Walk into Cumulus VFX’s studio on any given day and you’re likely to find a member of our 40-strong team of artists creating a chalk mural on the corridor wall, the staff record player showcasing a range of music from Vivaldi, through Neil Young and up to Radiohead (and beyond!) and the shifting play of light on the surrounding riverscape providing an abundant source of creative inspiration.
The feeling of calm constancy in the studio and the quiet hum of VFX professionals at work belies the fact that just over a year ago, the space was an empty concrete box and the entire region had been devastated by unprecedented flooding.
The Covid pandemic had seen Founder, Will Gammon, recognise the opportunity offered by the NSW Government’s Regional Job Creation Fund to spur Cumulus’s next evolution; with the team successfully applying for $1M of Government co-funding to allow Cumulus to continue their re-think of the VFX working model outside of capital cities.
The company needed room to grow; and the Government co-funding was put to use in designing a purpose-built studio that allowed for an expanded crew of up to 50 artists, with a communal eating area and a pool for exercise. The stage was set, but just days before commencement of the build the destructive 2022 floods hit, leading to severe shortages of construction materials and labour, as entire crews devoted themselves to rebuilding the homes of those hardest hit.
Fortunately; like many entrepreneurs Will’s skillset draws from more than one discipline. He was able to incorporate part-time construction and project management into his suite of responsibilities, which at the time included the role of VFX Supervisor on Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis (a film which went on to win the AACTA Best VFX Award).
With Cumulus looking for ways to operate in an increasingly planet-friendly way, priority was given throughout the build to methods that enabled re-use of building materials wherever possible (diverting construction waste from landfill), and new materials that were environmentally friendly and low-toxicity.
Almost a year later, within the studio walls you’ll find the relaxed environment Will always envisioned for his studio - with Japanese design and floor to ceiling windows offering incredible views of the Richmond River and hinterland beyond, and we have recently begun putting the jewel in the crown of our facility with a state of art 4K dailies theatre.
It is less surprising that Will was able to pivot to meet the challenge presented by the flood related shortages when you consider that he founded the company 10 years ago, from humble beginnings producing visual effects with a laptop - from within his garage.
Gammon’s passion and expertise in photography, architecture and the natural environment became the inspiration to produce photorealistic CG environments and set extension. Acting on his suspicion that other VFX professionals must also be seeking a higher quality of life led to the steady recruitment of key senior staff, and strong strategic partnerships with local education providers swelled the growing company with work placements, traineeships and talented junior artists.
Over the last decade the company has weathered the hyperinflation of rent in Byron Bay, a pandemic, natural disaster and the entry of large foreign-owned VFX houses into the Australian market, and partnered with industry leading organisations to become a little regional riverside studio operating on the bleeding edge of technology and the global scale of high quality VFX for film and TV series projects.
Cumulus has undergone an evolutionary process that has seen our company grow from a one-man garage-based startup to key vendor for studios like Disney and Netflix.