We had the chance to speak to a very talented, gifted and gracious, American/Venezuelan VFX Coordinator: Stephanie Carolina Espinetti, who has worked on visual effects for some of the biggest movie and TV productions in the world. Credits include James Cameron’s Academy Award winning ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, Fast X, The Mandalorian, Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion, as well as smaller independent projects. We discover how she fell in love with watching movies, the origins of her career and how she honed her craft to operate at a world class level in visual effects. She breaks down some of the different variables involved, her love of watching Jackie Chan martial arts films with her father as a kid, and how a Q&A talk by filmmaker Jason Reitman changed her life and career path forever. She talks about her journey into the industry, behind the scenes of VFX, and what it takes to succeed. We also learn of the people who influenced her to get into the film industry and those who she admires in VFX. Stephanie takes us further behind the scenes and educates us on the dedication, effort and teamwork of many it takes to succeed. Visual effects is a very important facet of filmmaking that helps elevate our experience as audience members on the big and small screen in the film and television industry.
Domingos Coxi- What made you first fall in love with watching movies?
Stephanie Espinetti- Growing up my father and I would watch movies together. A lot of Jackie Chan and action films. I always loved going to the cinema with friends growing up, and my family would have a lot of movie nights. In seventh grade I took a class called Media Production. The teacher loved films, we watched all types of films in his class. He really encouraged that path for me.
DC- What were your influences growing up to work in the film industry?
SE- There are many influences, but the most direct influence was Jason Reitman. I was in college for Political Sciences, and I had heard about a talk Jason Reitman was going to do at the school. I had loved Juno so I wanted to see more about his upcoming film. In his Q&A he discussed how his father had encouraged him to do what he loved and away from the wrong career path. That really spoke to me and really shifted everything. I finished my degree in Politics but went straight to film school afterwards.
DC- How did you first break into working with the visual effects department and ultimately become a Visual Effects Coordinator?
SE- I started out at the VFX company Framestore. Mainly working on commercials and small art projects. I then went to MPC and worked in the VR department for two years. My background in virtual reality is one I’m very thankful for and truly wouldn’t have the jobs I have now if not for virtual reality.
DC- How has the film industry and visual effects evolved from when you first started in the industry, to how it is today in 2023.
SE- Virtual Production is the biggest thing to have evolved since I’ve started. When I was on Mandalorian is was so new and fresh to everyone, now everyone has an LED stage. It’s quite fascinating how something so innovative can become obsolete in such a short amount of time.
DC- Where did you grow up, and was your creativity and imagination always there as a young child?
SE- I definitely made home videos with my friends growing up. Directing little films, I would involve everyone in the house, my friends and I would make up the story as we went along.
DC- You have an amazing resume of work, having worked with some of the biggest film studios in the world such as Marvel Studios, Disney, and Universal Pictures. What is the contrast to working on a smaller indie film?
SE- Big budget films I feel a lot can get overlooked and lost. Planning isn’t as meticulous. With independent films since the budget is minimal there is more at stake and more planning is involved.
DC- Congratulations are in order, as you worked on the now Academy Awards nominated spectacular fantasy “Avatar: The Way of Water” as a VFX Coordinator, how proud are you of the whole visual effects departments work on this record-breaking film?
SE- To clarify I worked for the Virtual Production LAB and I was a LAB coordinator. It is intertwined with VFX but I was specifically focused on the virtual production over the post production of the film. That being said, I am so proud of everyone in that crew. They truly are some of the hardest working people in the industry today and deserve all the praise given.
DC- What dream projects would you love to work on, and who do you admire in the VFX field?
SE- I would love to work with Guillermo Del Toro, it would be fascinating to see how he works and handles the VFX department. In the VFX field specifically it’s hard to say, I’ve worked with a good amount of them already. John Dykstra would be an interesting person to work with, would love to know what his thought process is.
DC– What advice would you give the 10-year-old version of yourself or anybody wanting to succeed in the film industry, and specifically the VFX side of it?
SE- I don’t think I would give my 10 year old self advice, other than to tell her, “you are tougher than you think you are.” It’s common to hear that you need to have thick skin to work in this industry, which is somewhat true, but what people don’t talk about is how much we help one another in this industry. We stand with each other in solidarity and help each other out with jobs, even with people we don’t necessarily know. It’s a wonderful community of people and we are all in it for the love of filmmaking.
DC– What are the hardest parts and most rewarding parts of your job?
SE- The hardest parts would have to be the long hours, I can go months without seeing friends because we’re delivering a film. The rewarding part is to hear people discuss the project you worked on and how much they enjoyed the final product. That truly makes it worth all the blood, sweat, and tears – when people enjoy what you’ve created.
If you would like to find out more about the various and wonderful projects the talented Stephanie Espinetti has worked on, please visit her official IMDB page in the link below:
All images are copyright of their respective owners.