By Randi Altman
Industry veteran Jim Riche has witnessed the evolution of visual effects in his over 30 years in the business. He has seen the march from film to digital, many large VFX houses fall by the wayside, work leave the country, a crop of smaller VFX boutiques pop up and VFX houses diversifying with other services. The latter category fits Santa Monica- and Dallas-based Reel FX, where Riche recently has hung his hat as head of production for the studio’s commercial division. He brings with him experience in production management and consulting for feature films, commercials, visual effects, live action, dark ride production and design/graphics.
He comes to Reel FX from Blur Studio in Los Angeles, where he came up with a well-used and well-thought-of a bidding, cost-tracking and accounting structure. He also consulted on some big-name projects, including the VFX for Deadpool. Prior to that, he was working as a freelance VFX supervisor, VFX producer and VFX consultant for a number of post studios, handling top projects and strategies.
We reached out to Riche, who will be based in the company’s Dallas office, to find out more.
Why Reel FX, and why now?
I have known of Reel FX for many years and have always admired their work. The company is unique in today’s market in that it offers a full-service studio. Reel FX can work in commercials, features, interactive, live action and virtual reality. I have CG designers, designers, editors, Flame suites and audio suites, as well as a full team of development, interactive and virtual reality artists. I am intrigued with the possibilities of combining these disciplines to offer clients a complete media solution.
The days of the big VFX/animation companies in LA have slowly gone away. We have lost a number of the big shops to bankruptcy and to offshore tax incentives. Reel FX offers me all of the advantages of a big company and in a city where life and production is so much more affordable. I have been in this business for a long time, and Reel FX has put me in a position that will take advantage of my skill set.
What are some things you hope to accomplish in your new role?
My goals here are to grow the commercial division and to bring in clients from NY and LA. I have a wealth of talent here and I plan on attracting more creative leaders from the coasts. The addition of Colin McGreal from New York has shown the desire to grow this division. I feel I am the piece that has been missing. I’m the veteran that can bring this all together.
You have a pretty rich history in VFX. How have you seen the industry change over the years?
I got into this business well before digital technology came into the field. I started doing VFX when we did it all on film. So, you can say I have seen the complete evolution from film to CG and digital technology. I pride myself on the fact that I was interested in the latest technology and able to keep up with it. And I still do to this day.
Not only has the technology changed, but the commercial production industry has changed as well. Commercials are no longer a 30-second spot to run only on TV. They encompass all media— social media, interactive, user experience and much more. At Reel FX we are able to address all of the new platforms and take advantage of our capabilities to fulfill all of our clients needs. That is the biggest way I have seen the industry change. It’s all in the breadth of what commercial advertising means.
I know you’ve been involved with adjusting bidding practices. Do you intend to implement that at Reel FX as well?
Reel FX has a very strong system and certainly has a lot of experience and a strong support staff in this area. I will be bringing my experience to this team and together we will be making some changes in the process. There is always room for improvement that will benefit both Reel FX and our clients.
What projects are in the pipeline?
We’ve got lots of great projects wrapping up in the next few weeks, including Gold Bond (31,000 ft), Western Union (McGarry Bowen), Shinola (direct) and content for the Cleveland Cavaliers. On the VR front, we recently delivered a really cool experience for Hilton (GSD&M).
Finally, how was the move from LA to Dallas? I’m assuming Dallas is more laid back, in work and in life?
The move has been good. Dallas has a very large arts community, and that is very important to us. The city has the vitality of a large city and the demeanor and feel of a smaller town. Even in a city as large as Dallas, is it is much easier to exist than in LA or NYC. The highways are far less congested and the people are much more relaxed. The tempo is not that much different — it’s the personality of the people that takes the edge off and makes them appear less crazy.