Brickyard VFX: Famous for Quality

By Carol Patton

Jamie Sharpless graduated from Connecticut College in 2011 and spent a year working as a pedicab driver and photographer before coming to Brickyard VFX. Photo by Carolyn Ross.
Jamie Sharpless graduated from Connecticut College in 2011 and spent a year working as a pedicab driver and photographer before coming to Brickyard VFX. Photo by Carolyn Ross.

Brickyard VFX is a full service high end Visual Effects studio specializing in creating moving images for television, film and emerging media. Brickyard resides on Newbury Street in Boston in a “cozy-electric” space that may
be described as a haven for creativity with a team oriented one-of-a-kind style that is very reflective of Dave Waller who is its co-founder.

At NAB 2012, Waller was honored by Autodesk at a special panel of Flame Visual Effects Artists, the Flame Gurus of the biz celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Flame’s compositing software.

Emmy nominated Jimi Simmons started his VFX career when an extended West Coast Surfing trip was interrupted by a lack of funds and a job search landed him at Pass Film and Video in San Francisco. Photo by Carolyn Ross.
Emmy nominated Jimi Simmons started his VFX career when an extended West Coast Surfing trip was interrupted by a lack of funds and a job search landed him at Pass Film and Video in San Francisco. Photo by Carolyn Ross.

For the record, I asked Dave Waller for his back story and how Brickyard VFX and its subsequent brands evolved.

“I had worked in almost all the great post production shops around New England (and a little bit in New York and Chicago) in the ‘80s and ‘90s and the time seemed right to start my own place. I learned from some great bosses like Tom Sprague, John Furst, Patrice Goldman and the folks at Wave and Blake Films, Century III and Chedd-Angier. I encountered a few bad bosses and managers along the way who I won’t mention, but learned a lot from them, too. So I took the good and tossed the bad and then threw in some ingredients of my own – stuff people weren’t doing in New England – and opened Brickyard offering something unique.

Brickyard VFX Partners Geoff McAuliffe and Dave Waller taking a bar break on the third floor of their cozy electric works on Newbury Street in Boston. Photo by Carolyn Ross.
Brickyard VFX Partners Geoff McAuliffe and Dave Waller taking a bar break on the third floor of their cozy electric works on Newbury Street in Boston. Photo by Carolyn Ross.

Brickyard VFX Partners Geoff McAuliffe and Dave Waller taking a bar break on the third floor of their cozy electric works on Newbury Street in Boston. Photo by Carolyn Ross.[/caption]

“Believe it or not, I thought I could just exist by myself in a little room and make enough to pay my bills and have a simple life. Surprisingly, the community overwhelmingly supported me and it was obvious the “one-man-shop” thing wasn’t going to work so we added a couple people, did a few high-end
projects and eventually became acquainted with a couple who would forever change Brickyard, Geoff McAuliffe and Kirsten Andersen who at the time were a Senior VFX Artist/ Executive Producer team at the legendary 525 Studios in
Santa Monica.”

“Kirsten, a Massachusetts native, and Geoff wanted to move back home with their new baby. So Brickyard grew again, Geoff became my partner and through his artistic skills and Kirsten’s abilities as a Producer our reputation spread as the go-to VFX shop with a sunny attitude. And more talented folks found us, which is how we were able to open our Santa Monica Brickyard studio in 2003, our Brickyard Filmworks division here in Boston specializing in Feature work, and General Gau Animation (Boston again) in 2011. The various companies compliment each other and specialize in different niches in the artistry of moving pictures.”

Robin Hobart, Jane DiGangi. Kat Messing, Jamie Sharpless and Henrique Ghersi finding just the right solution. Photo by Carolyn Ross.
Robin Hobart, Jane DiGangi. Kat Messing, Jamie Sharpless and Henrique Ghersi finding just the right solution. Photo by Carolyn Ross.

Waller says, “We believe that in order to be successful we need to exceed our customer’s expectations by investing wholeheartedly in their vision. That ‘all in’ philosophy extends to their entire experience from bidding to the final invoice, and our wonderful clients’ repeat business is proof enough that we got it right.”

Creative technical versatility is a phrase that might cross your mind when thinking of Brickyard. Their kinds of credits number around 100 – everything from VFX Artist, Visual Effects, Lead 3D Artist, Rotoscope Artist, Senior VFX
Producer, to Modeler, Cinematographer, Animatronics/Puppeteer, Creative Director, to Post Producer and about ninety more for which exacting and practiced skills are required to perform.

