Last month students across the country received their exam results, and are now starting new adventures be it university, specialised courses, or entering the field. We thought we’d share some inside intel from some of our team on the industry (lots of Is, but this about yous) in order to highlight the many different routes you can take to get to exciting places such as Axis Studios.

Follow the stories of four Axis Studios team members as they recount where they started, to where they are now, as well as some resources that will help you find your path as they did.

  1. Ivelina Dobreva, Compositing Supervisor:

As a child, Ivelina wanted to be whatever her brother wanted to be. He was seven years older than her, and dreamed of being a cosmonaut. So too, then, did Ivelina - space it was! At high school, however, she realised her own potential. She studied electrical engineering, and her grades put her at the second-best in her whole school. After high school came university, where Ivelina furthered her knowledge through studying industrial management. A fateful fork appeared in her path here though - for many reasons, she didn’t finish university. That wasn’t a bad thing - in fact, it presented a whole new life to her, as she found herself using the technical knowledge she had acquired to excel in a VFX role in Bulgaria.

VFX went on to take her all over the world. Sydney, Singapore, Munich, Bristol, Sydney, Montreal, London, and back to Bristol to be precise! Axis collided with Ivelina when a friend recommended her for a project, Shaun the Sheep in 2014. Later, she came back for Happy! season one, and the rest is history. Now Ivelina is a compositing supervisor at Axis, in our VFX studio, and has been for nearly four years.

Question time with Ivelina:

Is there anything that has kept you determined throughout your career?

After I got into this role, I haven’t ever thought about not doing it. Every day is different and interesting. There’s no repetition, and always new things to do. Plus, no one can motivate me better than I can motivate me!

Any advice for young people who’ve recently got exam results?

I didn’t actually finish university for a multitude of reasons. However, I got a role in VFX, and that’s a completely different industry to what I was studying. There are always opportunities!

One song to motivate you - go:

Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & the Waves.

A movie that inspires you?

I can’t pick just one! I just keep looking at visual things to inspire myself. Keep exploring is my philosophy.

Use the Creative Scotland opportunities tool to find listings of jobs, volunteering opportunities, courses, training, commissions, conferences and talks, funding, and grants, and find yourself with opportunities just like Ivelina.

  1. Stuart Watson, Facilities Coordinator: 

Stuart was very impressionable as a kid. The silver screen was a portal to multiple universes of possibility. After seeing Space Jam he wanted to be a basketballer, after The Color of Money he wanted to be a pool player, after Star Wars he wanted to be a Jedi. Following many delightful years of daydreaming, Stuart was reeled back into reality when he was sixteen. All of a sudden, teachers were telling him he had to decide his future. Initially he panicked, but then came to the realisation that all his inspirations were rooted in the same source: visual media. Knowing this, Stuart decided he wanted to work in film and television.

In school, Stuart was very good at problem-solving subjects but switched in the last couple of years to work on essay-focused subjects in the hopes it would help getting into University (i.e. English, History…). However, despite finishing university, Stuart wasn’t coming across many opportunities: “you don’t have enough industry experience”, he was told. Consequently, he worked several roles across hotels; this instilled an ability to solve problems under pressure. It was this exact skillset that led to Stuart getting offered a job at the beginning of the pandemic within a facilities role at a pharmaceutical testing and research centre. There, he finally felt like he knew what his calling was as he got to work on new issues everyday in an interesting environment. 

Flash forward, and Stuart is currently working as a facilities coordinator at Axis Studios. Despite studying filmmaking and screenwriting at university, he had given up the thought of working within a media environment due to not finding the right opportunities or seeing how he would fit. But he found his way back to what inspired him as a child in the end! Mulling over his twisting path, Stuart concludes: 

“Who knew that after pursuing a career in facilities management I’d end up working for an exciting and creative VFX and Animation company!”

Question time with Stuart:

Any tips for persevering with dreams?

I felt a bit lost at points because I couldn’t narrow down what I wanted to do. Once I figured out facilities management was a path I felt stimulated in I knew I had to go all in for it. Go all in!

How about advice for young people wanting to get into the industry?

Try your best and be proud of yourself for doing so. If you keep wanting to pursue what is best for you then opportunities will come.

