Creating the clouds that the superhero flies through, the crumbling bridge that a car is about to drive off, and the “demon turds” that the science fiction monster leaves behind – that’s how Lethbridge College grad Shaun Roth spends his workdays.
“On one hand it’s just another job,” says the Red Deer native, who grew up loving movies and video games. “But I could be digging ditches, you know.”
Roth got his start in the college’s Multimedia Production program, where he earned his diploma in December 2004. That experience eventually led to film school, and to freelance and fulltime jobs, and finally to London, England, where Roth now creates 3-D special effects for the company that did the effects for Captain America and Harry Potter.
It is work he loves, and it all started in the classrooms and computer labs of Lethbridge College.
“My time at the college definitely played a role,” says Roth. “It helped me focus. It let me know that I didn’t want to be a web developer and I didn’t want to be a graphic designer. It also helped me see that if I wanted to do what I thought I wanted to do (go into special effects), then I couldn’t stay in Alberta.”
And so after working and saving his money for a year, he applied for and was accepted at the Vancouver Film School. He said his time at the college helped him with that transition, too. “It gave me a little bit of a leg up,” he says. “When I did have to show my portfolio, I already had one to show. It gave me more confidence heading into the program.”
Roth specialized in 3-D animation and visual effects in Vancouver, and then went to work for the television show Supernatural after he finished. He moved through the ranks, starting as a 3 D artist in 2007 and working his way up to 3-D lead artist by the time he finished season five in mid-2010.
From there, he worked at a company called Zoic Studios in Vancouver as a visual effects technical director from June 2010 to March of 2011. After that, he got the job at Double Negative and moved to London in March 2011. He arrived just as the company was celebrating its Academy Award for special effects for the movie Inception. His job title now is visual effects technical director, and it means he works on movies like Captain America – “my job here was all the clouds” – as well as movies like John Carter and Total Recall.
Roth advises anyone interested in a similar career to focus on one area. “If you find something you like doing,” he says, “do it.”
Roth says one of the best resources he had at both Lethbridge College and the Vancouver Film School were his peers. They worked together and pushed each other to think creatively and find solutions to a wide variety of design problems. Roth’s wife, Roseanna, whom he met in Red Deer, also attended Lethbridge College in 2003 and 2004, studying interior design and merchandising.
He spoke warmly of multimedia instructor Lorne Diemert and former college instructor Leanne Elias (Multimedia Production, 1998), who now teaches at the University of Lethbridge. “I think Leanne was one of my main inspirations,” Roth recalls. “She was my graphic design teacher and portfolio teacher. She was really dedicated, fun to work with and had a lot of talent.”
Elias spoke equally fondly about Roth.
“What struck me about Shaun was his enthusiasm for each project,” Elias says. “He dove into each assignment like it was the most exciting thing he had ever encountered. It’s that kind of enthusiasm that made him a special student.”
Elias adds that she wasn’t surprised that Roth went on to such success with his diploma.
“The Multimedia program gives students a broad range of skills and understanding, and we hope that our graduates hone those skills by either furthering their education or finding the right fit in the industry,” Elias explains. “The fact that Shaun did both speaks to his curiosity and dedication, both of which were evident while he was at Lethbridge College.
Roth said he got good experience being critiqued while he was at the college and film school. “A lot of people when I was in college had a problem with getting critiqued,” he recalls. “Well, my whole job now is about getting critiques. I’ve had directors yell and scream and cry in front of me. You need to have a thick skin and let go of the work. In this industry, you have to check your ego.
“At the end of the day it is still the director’s film,” he says. “You are part of a multimedia team. Yeah, we’re artists, but it’s still not our show. It’s the director’s show.”
And Roth plans to enjoy his part in creating that show – crafting whatever wonderful worlds he imagines in his mind and then transferring them to the big screen.