Alana Newell, Lead Compositor

Los Angeles native Alana Newell joined RSP in 2010 for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and has most recently led the compositing team on X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Los Angeles native Alana Newell joined Rising Sun Pictures in 2010 for the production of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Since then she has applied her refined artistic touch to more than a dozen films and became a Lead Compositor on I, Frankenstein. Most recently, she served as compositing lead for the Quicksilver scene of X-Men: Days of Future Past where her team was responsible for integrating scores of CG objects and visual effects into a kitchen environment that was frozen in time.

How did a California girl end up in faraway Adelaide, Australia?
I studied art at Otis College of Design in L.A. and I began researching movies and companies in order to determine what I might want to do next. I wanted to work on a Harry Potter movie and I wanted to be amongst really creative people. Rising Sun was known for its compositors, so that caught my eye. I started out at Rhythm & Hues but as soon as I got enough experience, I applied at RSP. I was hired and started on a Harry Potter film, so I got my fix.

Where your friends and colleagues surprised by your decision?
It was a shocker! I hadn’t had plans to travel the world, but when everyone else began saying, “I’m going to London,” I thought, “No, I’m going to Australia!” Leaving home was scary at first, but Adelaide is great and I fit in just fine.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Yes. My parents knew I was artistic and they pushed me into a lot of extracurricular activities to do things that I loved. Both my parents are accountants, and when I told them I wanted to be an artist it freaked them out a bit. They said, do something creative, but do something that has longevity. That’s what led me here. In my junior year in school, I realized it was compositing.

What do you like about compositing?
I love the problem solving. I enjoy receiving elements from other artists, compiling them and applying the finishing touch. The work we do involves things that, if they weren’t there, you’d miss them, but you might not know what was wrong. It’s the subtleties that I really enjoy.

How has your role changed since you became a lead?
A lot of it involves managing people. You want to be sure they are doing tasks best suited to their skills. Some people are more creative, others are more technical. When people are good at something, they usually enjoy doing it. The other side involves demonstrating. I set the standard for quality...for expectations. Once you become a lead, you also represent the company and its values. One thing we value at RSP is trying to be as efficient as possible so that our people don’t have to work long hours.

What have been some of your favourite projects?
I really enjoyed the Harry Potter films. They were a while ago, but they still hold a special place in my heart. The work was really creative and I enjoyed every minute. Then there was the new X-Men. That was really good because it was so challenging; it pushed our limits and we were successful.

X-Men was shot stereo and that’s always more difficult. It constrains what you can do. And, the entire scene was filled with something or other. Maintaining continuity was a big part of the challenge. For the compositing team, our job was to create compositions that were consistent and aesthetically pleasing without overwhelming the audience. We needed to let the story come through. It’s all about finding the right balance.

What do you do when you’re not sitting in front of a computer at RSP?
I started as an oil painter. Nowadays, I make flowers out of clay. That’s my hobby. I like that it isn’t the same as visual effects. It stretches my brain in a different way.

What are you working on now?
We have a lot of work that will soon be coming in. Before that hits, we are tightening up our team, the way we communicate, the way we talk, We are also adding polish and shine to our pipeline so that we can hit the ground running and spend all our time making things look good.

It sounds like you are enjoying your role.
I love my job. I love managing people and am always looking for ways to help them work better. When people are successful, they’re happy. Everyone’s happy here.