Shaina Holmes on following passion rather than the paycheck

by Lianza Reyes

March 4, 2019

Television, radio and film professor says when you’re working long hours, you should love what you do.

Shaina Holmes
Television, radio and film assistant professor Shaina Holmes

When Shaina Holmes first graduated from Ithaca College in 2001, she realized she wanted to follow a different career path than most of her peers. Instead of trying to direct, she went to work doing visual effects for Custom Film Effects in Los Angeles.

“We were a four-person department, including me, in the digital side of visual effects,” Holmes says. As the company grew, she says, she grew, taking on new roles that allowed her to learn on the job.

After 10 years with Custom Film Effects, Holmes went to New York City to work for post-production company Deluxe NY, starting out as a feature film and episodic television producer. She managed clients during the day, bringing in their footage from the set, then her team would work on the visual effects at night. It was a big difference from her first job in LA.

“From a small mom-and-pop company, I went to one of the biggest companies in the world,” she says.

During her six years at Deluxe, her roster of credits grew, including films like “Men in Black 3” and “Zoolander 2” and television series like “The Get Down” and “True Detective.”

While Holme’s résumé as a digital artist includes Academy Award winners “Chicago”and “Gangs of New York,” one of her fondest memories is working with director Michel Gondry on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

“It was the first time I worked side-by-side with a director. He would sit in the studios with my team and give us notes about our work,” she says.

After six years with Deluxe, she decided she wanted a lifestyle change, and moved upstate to teach for the new animation minor at Ithaca College. , She joined the Newhouse School last summer. She is also the CEO of Flying Turtle Post, a post-production company based in Ithaca.

In the classroom, Holmes prioritizes hands-on experience. “I’m hoping to create [an] environment that’s like a stepping stone between the industry and academics,” she says.

She says that visual effects need to be part of the production process from the initial planning stages, as the complexity of visual effects requires lots of time, attention and manpower. In the Avengers films, for example, Holmes says “one shot could [have] a thousand people working on it.”

“[Visual effects] should enhance storytelling, giving you new tricks to tell stories you couldn’t [have told] before,” she says.

Holmes specializes in visual effects script breakdown, project management and client relations. Her biggest advice for people working in visual effects, and in film overall, is to love the work you’re doing.

“You’re going to be doing this for long hours. It’s better to choose a place for the work and the people than for the money. It’s hard to have a home life, it takes dedication and the willingness to go above and beyond your job description.”

The average day for Holmes on a film or television set was about eight hours, but when a client needed something changed, those hours would increase. She says that the shift from working long hours on their own projects to trying to meet a client’s expectations can be a bit of a shock for many students after transitioning into studio jobs.

“In college, students work independently,” Holmes says. “[Later] they still work independently, but for another person’s vision.”

Lianza Reyes is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.