Credits: Varun Nair Credits: Varun Nair
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Varun Nair, Visual Development Artist at Illumination MacGuff

18 March 2022 Portraits
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Graduated from the the Master of Arts in Character Animation & Animated Filmmaking at GOBELINS Paris (class of 2018) Varun Nair is now a visual development artist for the famous Illumination Mac Guff studio. In 2019, he and his team won a Awards for their graduation film, Best Friend. He's currently working on graphic novel, about his childhood in Mumbai.




You are currently working as a Visual Development Artist at Illumination MacGuff, can you tell us more about your job ?

I have been working as a Visual Development Artist for three years. My job is to provide the first images of what a story moment or a location of the film could look like. I work with the art directors and directors to get a brief of what the scene should look like. They will launch me with some references, inspiration and sometimes with storyboard images to give me an idea of what I need to create. 




You and your team won the Annie Awards for your short film Best Friend in 2019, what did this victory bring you ? Did you get a lot of professionnel contact after that ?

The Annie Awards helped me to get access to producers and executives who were now interested in hearing my ideas for films. It gave me the opportunity to create a project that is currently in development at Illumination as a potential animated feature film.




Are you working on a personal project in parallel with your work at Illumination MacGuff ?

Apart from my day job I am developing a graphic novel. It's a story about nine quirky families living in an apartment building in Mumbai, roughly based on my childhood experiences growing up in India. I do not have a publisher at the moment, but will be looking for one as soon as I have a pitch document ready. I hope to finish the book in 2 years. 




Why did you choose animation ?

I have been drawing since the age of three and I have also been extremely passionate about films from a very young age. I soon realized that animation is the perfect combination of the two things that I really cared about: Art & Film.



Personal project, Varun Nair

Credits: Varun Nair 

What do you think of French animation? What are your influences ?

The films of Syvlain Chomet and the student films of the Gobelins were a great source of inspiration and influence for me. I also really appreciate the culture of comics and how it influences the animation industry in France. I think France has a pool of extremely talented artists who are one of the most significant contributors to the majority of the animated films we see worldwide, especially in the US.




Can you tell us a good memory of your years at Gobelins ?

The best memories are definitely the times I spent in the class with the other CAAF students. They were like a family and I continue to remain close friends with many of them. It was exciting to arrive in France and find a family. We all arrived from different countries, speaking fifteen different languages.The influence of this melting pot of different cultures can be seen in the films that have been made at Gobelins, since the beginning of the international course. 



Personal project, Varun Nair

Credits: Varun Nair 

What is your favorite animated movie ?

If I had to choose one, it would be My Neighbor Totoro. This film always transports me into this beautiful tiny village in Japan and reminds me to stay connected with my inner child and my curiosity.




What advice would you give to a young graduate who wants to succeed in France in animation ?

Work hard and surround yourself with people better than you. The years in Gobelins are a gift and a fantastic opportunity to any student. Especially if you come from a country which doesn't have many animation schools. Use those two years to its fullest and work your ass off.






Interview by Sophie Jean 

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