5 Minutes With... Matchmove Artist Josh Chappell
Discover how Josh went from serving in the British Army to working in VFX and teaching at Arts University Bournemouth
How long were you in the armed forces and what did you do? Did you go overseas? I was in the British Army for six years. I was a recovery engineer working on armoured vehicles. I lived in Germany for three years, I went to Canada, did a lot of stuff around Europe which was good fun. It was character building!
So I’d assume going into an industry like visual effects where people move around a lot didn’t trouble you? No, I’ve already moved around a lot for work, especially around Europe – I think the final move was from Germany to Thorney Island outside Portsmouth… I can’t even remember! Needless to say I’m not too bothered about moving around too much.
What was the thinking behind moving into an artistic career after being an engineer and working with your hands in a more practical environment? I think I initially wanted to join the armed forces to help out at home, then eventually, after a certain amount of time I thought ‘this isn’t necessarily what I want to be doing for the rest of my life’, so I researched cool jobs basically. I went on a couple of websites like UCAS and trawled through them for two weeks until something caught my eye – I saw Computer Animation and thought I’d give it a go and look into it.
Visual effects demands both artistic and technical skills. Do you think you were always more artistic or technical? I was more artistic. I think I definitely prefer that sort of artistic side of it – I’ve always fancied myself as more of an artistic person than a technical person. I guess the mix of what I get to do is a nice happy medium between technical and artistic work.
Was there anything about military life that’s carried over into your VFX career? I’d definitely say problem solving and being very meticulous about everything – almost to levels of obsession, knowing that everything has to be correct in every way. I guess a lot of self-discipline, too, which is always a good thing to have. I think problem solving and being meticulous is what I most enjoy. It sounds a bit weird but it’s nice to have everything lined up in perfect lines and everything slotting in perfectly.
How did you get started in VFX once you’d left the army? I started my VFX career as a runner at Double Negative and learned that I didn’t really know enough and wasn’t really up to par with what they do so I had to learn everything. I pretty much used the internet to get up to speed in my spare time and also took advantage of DNeg’s amazing free training.
So you did DNeg and then moved on to Framestore? Yeah I was at Framestore for probably just shy of three years. I think I’d just done Terminator Genisys and then went over to Framestore and I was there for about six months before I went down to the Framestore office in Bournemouth to help with the juniors.
And then you applied for a job here? Yeah, pretty much. I did do a very small amount of freelance work for Outpost about 18 months ago maybe, and I think I kind of always knew that I’d try to get a job here. When I first saw Outpost it was like six guys in a cottage and now it’s 50-odd people in a big office and I was like it’s definitely worth a punt to get on something that’s growing, rather than just being a tiny little cog in a much bigger machine.
So joining a growing company was part of the appeal? It was probably 99 per cent of the appeal to be honest. It’s great working on loads of huge films but it feels like you’ve hit the benchmark of what that’s going to be, if that makes sense. I think in comparison to a larger company, if you go the extra mile at Outpost you really notice the difference it makes.
You teach outside of work don’t you? Yes I teach at Arts University Bournemouth every Friday. It’s quite spread out, but I mostly teach matchmove and layout and sometimes that branches out into other areas. I also assist with the major projects when they need it, but it’s mostly matchmove and layout, some Maya stuff.
Has Outpost been supportive of your teaching? Yeah for sure. Luckily I can usually get all of my work out of the way by Friday – obviously whatever’s going on at Outpost has to be a priority, but I always try to make sure everything’s done for at least end of play Thursday.
What is it about Outpost that resonates with you? I guess it’s about being a part of a smaller, growing company and it’s kind of proof that you don’t need to be in London to get a very similar outcome of work. Having the skillset doesn’t just mean London and that’s it – you can go to other places. I like the location, and it’s a nice atmosphere – I’ve been here almost a year and not come across anyone I didn’t get on with! As percentages go with something like that, I think that’s pretty good. It’s a good working atmosphere and it’s just nice to be part of something that’s growing. It makes everything much more worthwhile and you feel way more invested in putting time into it. It’s a better feeling.