Former Swan Valley resident now mingles with Hollywood elite Featured

Published on Monday, 23 January 2023 15:55

I suppose it’s true that when you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you end up among the stars. Not that I would consider what former Swan Valley resident Brett Madill does for a living to be ‘missing’ anything, considering that with the application of an evolving skillset and a little luck of being in the right place at the right time, he has ended up on film sets with some of Hollywood’s elite talent.
Notably, Madill served as visual effects technician on the set of A Man Called Otto, a film currently in theatrical release starring Tom Hanks about a grumpy man who meets someone that turns his life around. The production is just the latest in what has become a long list of high-profile projects since Madill entered the entertainment industry. Madill, son of recent Swan Valley exports David and Elaine Madill, is a 2001 graduate of the SVRSS and went on to
get two previous Bachelor’s Degrees from the University of Manitoba before switching course and taking a Creative Communications Diploma from Red River College in 2013. “When I went to Red River College, I didn’t even know you could study visual effects (VFX) in college,” said Madill, who graduated from the program in 2015 with a media production major. “Creative Communications was integral to helping me develop the skills, mindset, determination, motivation and opportunity that led to the career I now have.”
Madill’s final Creative Communications internship was at a VFX studio in Toronto — Spin VFX – and has been in Toronto ever since.
“I was in the right place at the right time with the right attitude and aptitude to be offered a full-time position during that internship,” said Madill. “I started as a rotoscope/prep artist and learned almost everything I know about
VFX from the artists I worked with and work I was doing. “After about a year or so, I was able to learn enough trust with my company to begin going on set occasionally.” Madill has since moved on from the original studio he worked
for and now works for WeFX, heading up the On Set Department, and is an IATSE 667 union member as VFX On Set Supervisor and Lead Data Wrangler. 
“As VFX On Set Supervisor, I execute the VFX plan on the day of shooting,” said Madill. “I communicate with the Director, Director of Photography, Script Supervisor and other department heads to ensure that the needs of each VFX setup are met, and troubleshoot when unexpected issues arise during a shoot day — which happens quite often. 
“When I am on set as Lead Data Wrangler, I’m recording the specifications of each camera setup, shooting a halfdozen different types of reference photographs, and using a LiDAR scanner to capture scans of the environment. I
do quite a bit of LiDAR scanning, which uses a laser surveying tool to take millions of measurements per minute in 360 degrees, allowing me to create an accurate digital model of a shoot location or set. I’ve been everywhere from
a haunted old west jailhouse to deep space.”
His talents were taken on the road to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he shot A Man Called Otto with Tom Hanks. The film was also shot in and around Toledo, Cleveland and Niagara Falls. “I interacted with Tom Hanks a number of
times in the course of performing my duties, and it may not shock you to learn that he’s charming, funny and a great actor,” said Madill. “It was an amazing and irreplaceable experience to work with Tom, Rita Wilson and their son Truman all on this film.”
Madill’s movie and television credits are numerous since 2015, with the full list appearing on his IMDb page. “From 2015-2021, I put a lot of time and energy into The Expanse, both on set and on the computer,” he said. “I
learned so many valuable lessons from that show.” Other major highlights of his career include recent shows like Stranger Things, What We Do in the Shadows, See, The Umbrella Academy, The Handmaid’s Tale, Reacher, and She-
Hulk: Attorney-at-Law. 
And, while the jobs on a film set or in postproduction can often be demanding and long, Madill loves his job. “I am positive and full of gratitude,” he said. “The hours on set or in the VFX studio can be long, but you’re all in it
together. “I often still find it hard to believe that I get to do this for a living. My life has become very satisfying, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. “I am inspired by the head of the WeFX studio, Mo Ghorbankarimi, and the fantastic quality of the VFX produced by the entire WeFX team,” Madill continued. “I am inspired by good storytelling, and by John Carpenter, Jaws and Jurassic Park. “I continue to be curious about filmmaking. I love to learn about
everyone else’s job on set and try to absorb as much as I can.” 
Most importantly, Madill encourages Swan River’s future filmmakers that it is possible to make it in the movie industry. “I didn’t believe it was possible to have an actual career in film/TV when I was growing up in Swan River,” he
said. “I’d like the youth growing up in Swan River to know that it is reachable.
“Winnipeg has a lot more production now than it used to. You don’t even have to leave Manitoba to get started.” 
A Man Called Otto is currently in theatres and is scheduled to play at 7 p.m. at the Star City Cinema on Jan. 27 and 28 as well as Feb. 1 and 2.

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