Coquitlam man nabs Emmy win
Coquitlam's Thomas Schelesny has done a lot in his 20-year career, starting out as an animator and slowly working his way up to the well-known visual effects pro he is today.
He has worked on productions for the small screen (The X Files, Doctor Who and American Gothic, among others) and the big screen (Men in Black 2, The Matrix Revolutions, Enchanted and many more), not to mention racking up credits as a writer and director.
But it was the moment on Aug. 16, sitting in a Los Angeles theatre, when his name was announced as the winner of an Emmy award that has Schelesny living in a surreal blur.
"The whole things is crazy," he said while at work at the Vancouver-based Scanline VFX. "I feel like I was shot out of a cannon."
Schelesny was part of the team that won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Special and Visual Effects for the Game of Thrones season four finale, called "The Children." Much of Schelesny's work was on a sequence of scenes when the White Walkers emerge out of the ground to attack Bran and siblings Jojen and Meera Reed.
A Centennial secondary grad, Schelesny moved to Berkeley, Cal. in the mid-1990s to work as an animator under his "childhood guru," the multiple Academy Award-winning Phil Tippett.
"My goal was to go for a year to learn what I have to learn and then I'd be ready to take on the world," Schelesny said. "Fourteen years later, I was still there. It didn't take long to realize I knew nothing about animation and nothing about filmmaking."
Along the way, he also realized there was a lot to learn about storytelling as well, so he began working with other directors and on his own, both directing and screenwriting, to hone his craft.
Now, he draws on those storytelling skills and his understanding of the filmmaking process from beginning to end to craft visual effects that are not only dazzling to see but also add essential information to the story.
Schelesny came back to Coquitlam nearly a year ago to work for Scanline, a visual effects company known for accomplishing the "holy grail" of visual effects — mastering the art of creating massive bodies of realistic-looking water. In addition to the Emmy-winning episode 10 of Game of Thrones, Schelesny also worked on episodes two, five and nine.
(Schelesny admitted to not watching the series before he started working on it but has since watched all but the last two episodes — though it's safe to say he already knows what happens.)
"Anyone who watches the show knows there's a black cloud over everybody, that 'winter is coming,'" Schelesny said. "It tends to be snowing in a lot of these scenes but I guarantee you it wasn't snowing in most of those shots."
Besides the visual effects work itself, one of the most challenging aspects of working on the beloved series was simply meeting the demanding schedule.
"Game of Thrones is not a TV series, Game of Thrones is 10 one-hour movies a year," Schelesny said. "The standards under which they work are feature-film quality. There's an enormous amount of preparation put into that level of work to fit it into a constricted production schedule.
"But success is infectious. When you come on to a TV show like this, which is crazy successful, it really helps everybody to step it up because you do not want to spoil it. The standards are out of this world."