February 1, 2023

I suppose it’s true that if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll end up among the stars. Not that I mean what former Swan Valley resident Brett Madill does for a living to “miss” anything considering that with the application of his developing skills and a bit of luck, he’s found the right one Time to be in the right place ended on film sets with some of Hollywood’s elite talent.
Notably, Madill served as a visual effects technician on the set of A Man Called Otto, a film currently opening in cinemas starring Tom Hanks, about a grumpy man who meets someone who turns his life upside down. The production is just the latest in a long line of high-profile projects since Madill entered the entertainment industry. Madill, son of recent Swan Valley exports David and Elaine Madill, graduated from the SVRSS in 2001 and went on
I received two previous bachelor’s degrees from the University of Manitoba before switching courses in 2013 and pursuing a Creative Communications Diploma from Red River College. “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 major in media production. “Creative Communications has helped me develop the skills, mindset, determination, motivation and opportunity that have led to my current career.”
Madill’s last internship in Creative Communications 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 and had the right attitude and aptitude to offer a full-time position during this internship,” said Madill. “I started out as a rotoscopy/prep artist and learned almost everything I know
VFX from the artists I’ve worked with and the work I’ve made. “After about a year I was able to trust my company enough to go on set every now and then.” Madill has since moved away from the original studio where he worked
and now works for WeFX, leading the On Set department and being an IATSE 667 union member as VFX On Set Supervisor and Lead Data Wrangler.
“As the VFX On Set Supervisor, I execute the VFX plan on the day of the shoot,” Madill said. “I communicate with the Director, Director of Photography, Script Supervisor and other department heads to ensure the needs of each VFX setup are met, and troubleshoot when unexpected issues arise during a day of shooting – which is fairly common.
“When I’m on set as the lead data wrangler, I record the specs of each camera setup, take half a dozen different types of reference photos, and use 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 readings per minute in 360 degrees, which allows me to create an accurate digital model of a shooting location or set. I’ve been all over
a haunted house from the old west into space.”
His talent blossomed on the way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he filmed A Man Called Otto with Tom Hanks. The film was also shot in and around Toledo, Cleveland and Niagara Falls. “I’ve spoken to Tom Hanks a few times
times in the course of my duties, and it may not shock you to know that he is charming, funny and a great actor,” Madill said. “It was an amazing and priceless experience working with Tom, Rita Wilson and their son Truman on this film.”
Madill’s film and television credits have been numerous since 2015, with the full list appearing on his IMDb page. “From 2015 to 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 this show.” Other major highlights of his career include current shows such as Stranger Things, What We Do in the Shadows, See, The Umbrella Academy, The Handmaid’s Tale, Reacher and She-
Hulk: Lawyer.
And although the jobs on the film set or in post-production can often be exhausting and tedious, Madill loves his job. “I’m positive and full of gratitude,” he said. “Hours on set or in the VFX studio can be long, but you’re really into it
together. “I often still find it difficult to believe that I can do this professionally. My life has become very satisfying and I am enjoying it quite a bit. “I’m inspired by the head of the WeFX studio, Mo Ghorbankarimi, and the amazing quality of the VFX produced by the entire WeFX team,” continued Madill. “I’m inspired by good storytelling and by John Carpenter, Jaws and Jurassic Park. “I remain curious about filmmaking. I like to learn about it
the work of everyone else on set and try to capture as much as possible.”
Most importantly, Madill encourages future Swan River filmmakers that it’s possible to make it in the film industry. “Growing up in Swan River, I didn’t believe it was possible to have a real career in film/television,” he says
said. “I want the youth growing up in Swan River to know it’s achievable.
“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 cinemas and is scheduled to hit the Star City Cinema on January 27th & 28th and February 1st & 2nd at 7pm.


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