Best Practice Representative

Best Practice Representative | Published November 24 2017

Double Negative

Three Oscar wins for Best Visual Effects since 2010. One British company. How did Double Negative achieve this level of recognition and success in the international film industry? Founded in 1998, the multiple award-winning UK company is one of the world’s leading visual effects companies, with state-of-the-art studios in London, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Mumbai and Chennai in India. Recent film work includes Dunkirk, Wonder Woman, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Captain America: Civil War and Star Trek Beyond.

From its humble origins in London almost 20 years ago to its position at the forefront of the international visual effects industry today, Double Negative has always sought to retain its founding ethos and values, ensuring that all of its projects, large and small, receive the same high standards of creative and technical service.

Here are four main elements of the company’s success:

1. Creative partnerships

A close, collaborative working relationship with the film-maker has been essential in all our most successful projects; our great successes have come when we partner with the film-maker early and throughout the project, and are able to develop a collaborative relationship that allows the visual effects process to help shape the development of the film.

On all three Oscar wins, Double Negative was either the sole or the lead visual effects partner. This collaborative relationship is an important part of our strong and continuing creative partnerships with Directors such as Christopher Nolan, Paul Greengrass, Edgar Wright, David Yates, Ron Howard and Alex Garland.

2. Company culture

Double Negative has always cultivated a highly creative, personal and supportive culture that we have sustained as we have grown. Retaining a ‘boutique’ culture as the company grows beyond 2,500 employees is difficult, but has been an essential component of our success.
Our people are driven by the inherent creative and technical challenges in the projects that we win and we give our teams the opportunity to explore and develop new ideas in the pursuit of producing outstanding work. We have always placed particular emphasis on staff development, and many of our leading artists and technicians have grown with the company, including one of our Oscar winners, who started his career with Double Negative as a runner.

3. Research and development

Our proprietary technology is the backbone of what we do, and we invest heavily in research and development to
ensure that our artists have access to the best tools in the industry. Filmmakers and studios are always looking for ways to put something new and unseen on the screen, and there is constant pressure on us to innovate, both creatively and technically.
We are proud to be the first visual effects house to publish scientific papers in leading science journals. Co-authored with leading theoretical physicist Professor Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology, the papers shared new insights into the visualisation of black holes in the universe; insights that were discovered in the course of our research team’s work on Interstellar.

4. Global expansion

Our business has expanded significantly over the last three years with new sites in North America and India. A global workforce is a pre-requisite in today’s industry, not only in terms of offering around-the-clock production advantages but also in terms of lower costs of production, tax credits and other local incentives for our clients.

We could not have built this global scale without a rock-solid technical infrastructure, allowing our teams to share work across locations, quickly move huge amounts of data around the world, and have access to the same tools and systems wherever they are working.

Considerations for the future of the creative industries in the UK

Ask anyone in the business what kick-started the British visual effects industry, and they will probably cite the Harry Potter franchise. Double Negative certainly grew on the back of working on the Potter films, as did many of our competitors, and the most successful of these companies have become truly global organisations delivering visual effects work for most of the big Hollywood film releases today.

The challenge for each of these companies is to continue producing unparalleled creative and technical work while remaining competitive. We need to build a strong visual effects community in London, so that the Hollywood studios continue to consider the UK a serious destination for this work in the face of increasing competition from Canada, India and China.

Equipping our young people with the skills that they need

The future success of the British visual effects industry is contingent on the education system understanding the needs of the creative industries, and training our next generation of artists and technicians in the artistic and computing skills that the creative industries need. A lack of awareness of job prospects in these industries at a school curriculum level is compounded by ‘specialist’ university courses that fail to equip graduates with the necessary skills. As a result, Double Negative has to train recruits ‘on the job’ or look overseas for recruits with the right skills. In addition to this, fierce competition from tech brands such as Google, Apple and Facebook makes attracting and retaining talent difficult.

If the UK creative industries are to continue to dominate the global stage we need to ensure a steady flow of high quality, suitably trained graduates with greater awareness of the opportunities 
and prospects available in this arena. We recognise our role in nurturing and developing this talent, both as a company and as an industry, and we have already helped in creating apprenticeship standards. We work with industry skills body, Creative Skillset, colleges and universities, and support the development of the NextGen Skills Academy, which works with employers to develop qualifications, training and courses in the fields of games, animation and visual effects.

Double Negative’s workplace training is part of a long-running and welldeveloped skills programme that underlies our success in the industry, and one of the best ways for young artists to learn in our business is through interaction with their peers. We need to attract the best talent in the world to the UK – both to ensure that we continue to produce groundbreaking work and to help develop our home-grown talent. The skills shortage we are facing has been recognised by the Migration Advisory Committee, an independent public body that advises government.

If we can nurture, encourage and develop this fresh infusion of creative and technical talent, both home-grown and international, we will see British success stories like Double Negative and the British visual effects industry continue to flourish.