Film & Television
From Antigua to Hollywood
Although being formally trained in traditional Visual Arts by Melville Richardson and Terry Benjamin, Nuffield Joseph Burnette had always been interested in the less common styles of creative expression. As a youth, he took a liking to pencils and ink, and mastered a style which borrowed heavily from Japanese animation’s exaggerated aesthetics as well as Marvel Comics’ obsessive attention to the human anatomy. From an early stage, he took his inspiration from film and animated media to produce unorthodox story-driven visual novels.
After graduating from Princess Margaret Secondary with the CXC Award for Top Academic Achievement in Visual Arts, Joseph enrolled in Antigua State College (ASC) with an intent to focus on a higher level Visual Arts Curriculum. It was during this time that he was introduced to digital painting and the possibility of creating highly polished artwork using digital tools. Instead of following the curriculum at ASC, Joseph focused on honing the technical skills needed to produce quality digital work using software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Corel Painter. At this time, there were a small community of talented artists from the Villa Area who were coming together regularly to share both technical and traditional knowledge on digital content creation. Traditional artists were becoming interested in digital, and technical minds were becoming interested in traditional Visual Arts. The result was a highly specialized pool of knowledge that there was no immediate need or market for, except that this knowledge was necessary to satiate the desire to create niche works of Art.
Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology (A.B.I.I.T) opened it’s doors, and driven by the desire to gain technical knowledge in software development, Joseph left ASC after his first year and enrolled in the Computer Programming Associates program. There is a term in the international film and video games industry used to describe a breed of artist who possess a sharp visual eye for detail and movement as well as the technical knowledge of a computer programmer. A Technical Artist seeks balance between the two worlds. At the end of his program at A.B.I.I.T, Joseph and a fellow Antiguan programmer-turned technical artist started ‘Dreamerz Studio’, a boutique experimental graphic design studio. The insignia of Dreamerz Studio exists to this very day, the silhouette of a woman against a crescent moon represents excellence in technical skill and creativity. The intention of Joseph Burnette and co-founder Nethaneel Edwards (now a software engineer at Google) was to push the boundaries of digital media in Antigua. Those who were brave enough to use Dreamerz Studio to represent their entity received unique designs that went beyond expectations. To produce work of a higher caliber, gaining technical competency was a necessity and making money, a secondary function. Joseph and his friends worked from the ‘White Room’, a small computer lab which functioned as the base of operations for Dreamerz Studio. There they would experiment with new technology, serve clients, and periodically teach youths who were interested in computer graphics.
The year 2005 arrived and at this point Joseph began experimenting with 3D graphics and delving into the little-known realm of Visual Effects. High-end Visual Effects was such a labour and resource intensive field that it’s use in the region had been impractical. The infrastructure was non-existent. There was no direct way to acquire the specialized knowledge or a team to complete a Visual Effects heavy project. However, Visual Effects had long been a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S.A, Singapore, U.K and Japan. Realizing the depth of knowledge needed to become a world class VFX artist, Joseph enrolled at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) where he was awarded various scholarships based on his portfolio of work for Dreamerz Studio. The Savannah College of Art and Design was the Ivy League of Art schools, where you were grinded through the basics of Color Theory, 2D-design, Sculpting and Drawing at an extremely fast pace before moving on to core subjects of the Visual Effects program. During his third year, Joseph got his first breakthrough in the industry as a student. On the recommendation of a senior professor, mentor and worldwide authority on Pixar’s rendering technology, Joseph was invited by Pixar to speak at the Siggraph 2009 Conference in New Orleans. Siggraph, being one of the largest conferences in the world for Visual Artists and Computer Scientists in the Visualization Sciences, put Joseph in contact with top players in the industry. Being the only student chosen to present at this specific Pixar event, he was offered a job opportunity by Weta Digital (Peter Jackson’s vfx studio for Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes etc.) as well as an internship opportunity by SideFX (creators of the main software used for VFX in the film industry). He also met and communicated with technical supervisors for Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy series. That winter would see Joseph travelling to Toronto to work with the company SideFX where he created effects for an important client, while pushing the limits of the software itself. At this time, Dreamworks Animation began taking a keen interest in his work.
In the first quarter of 2010 Joseph left Toronto to complete his final year of school. With a few quarters remaining at SCAD, he had already been offered a job at Dreamworks Animation as an apprentice technical effects artist in their prestigious ‘effects challenge’ program. He was the first student from SCAD to be offered this position, a position usually dominated by masters in computer science and the Visualization Sciences. After completing his final major project at SCAD, the award winning experimental short “Kindred Dance”, Joseph graduated with honors.
The Dreamworks Animation FX Challenge program takes 6 or 7 of the best technical students from schools around the U.S and grooms them to become amongst the most elite in the world. This 6 month program emphasized a high level of mathematical thinking, technical proficiency in coding using any language or script, developing a sharp eye for movement and detail as well as honing traditional Fine Arts techniques. Joseph successfully graduated from the program and for the next 2 and a half years worked on major effects for Dreamworks’ How to Train your Dragon – Gift of the Night Fury, Madagascar 3, Rise of the Guardians and Turbo. The experience of working with some of the best technical artists in the world gave him a strong technical advantage in a much smaller studio in 2013. Joseph was recruited by ReelFX Creative Studios to develop effects for Guillermo del Toro (director, Pacific Rim) and Jorge Gutierrez’s “Book of Life.” Joseph’s work on ‘The Book of Life’ has since won him an Annie Award Nomination in the “Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in an Animated Production” category. This prestigious nomination puts his work against masterpieces such as Dreamworks’ How to Train your Dragon 2 and Disney’s Big Hero 6.
This year, Joseph was invited to Weta Digital (New Zealand) to assist in the optimization of the studio’s complex Effects work using their proprietary rendering technology. Since then, he has contributed to Disney’s Big Friendly Giant (BFG). Amongst industry leaders as well as his mentors, Joseph’s goal remains the same. To be one of the best. Such should always be the goal of an Ambassador.
You can view the works of Nuffeld Joseph Burnette at: www.vfx.dreamerzstudio.net. Burnette will be on island later this month as a guest speaker at the Feature Animation Movie Visual Effects Lectures being conducted by the Francoise Acting Studio Antigua. Screen writers, film-makers, Graphic designers/artists, advertising agencies, Marketing CEO and team, actors, School Students into theater and visual effects, Technical Drawing students and I.T programmers, Film and T.V Producers, website builders teachers in the visual arts classes and theater classes and persons who wish to take a career within the film and visual effects industry, this is for you. Register now at TickeTing.