Meet the Artist :: Volker Engel

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  02 February 2010


tough one.

The ability to listen. The ability to improvise and think 'out of the box' is an important skill. Being able to lead in a (hopefully) non-egotistical way. As supervising is not so much about putting yourself center stage, but the skill to bring out the best in other people.

But that's just my opinion :-)

  02 February 2010


when I met with Roland for the first time, I was 90% listening and 10% talking. But he could hear how passionate I was about what I had done with my Super 8 films. You have no idea how many young people I interview for a job who appear wide-eyed and clueless or somewhat indifferent. I can always spot people with a passion for what they are doing.

In the end this industry is about people. It might start with talent and passion - but to get anywhere you can't just send out links to your show reel or send out DVDs - you have to meet people who know people who know people etc. It does not have to be Jerry Bruckheimer's assistant...;-) I met Olaf Rappold, a young freelance journalist who taught an evening course about Walt Disney in Stuttgart, who eventually (after a year) introduced me to a young design student, Oliver Scholl (later one of ID4s production designers) - and they both happened to cross paths with Roland Emmerich and told him about me. That's how I "got in".

My favorite story is how Kerry Conran got to do "Sky Captain". If you haven't heard it, rent the DVD and listen to the commentaries and interviews.

And you don't have to live in Hollywood... I'm the best example ;-) I grew up middle class in a small town in Germany with only fishing and ship-building industry...


Last edited by VolkerEngel : 02 February 2010 at 12:36 AM.
  02 February 2010

Flamander Dragoon,

well - that would be boring if I would think I could do anything :-)

There are always new challenges and new obstacles... Instead of over 1000 artists and 15 companies and a gazillion dollars for "2012", now for "Anonymous" we will work with about 25 artists (right now there are only 6 during pre-production). It's an independent movie - and with over 350 photo-real shots it's going to be a challenge... But that's part of the fun.
Roland came to my office the other day and told me about a new story he is developing - something (like with this Shakespearian story) you would never expect from him - and I was thinking "Right now I have no clue how we could do this... - let's do it!"

There is also a reason our company's name is Uncharted Territory :-)

  02 February 2010


danke fuer Deine guten Wuensche.

Christian is 16 and is asking me about recommending a University in Germany for learning 3D.

If you are interested in Virtual Design for museums, virtual shopping centers or even set design for TV it sounds like the University of Applied Sciences in Kaiserslautern is the place for you.

If you want to get into digital visual effects or specialize in 3D, say, the Pixar way - there are other schools for you.

I can always recommend the "Animationsinstitut" der Filmakademie Baden Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg (I studied there for two semesters and then organized the traditional animation class for three years).

With the annual "fmx", organized by Thomas Haegele, who also runs the institute and with the neighboring annual "Trickfilmfestival", Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg are Germany's hub for Animation and 3D.

I also met some talented students from the HFF (Konrad Wolf), near Berlin and from the Media Design School, Berlin

And yes - for what you will learn in these schools there is a long and bright future!

Hope that helps a bit -

  02 February 2010

I thank you very much and really appreciate you taking the time to answer all our questions. I have gained a lot also from your answers to questions of others as well and wlll keep them in my mind.

I wish you all the best. Hopefully I will make the step into the feature film industry, maybee work under your supervision some time in the future and learn even more.

  02 February 2010
Thumbs up

Originally Posted by VolkerEngel: #6


thank you.

Being a producer is a blessing and a curse. You can only take on that additional role if you are ready to take on a lot of responsibilities. Some people need this comfort zone of having someone else being responsible. Marc Weigert and I produced this small adventure film called "Coronado" in 2002 - and it felt like jumping off a plane with a dozen other people after each person was responsible for packing the other's parachute... Real teamwork and trust. You have to have a sense of leadership, fiscal responsibility and you have to LOVE moviemaking (that love that helps you survive the 2-year journey of financing, casting, shooting and post production). You can't be a one-man-band. As weird as it may sound, you have to like other people and understand that you can only learn by taking the risk of making mistakes. A great mentor helps, too - like I met Roland Emmerich, who is one of the nicest and most generous people I know. Before "2012" Marc and I had produced or co-produced (and VFX supervised) three projects with our own company - and that's why Roland accepted us as co-producers on a $200 million project. Talk about trust.


That was a great read.

Once again, thanks
This message DOES reflect the opinions of the extraterrestrials
  02 February 2010
Thumbs up

Originally Posted by VolkerEngel: Hope that helps a bit -

It does ! =)
Thanks very much !
  02 February 2010
help's a bit

you know miniatures help's the better.
But in old tv dramas these miniatures were seen as minature itself by the audience saying simple card boards. But today they say it is real unless they were said they are miniatures adding vfx.
  02 February 2010


Thank you for the great words of advice and direction. It has definitely assured me that I am very passionate and ready to step foot into the this industry for my future career!

  02 February 2010
Werter Volker,

first of all let me say, you and your team did a really great job on this movie. I remember that hot car driving scene in the Limousine and that giant Randy´s Donut rolled across the street, you guys must have had a lot of fun with this shot.

I have only one question to you.
When can we buy your autobiography?
I would love to read more about your person and your distinguished career in depth.

Hoping to hear from you soon.

Spezialeffekt(freie) Grüße aus einer kreativen Region im Hochsauerland.

  02 February 2010

thanks for the suggestion. No autobiography on the horizon, yet ;-)

I still feel like I just started in this field... so much to learn!


  02 February 2010
Hallo Volker,

I have a question after seeing the interview you gave on CG Channel
How far the german facilities of Scanline and Pixomondo have been involved in the production of 2012?
Or did you only worked with the LA based Studios?

Grüße aus Ludwigsburg
[ Der Automat ] // Animationsinstitut
  02 February 2010
Hallo Martin,

both German companies played a key part in the creation of the VFX for "2012" - they both did about 100 shots each.

Pixomondo created the amazing crash-landing of the Antonov on the glacier when the cars are tumbling out and the plane slides over the edge in the end. They also did most of the previz for us. Rainer Gombos was the supervisor.

Scanline did all big water shots in the film, especially when the Himalayan Mountains are flooded and the water rips one of the arks off its mooring. But they also did the incredible shot when the cruise ship is hit by a tidal wave - and they only had a few weeks to do that one. Stephan Trojansky was the senior supervisor.

Both companies did an amazing job!
So did Alex Lemke VFX in Germany with the Airforce One lift-off sequence.

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