The New Establishment: Chris Harvey

Chris Harvey

With collaborative storytelling skills and next-gen VFX talent, Chris Harvey is poised to become a breakout star in Canada’s VFX industry, colleagues and industry execs say.

In fact, says Jason Dowdeswell, VP of production operations, Vancouver at Sony Pictures Imageworks, he wouldn’t be surprised to see Harvey with an Oscar nomination or win within the next few years.

As filmmakers become more savvy with the integration of VFX into their work, Harvey’s collaborative skills are becoming a hot commodity, Dowdeswell says, praising Harvey’s “sharp eye for effective storytelling practices.”

“With the right match between [Harvey], director and story, he will contribute to an Oscar success story,” Dowdeswell told Playback Daily.

While Harvey started his career as an animator, he eventually worked his way into the field of VFX, where it quickly became apparent his strength was on the 3D side, Harvey said. His earlier visual effects credits include work on Superman Returns (digital effects editor with Frantic Films), Mr. Magoo’s Wonder Emporium (visual effects consultant, Frantic Films) and Watchmen (visual effects consultant, Frantic Films).

“Chris is very technical. The marrying of technical with creative work like animation made him a very fast and proficient artist. Add to that in his background – he worked at Frantic Films, a group that received attention early on for their proprietary programming talents,” Dowdeswell said.

“It forged, I believe, for Chris the idea that tools and technology are servants to the final art on the screen,” he explained.

Harvey says he believes the major turning point in his career was landing the VFX supervisor position on 2012′s Zero Dark Thirty. At the time, he was working for Image Engine which was the VFX studio attached to the Kathryn Bigelow-directed film.

Zero Dark Thirty needed a visual effects supervisor, Harvey and Bigelow got along well, “and that was it,” Harvey said.

With Zero Dark Thirty, Harvey worked directly with the production team and director to coordinate the VFX for the film, rather than working on the effects afterwards in the studio. This hands-on approach, where Harvey can work directly and creatively with the director, is one Harvey would like to repeat.

“Even if it’s flashy, the real purpose is to drive story – and being involved and helping the story move forward is what excites me,” Harvey said of VFX work.

Since Zero Dark Thirty picked up its best motion picture Academy Award in 2013, other major Hollywood films Harvey has worked on as a visual effects supervisor include Daniel Espinosa’s Child 44, Fast and the Furious 6 and Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie. For Harvey, a key part of his career has been to focus on projects that will help him learn and grow professionally, even if they are challenging.

“Never shy away from things that are hard – it’s what helps us grow,” Harvey said.

Currently Harvey is wrapping up his work on Blomkamp’s Chappie, and will move into a position at Industrial Light and Magic’s Vancouver office once the film is completed. Going forward, Harvey points to the relationship and creative banter he had with Blomkamp of the kind of professional partnerships he wants to continue to pursue.

“I believe that there is no such thing as standing still,” Harvey said. “You are either moving forward or you are moving backwards…I want to be pushing ahead.”

Playback’s returning editorial feature, The New Establishment, showcases outstanding talent in the Canadian film and TV industry. Complementing our 5 to Watch, this series profiles individuals who have already established themselves in the industry and are continuing to succeed, representing unique success in their field, great achievement or new ways of doing business.