Alumni Relations

VFX with Amaya Ayers


VFX with Amaya Ayers

By Amaya Ayers and Victoria Sarjeant
Edited by Nan Bremer and Laurel Alberson

When Amaya Ayer's (B.F.A. '14) parents bought her a Nintendo 64 in late elementary school, she decided that Mario Kart wasn't only fun to play, it was fun to break down. She wanted to learn how to build the levels and animate the characters moving through those levels. Amaya translated that passion into her career as a visual effects compositor. In her short career, she has worked on movies such as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), The Mummy(2017), Alien: Covenant (2017), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), Suicide Squad(2016), and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016).


Amaya was recruited by IPFW's Cross Country and Track and Field teams during her senior year of high school. As she researched IPFW's choice of majors, she noticed the Modeling and Animation Program and solidified her decision to attend IPFW. After earning a B.F.A. from IPFW, she went to the Digital Animation and Visual Effects (DAVE) School at Universal Studies in Orlando, Fla.

Explain your day-to-day work
A typical day at MPC started with raiding the kitchen for a free breakfast! Then I sat down at my computer, coffee in hand, and looked through my shot assignments to see if any due dates changed or if any new elements had been released. When I caught up on that, I worked on my shots----keying, computer graphics integration, or whatever notes I received the prior day. At some point during the day, we reviewed dailies. We were called into one of the theatres to sit down with our supervisors, talk about what we had done on a shot, and discuss where it needed to go from there. The rest of the day consisted of addressing those notes, rendering out the shots to see what they looked like, and then tweaking them again and again until the next dailies session.

Did you have professor who served as a mentor?
Andres Montenegro served as an amazing mentor to me. He really encouraged creativity, no matter the project, and it was incredible to see what everyone was able to come up with. He also encouraged us to plan our projects beforehand, instead of just hastily rushing in and starting right away. He'd bring some of the story boards he had created for his personal projects, and I was blown away by how detailed and intricate they were. And this was all before he even touched a computer. He was excited to share his experiences with us, and his energy was contagious. When I reached out to him about trying something new for the senior exhibition, he took time out of his busy schedule to sit with me and helped talk me through techniques that we hadn't been able to cover during classes. He was definitely a major support during my time at IPFW!

What has been your most rewarding post-graduate experience?
In the last semester of Digital Animation and Visual Effects (DAVE) School, our entire class teamed up to create a final project. Our professor-turned-director had an amazing vision, and we modeled, textured, lit, animated, and composited everything in the short film in just three months. The school gave us hard deadlines and rough critiques, and we really had to motivate ourselves in order to get the project done. It was our first real look into how this industry worked, and I loved it. We had a really close class, and it was amazing to work with all of them one last time. Our short film, Thief of Always, ended up winning the Suncoast Regional Emmy for Graphic Arts-Animation.

Do you have one project that you love to brag to people about?
I think my favorite project so far has been Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It's a movie franchise that I've grown up with, and it's really satisfying to see my shots up on the screen coupled with the dramatic music that Pirates is known for. It's also the longest project that I've been a part of, and we all had a really good time in the process. We'd get into Nerf gun fights and would celebrate completed deadlines with rum and coke (keeping with the Pirate theme, of course). It was also my first movie credit, so I think that helped as well!

What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of working at MPC was interacting with such a great group of people. There was a very fun group of nerds (I say with love), and we all got along quite well. If someone was struggling to address a specific note, you could bet it would end up with three or four people shooting ideas back and forth and seeing which one worked best in that scenario. My knowledge of compositing probably quadrupled while I worked for MPC, just from listening to other people's advice and learning their techniques for certain situations. We were basically just one big family!

How did IPFW prepare you for your career?
I think time management was the main thing I had to learn during my time at IPFW. Our practices for Cross Country and Track and Field were at 7 a.m. every morning, and if we didn't have a meet on Saturday, we'd have an early morning practice that day as well. This was our schedule throughout the school year, and it really was a balancing act for all of us. I had to plan things out well in advance to make sure I'd have time for projects and papers. This was also the main struggle while I was working on my senior project. Since I was trying something that I had never attempted before, I had to set rigid deadlines for myself to make sure I could finish in time. This kind of thinking is something I incorporate daily into my current work schedule. If I have three shots due for final review on Monday, and they aren't quite ready yet, I either stay up late Friday night or go in Saturday or Sunday to get them in a better place. When Monday comes around, I'm ready to present my shots and start in on any notes I may get.

What advice would you give someone in your major?
If this is something you think you really want to get into, definitely do your research! Start exploring all of the facets of visual effects/game production, and find that thing that gets you excited! Learn what it takes to get into that field, and then go for it.

What new skills have you learned since you started your career?
It's amazing to look back and see how much I've grown as an artist in these last two years. I've become more confident, more disciplined, and more independent. Problem solving gets easier with the experience, and I can't wait to learn more! 

How did you get involved with your current company?
MPC was one of the many visual effects companies to stop by The DAVE School for a recruiting visit. After graduating, they were the first company I sent my demo reel to. I was invited to do a Skype interview soon after, and was packing up for Montreal three months later. It was an amazing journey, grabbing a job of this caliber right out of school, and it's definitely been one of my most rewarding experiences to date. 

What was the best career advice you were given?
My parents were big advocates of "do what makes you happy." This industry may be extremely tough, but it's also extremely rewarding. We're literally making movies, so it's hard to not be excited about that!