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How my film and television degree helped cement my success on a Hollywood blockbuster film

Written by Bachelor of Film and Television alumna Vicki Hetherington.

Ever since I was a child, whenever I went to the cinema with my parents (which was, and still is, one of our favourite pastimes), we’d sit through the entire credits after the film ended and pick out names from the long list of people, acknowledging the time and effort they poured into the movie. I always thought, ‘we could be the only people in the entire world who’ll see this person’s name pop up on the screen’, and it was so important to me to be able to cheer them on, and imagine what their contribution looked like behind the scenes.

Well, fast forward a good few years, I’ve got a Bachelor of Film and Television from Bond University, and roles at three visual effects (VFX) studios under my belt, and am working as a Department Production Manager at Wētā FX in New Zealand. Now, I’m lucky enough to sit through the credits and find my own name amongst all of the incredible contributors to a Hollywood blockbuster film. During my time in VFX production, I’ve worked on The Batman (2022) starring Robert Pattinson, Eternals (2021) with Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden, Finch (2021) with Tom Hanks, Mortal Kombat (2021) and the Loki TV series (2021). Most recently, I worked on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), the latest Marvel film, at Wētā FX. 

Breaking into the VFX industry

After graduating in December 2018, I moved back to my hometown of Adelaide, where Technicolor was just opening its first Australian visual effects studio, Mill Film. I applied for practically every available position at Mill, including those I had absolutely no relevant experience for (got to be in it to win it, right?). The talent team kept my name on file until a production assistant role became available, when they reached out to me. I started in July 2019, and couldn’t believe I was working on a film starring Tom Hanks – it was just unbelievable to be exposed to all of the behind-the-scenes and on-set footage, and watch as our team worked tirelessly to bring Jeff the robot, who is an entirely computer generated (CG) character, to life.

Take a sneak peek into the creation of Jeff the robot for Finch (2021). Video courtesy of Apple TV+.

After completing my first film, I was hooked on the VFX industry. I loved the way the community came together to create such amazing work, and personally, I thrive within a team environment, so I got a thrill from building those special connections while working towards a common goal. There’s really nothing quite like sitting down with your production team at a movie premiere and watching hours, weeks, months, or sometimes, years, of hard work come together right in front of your eyes. Recently, I had the unforgettable experience of sitting down with my Wētā FX teammates to watch The Batman come to life on the big screen.

My role on The Batman

From July to December of 2021, I was working as a Production Coordinator on The Batman at Wētā FX. On this film, we worked on a number of sequences, but the highlight for me was working on the Penguin/Batman car-chase scene. I feel as if this scene perfectly encapsulates the iconic ‘Batman’ feel of the movie – plus, it included exciting visual effects such as flames, rain, and vehicle replacements to bring the scene to life and add tension and suspense to the sequence.

In my role as Production Coordinator, I manage the schedule for delivering completed VFX shots to the client, as well as managing and supporting our VFX artists, and assisting on the administrative side of the company. Most of the time, you’ll find me going back and forth between artists, our client, producers and departments to communicate updates and info about our project, which then feeds into our targets and quota to deliver work within schedule. It can be quite stressful, and is incredibly fast-paced, with ‘crunch periods’ where we’re all buckling down to meet a project’s deadline on time, but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Victoria Hetherington at her Bond University graduation

Behind the scenes of FTV at Bond

When I first started my degree, I was convinced I wanted to go into film editing, but once I started learning about the role of a producer I knew that was where my true passions were. I loved the producing subjects that were offered within my degree, and felt like the skills I learned from my lecturers had undeniable industry relevance. The hands-on aspect of Bonds film and TV classes equipped me with a good understanding of the expectations of a career within film and television.

Taking on the role of producer on our graduation film in 2018 was definitely one of the highlights of my degree. The chance to work alongside my peers, with the support of our committed lecturers and tutors, helped solidify my passion for producing and ultimately encouraged me to pursue that avenue, which is how I ended up in my first VFX position. I remember when I first got my contract for Mill Film, and I emailed two of my former lecturers to let them know- it was so nice to receive their congratulations and words of encouragement. Having the opportunity to maintain connections with passionate teaching staff, who want nothing more than for their cohorts to succeed in industry, is something really unique to Bond.

My advice for future Film and Television students

Participate in networking

In this industry, one of the best lessons to learn is the importance of networking with other filmmakers. Bond offers the perfect building block for this with so many inbuilt opportunities to build industry connections, both with lecturers and your peers, as well as through professional networking events and work experience opportunities. Say yes to every chance to meet new people – you never quite know what they could offer you, or who they might introduce you to down the line.

Seek out work experience

Bond allows students to experience different roles and areas within the industry through work experience and internships, and I can confidently say having these experiences and being able to discuss the skills I gained from them in my job interviews has been so important in securing my role in the VFX industry.

Utilise your resources

At Bond, we’re so lucky to have access to state-of-the-art resources such as editing and production software, cameras and audio equipment, and a kitted-out television studio. Being able to freely use these products in a hands-on environment is the best way to become comfortable with the equipment you will ultimately need to use in a day-to-day capacity in the industry down the line. Use Bond’s on-campus Equipment Loan Store to trial new industry-standard technology that you mightn’t otherwise have the chance to use!

Practice open-mindedness

I started my degree with the intention of pursuing a career as a film editor, but once I started to learn about the creative and analytical mix that underpins producer roles, I realised this suited me perfectly. Although it was nerve-wracking to continue down a path I didn’t know as much about, the encouragement and safety net of the Film and Television department at Bond University was the perfect environment to trial new skills. Having the open-mindedness to see where your career can take you is such an asset – you never know where you might end up, or where your passions might lie. My number one piece of advice is to let yourself freely enjoy every aspect of Film and Television at Bond - you might just be surprised which area you end up falling in love with!

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