Because of Brickyards range of accomplishments I am always compelled to ask Dave Waller what exciting project Brickyard is working right now. Mums the word because as we all know production companies, post-production companies, in fact most everyone working in our industry whether you are a carpenter or casting director is bound to confidentiality agreements usually in effect through the release of a film or the launch of a commercial campaign. But, if you want to have some fun and admire Brickyard VFX creativity and their work in impressive ad campaigns for prestigious clients, all you need to do is visit their website and I promise you, you will be seriously enlightened and wholly entertained. The admission is free.

Brickyarder Sean McLean nestled in an atmospheric editing suite. Photo by Carolyn Ross. All photos courtesy of Brickyard VFX.
Brickyarder Sean McLean nestled in an atmospheric editing suite. Photo by Carolyn Ross. All photos courtesy of Brickyard VFX.

As noted, Brickyard VFX has an Atlantic Office and a Pacific Office located in Boston and Santa Monica respectively both with good connections to the motion picture industry and the advertising world. Their work has appeared in many of the top ads shown during several Super Bowls including my favorites, the Budweiser “Clydesdale” campaigns. And who hasn’t winced appreciably while watching Liberty Mutual Insurance “Humans” campaign. Ads for Hill Holliday
Executive Produced by Brickyard’s Kristen Andersen.

You see their Visual VFX work everyday on TV and other platforms as somewhere there is a Google ad like their most recent “Ask Me” series for Google’s Nexus 7 Tablet. Other campaigns for Google include “Curious,” “Camping”
and “Beatbox” for Mullen.

After a year of really hard work Brickyard VFX (both coasts) took a break and the whole team headed to Sundance in Park City, Utah. I checked in with Dave about it.

“Well, he said, “from what I can remember, we took the Boston staff plus their significant others to hang with the Santa Monica Brickyarders out at the Sundance Film Festival. Anybody with a checkbook can buy equipment, but our staff is our most prized asset and they work really hard all year – I mean really hard and you couldn’t find a more talented bunch anywhere. So we do fun trips. last year it was South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

“It’s a nice way to celebrate, 2012 was our best year ever, and see some films and hang out as a family. We skied, snowboarded, bobsledded and rented a mess of snowmobiles out in the back country. On the way to Logan airport my wife Lynn and I got 70 pounds of live lobsters and we boiled them up on the mountain at Park City. Everybody got a chance to relax, recharge and act silly, and only two trips to the E.R.! But there was a little time for business, too. I met with a director who we’ve worked with over the years and saw some commercial clients,” concluded Waller who mentions the business component likely because that’s what vigilant entrepreneurs do.

If you are wondering how you can go to work for a company that may whisk you off to the likes of Sundance you might want consider interning there as a place to start.

“Brickyard has had interns since the early days,” Dave Waller, “we feel we have a civic duty to support the community and the boundless emerging talent here in New England. While we don’t offer a mentoring program, I’m a big believer in the power of internships – mine was only two doors down the street from here at Video One back in the analog days. And it worked! – that’s where I got my first job after Emerson.

“Our internship program is a mix of duties, from getting the proverbial cup of coffee to trying your hand at some of the great compositing and CG programs under the eye of one of our senior artists. But we screen our interns very carefully to make sure they understand that a good internship is what you make of it – I always give the advice that if you bring your best every day and make yourself indispensable, you’ll be the first on our list when something opens up. That’s proven by the many interns we’ve hired over the years. We have an amazing Intern Coordinator named Mallory Bazinet
mallory@brickyardvfx.com

“But getting back to supporting the community for a minute: we also feel that the privilege of operating a successful business carries other responsibilities, too, and we work every day to improve our community by belonging to civic organizations like Filma, MPC, the Chamber of Commerce
and Newbury Street League, the Visual Effects Society and financially supporting several charitable groups coupled with pro bono work. We try to buy American, especially using local small-business vendors. We challenge ourselves to make the office greener every year, too, and participate in
several outreach programs to support our neighborhood,” added Waller.

IMAGINE’s ongoing interest in continuing and defending film tax credits prompts me to ask about how they impact Brickyard and according to Dave the tax incentives work for them in two ways: “They occasionally provide us with some capital which we use to launch new concepts like General Gau Animation. That’s worked out well for us and we’re in hiring mode now as projects roll in. The incentives can also work to boost sales, since it motivates outside producers both in and out of state to capture the incentives by using our Massachusetts employees.” He believes Brickyard would survive without the credits as they’d done for years before, but they do add to the volume of work. Remember, 2012 was Brickyard’s best year to date.

Looking forward and what’s in store for 2013? “Well I suppose I’m sort of a positive thinking person anyway, so maybe my prediction for 2013 doesn’t mean much, but judging from our bookings, the flow of boards and the energy out there, I think this year is already proving to be gangbusters for Boston Production.

For more invitation visit www.brickyardvfx.com. View NAB 2012 Flame 20th Anniversary Celebration featuring Dave Waller go to: http://area.autodesk.com/flame20?pr#20years.

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