of Germany’s filmmaking philosophy, which is designed to boost local talent in the regions, but he is also very excited about the company focussing on more productions from all over the world in London.
“Our funding system for making films in Germany is a provincial one, with programme makers commissioned to produce work all over the country, to level up the regions, so they can feel part of the whole national industry. While the provincial funding system has big advantages for smaller firms and local VFX work, the fragmented rebate landscape is often very complicated for large scale physical productions, such as the Marvel films.”
“Instead, the studios are attracted to the UK because it’s the centre of the global VFX industry and offers big rebates, as well as tax incentives, which pull in movies from everywhere. Of course, London has also built a very strong track record over the years for producing high quality effects, especially since the Harry Potter films were created in the UK. We love working on productions like these, so it was the next logical step for us to set-up a new office in London to get closer to the action.“
Gellinger adds that London is also home to many other key creatives in the film industry, which helps to pull in the big budget productions.
“For example, all of the high-profile wardrobe and prop shops are situated in the city too. To be honest, there’s nowhere else in the world that compares to the filming ecosystem and heritage that London has, which is so appealing to us. You have to go to where the market is and you can’t expect people to come to you. We want to be where the business is being made and where all the top talent is based, so you can have face-to-face conversations with other crucial decision-makers.
“You need to sit down with the producers and talk about the concept art, so you can sketch things out, work out the technicalities of the project and how it can be filmed. But that level of interaction is lacking in the German market. Plus, English language films are always easier to distribute around the world.”
He adds that despite the fuss over Brexit, the wrangling has not had a negative impact on his team’s desire to work in the UK, or the possibility to do so. Gellinger says that politics is irrelevant to them because all they care about is working with the best talent.
“I would say that London has been drawing in world-class technicians for at least the last two decades. Although we’re a relatively small VFX shop compared to the bigger players in the industry, we have a first class showreel. I really think there is a gap in the market for a company like ours, to find our own niche in London for producing effects of the highest quality but in a more agile and leaner way, compared to bigger effects houses.
“We can produce VFX to the same quality as organisations that employ over 600 people. You just have to look at what we created for The Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther, to see evidence of this. In Black Panther, for example, we thrived on creating big environments, such as the mountain ranges of Wakanda.
“You wouldn’t normally expect a company of our size to be capable of building effects of this scale. However, we are also very happy to produce a lot of the bread and butter effects work too, such as set extensions, retouches and crowd replications.”
Despite his team’s versatility, Gellinger does not believe Rise will be a threat to the bigger VFX houses.
“I think we could be appealing as a good partner for other companies, such as providing overflow work for them when they’re fully booked. We’re really big on collaboration and building relationships with our peers, so we’d be happy to work with others on high quality productions. We’ll be right next door to a lot of them anyway, so it would make sense for us to work together.”
Gellinger adds that California was the hub of VFX in the 90s, but London replaced it as the main place to go in the 2000s through the Harry Potter films and the strong collaboration between the London VFX companies.
As a result of the London’s growing reputation, many companies have set-up new bases in the UK, including Industrial Light Magic, which is the company responsible for creating the effects for the Star Wars movies.
“J.K. Rowling definitely helped the industry to grow in the UK. But that usually happens when the writer has a huge interest in keeping the entire business in their home country. When people like her support the local industry to grow, it’s has a life-changing impact on the nation’s reputation. As a result, the London based VFX companies, such as MPC, Framestore and Double Negative, all benefited hugely from the development of the movies, every year.
“So, there has been a long period of opportunity for the key players to grow and expand in London. The same thing happened in New Zealand when Peter Jackson created Lord Of The Rings.”
Gellinger says that although strong programmes are currently being produced in Germany, such as Dark on Netflix, which has been popular around the world (especially in South America), London is the place where the boundaries are pushed to the next level on a global scale.
“However, the great thing about us being involved in London is that we will be able to take the new skills we learn in the U.K. back to our studio in Germany, to improve the pipeline over there too. So that expertise will be fed into the network of our home industry, enabling us to raise the standards across the whole country.”