Industry veteran Kamen Markov is senior visual effects supervisor at MPC in London, a global creative studio providing visual effects and production services. In his role, Markov is tasked with “making creative and aesthetic choices for visual effects to achieve the creative aims of the director,” he says, adding, “I lead and direct the team of 2D artists, work directly with the director, advertising agency and our producers to predict the timing and cost of a project.”

Markov has been working in visual effects since 1998, becoming a visual effects supervisor in 2002. He joined MPC in 2011 and was promoted to senior VFX supervisor this year. With a background in fine art, watercolor painting and even acting, Markov is also experienced Flame artist, who works regularly with top directors such as Traktor, Jonathan Glazer and Frederic Planchon.

Let’s find out more…

What would surprise people about the role of visual effects supervisor?

I think people outside of the business will find it hard to believe the sheer amount of time, effort and costs that sometimes go into what we call “invisible effects.” Dozens of artists can be working for days and weeks on visual effects that, if successfully executed, no one will suspect were ever done.

You’ve been doing this a while. How has the industry changed in the time you’ve been working? The good and the bad.

From my perspective there are aspects of the industry that are unrecognizable compared to 15-20 years ago, but also many that have stayed very much the same. Luckily, the industry still attracts amazing people — talented, driven and smart.

The amount and quality of information and learning opportunities online simply didn’t exist back in the day. The technology has moved on massively, and it’s been fascinating to witness the progress. Not only the everyday toolsets, but also the way we shoot, prepare the projects, manage teams and communicate with the clients. However, I do sometimes miss the days when clients and directors spent time with us in the suite and we could be part of the crafting process together.

In terms of negatives, due to the advancement of technology I have found that, on occasion, schedules and budgets have been challenged. Sometimes this is at the expense of the artistic execution and the artist’s satisfaction. However, the love for great images is still very strong, and we are an adaptable bunch. Some of the visually stunning masterpieces have arrived on our screen precisely because of these changes to the industry.

Why do you like being on set for shots?

Shoot sets are pure magic. This is the place where the vision, the script and the concept become tangible and real. There are so many little tweaks, solutions and simple-yet-brilliant ideas that a VFX set supervisor can bring to shape the final image right there when the camera is capturing the action. This is when the canvas is created for your team, and as a VFX supervisor I feel I have the responsibility to provide them with the best I can get. The exchange of ideas and bonding with the creative leads of a project is invaluable too. Last, but not least, the people you meet, the knowledge you gain and the locations you visit are a fantastic bonus.

Did a particular film inspire you along this path?

The one and only Lawrence of Arabia by David Lean. I doubt there was a single piece of visual effects in this movie, but the visuals were so captivating, the interwinding of story and picture so magnificent, I cannot help but still be inspired by it.

Did you go to film school?

Back in the day I really wish I did. I come from a small place and the opportunities simply didn’t exist there. However, self-learning does provide some great advantages. It is more often than not based on real-world problems and solutions, grounded by the combined knowledge of many artists and their wisdom and technical or artistic creativity you encounter along the way. It really provokes very proactive thinking both technically and as a motivation.

I find the latter extremely important because once you reach this approach, it never leaves you. I don’t think I would feel as comfortable in my position if I had received my knowledge any other way. But it is important to recognize the benefits of the film schools. They provide a great path for young talent, and without a doubt bring to the ranks some very talented people.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

Working closely with a talented and committed director, crew, agency and artists, plus smart and supportive producers. Solving technical problems with creative solutions, of course, the immense power of the tools we have at our disposal.

What’s your least favorite?

Staring at a spreadsheet.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?

I think it would have been a similar combination of relying on a logical and technical approach and some form of art. I find it a perfect way to spend your time. If one fails, you can lean on the other and vice versa. Industrial design, architecture and maybe even some form of working with wood would have been nice.

What is the project that you are most proud of?

In no particular order that would be one of the first ads I did in London, which made me believe I could succeed in the UK Market — Cravendale’s Cats With Thumbs with Ulf Johanson. Also, the Vodafone’s Kiss with Frederic Planchon, Audi’s The Ring with Jonathan Glazer and John Lewis department store’s The Boy and Piano with Seb Edwards. Also, my work with Traktor and Daniel Kleinman.

What tools do you use day to day?

Autodesk Flame is my everlasting love, Foundry Nuke, Ftrack and all the proprietary managing tools the smart people at MPC have developed.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere, isn’t it? From the work of others, to the real world around you. I have a little trick too… in difficult moments I ask myself what a young me would of do, what effort and what lengths he would go to make things happen bigger and better. Then I simply try to keep up.

How do you de-stress from it all?

I don’t nearly enough! I just try to relax and take my mind to a different place. Daydreaming I guess, it takes you nowhere but produces just the right mix of chemicals your brain needs.

First published on postPerspective