One song to motivate you- go:

The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die. I used to play this song and album when studying for exams or going for runs and it always gets me hyped!

A movie that inspires you?

Hot Fuzz!

If you want to train in a field that you feel you lack experience in, then you could apply for a bursary from Screenskills, and take a course you’ve always dreamed of with up to £1000 of funding. 

  1. Marion Evain, FX Artist in 3D:

Marion faced uncertainty when attempting to find what she wanted to do later in life. How did people just project themselves into the future and know what they wanted to be? One day, however, she found a book about different types of work that included the job title: “3D Graphic Designer”. At that time, she thought it was the ideal job, but that it was much too cool to be reachable for her - but now her actual job is even cooler!

In high school Marion studied science, with a specialisation in engineering. Once she received her high school diploma, she branched off into the CG world, studying animated film in college. There, she discovered the amazing world of FX.

Having found her passion, Marion did an internship at SideFX. In spite of not being in production, she learned a vast amount about Houdini and through this process began to really understand it. During the internship, Marion built a lot of the artist that she is today - a Houdini FX Artist at Axis Bristol, where she provides support for a range of departments.

Question time with Marion:

Is there anything that has kept you going throughout your journey?

Yes, during my studies: I really wanted to do something I truly liked in my life. Once I succeeded in finding what it was, I wasn’t able to let it go. I had a lot of obstacles during my studies (not the right background, money, and so on), so I tried to focus on: “I want to do what I like, if I give up I will not be doing what I like”.

Any advice for young people who feel lost?

Don’t let anybody stop you from reaching your dreams!

One song to motivate you- go:

There are a lot but the current one is Heads Up, by Jain. 

A movie that inspires you?

Oh that’s a hard question… There are so many of them, but I would say How to Train Your Dragon 2!

If you want to gain experience through internships and training like Marion did, then take a look at the BFI Academy

  1. Paula Bird, Supervising Producer:

Paula grew up in a family of artists and scientists, so she used to flip between wanting to work in the music video world of MTV which she was obsessed with as a teen and the ‘safer’ world of psychology. The draw of the art world ultimately won out, with Paula going to a creative college to study fine art. From here, Paula was led on a journey through the visual media industry. This began with being a runner at a Glasgow-based edit facility, a place full of opportunity. The role meant meeting people from many different companies and backgrounds, ranging from documentaries and advertising to sports content producers. It also meant getting to experience helping at live-action shoots, sports broadcasting and client handling. Being straight out of college and with no friends or family in the industry, it seemed like the most organic place to start, and was full of avenues to explore.

Although Paula was primarily looking to move into a creative role of some sort, when the offer came to work under the Head of TV for a well-established advertising agency in their production department, she seized the chance and never looked back. Producing came very naturally to her, and she absolutely loved her time as an agency producer. This is where she got to meet the folks at Axis; Paula has been a Supervising Producer with us since 2006.

Question time with Paula:

What’s been your driving force throughout the years?

I have always been a film/television fan, and a gamer in my teens so landing a job where creating content for those platforms was more than I could have wished for. I love being part of a team and the wealth of possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead keeps me well motivated!

Any advice for young people who weigh their worth with their grades?

Don’t worry too much if you don’t get what you were expecting or needing. I didn’t get into art college straight from school so I took a year to do a portfolio preparation course and improve my technique, and it paid off when I got accepted the following year. If you are prepared to work hard and put in the time, patience, determination and ambition will get you where you want to be. Earn it and own it!

One song to motivate you- go:

  1. Tempo de Alegria by Ivete Sangalo - gets me going EVERY TIME!

  2. Can’t Stop the Feeling - incredible, heartwarming snapshot memories of my kids as toddlers dancing to this (sorry I know that’s two songs)!

A movie that inspires you?

It’s a Wonderful Life.

So, you see, getting results back, starting new education, and getting into this industry may feel tough. It may feel indifferent, or it may feel ecstatic. Regardless of how you feel right now, though, it is you that controls your destiny. Could you end up travelling the world doing VFX like Ivelina? Yep, you could. Could you do an internship that leads you to your goal like Marion? Yep, you could. Could you be our next rigger, texture artist, or join our studio management team? Yep. You really could!