FAN FILM FRIDAY: Interview with Martin Gamal of VFX SR.

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A few weeks back, a showreel (a video artist's portfolio) was posted to a restricted channel on youtube. Somehow it got out and quickly went viral. It's quite a bit longer than the typical showreel, so feel free to jump around:

I managed to get hold of the man behind it, Martin Gamal. Join us after the jump.


Church H. Tucker: Give me a little background about yourself. Where did you grow up, and what schooling have you had?

Martin Gamal: Well, my name is Martin Gamal Alfy. I'm about 17 years old and just a so normal guy. I grew up in Cairo, Egypt. If you mean ordinary school, I'm now in second year in high school as it's called here in Egypt (secondary stage school.) But about VFX schooling? I've got none!

CHT: What got you interested in doing visual effects?

MG: What got me interested? Three things:

First, I'm a huge fan of all directors developing and depending on VFX like James Cmeron, Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and of course Michael Bay. I enjoy it the most in theatres when I'm seeing amazing eye-popping breath-taking VFX!

Second, in my opinion I never saw an Egyptian movie depending on VFX, so-called VFX-driven, so one of my dreams is making the first Egyptian VFX-driven movie.

Third, I have always wanted to see more things in movies, you know, like seeing more of the battle in Spielberg's War of the Worlds or more meteors in Armageddon and more T-Rex in Jurassic Park, so I decided to learn and do VFX to bring my imagination to life bring my imagination to life to be able to see and make others see what I always wanted to watch in movies.

CHT: What kinds of software did you use for your showreel?

MG: Maya, AfterEffects, Sony Vegas Pro, Photoshop, and Particle Illusion.

CHT: How long have you been working with that software?

MG: Well, first I want to make something clearer. That's been making a lot of confusion as a lot of people were saying that I improve very slowly due to the time (date) stamps in my showreel, which show two years passing with little improvement. But the main problem is that people think I practise visuals like two hours daily or something which is wrong. Here in Egypt daily life is busy, so busy, so there are whole months that pass without doing visuals, so in my reel when two months pass there might be only two hours of practicing VFX. If I really practiced for two years I think I would make a Transformers movie. That being said, I can tell you that I began using AfterEffects a year and a half ago, and started Maya about a year ago, I think.

CHT: Where did you learn how to use them?

MG: I learned to use them from two sources; online tutorials and, believe it or not, from movies' "making ofs" to which I'm addicted.

CHT: So, why did you decide to put together a showreel?

MG: I'm more into editing than into VFX, which shows why a lot were saying the music is epic while the VFX ain't that good. Actually, I never thought about putting it out to get a job but I had some epic music and at the same time I wanted to show my progress in VFX and maybe get some advice on how to be better... I know my VFX isn't that great, but when I added the epic music I found that maybe the VFX aren't that good but that was a hell of a GREAT MAD ENTERTAINING VIDEO!

CHT: I have to agree with that.

How did you find it had become so popular?

MG: Two ways. I wanted to watch the new Transformers so I googled "Transformers" and I got a site talking about my reel and saying I'm going to be making Egypt's Transformers movie and I was shocked!

And, of course, seeing my showreel having 250,000 views and being the world's most-viewed showreel.

CHT: Do you have any idea how it got noticed? The earliest post about it I could find was this one. (Which credits a 'Sachar' for the tip.) Any idea who 'Sachar' is?

MG: Actually, I am dying to know who first noticed and shared it as I'd like to make any new videos of mine—if they have the same mad entertainment—also popular! I have no idea who Sachar is, but involving my name next to Spielberg?! Well, I like that Sachar guy!

CHT: What did you think of the attention you attracted?

MG: Well, at first I got angry and sad as there was a lot of trolling, but when I rethought it I found that my video did its job in such a great way as everyone was saying that they couldn't stop watching the whole thing and judging the VFX differs from judging the video and I knew how not so good my VFX were before putting it up but my video, whether having good VFX or not... it is so attractive and entertaining AND madly funny, which I think is the reason it got popular.

CHT: Did you get helpful feedback from anyone?

MG: Yes, a lot actually, as among the trollers there were huge helpers! But real life feedback? No, I don't think so. I actually got no feedback at all in real life whether good or bad.

CHT: Have you seen this?

And what do you think of it?

MG: Yes, I saw it. Actually it's great—not the video itself, but the idea that someone liked my video and was inspired by it, and that others are also watching it which means some guys really liked the so-called Martin Gamal Style!

CHT: What are your plans going forward? Are you going to continue working on your effects?

MG: My plan depends on a machine I invented inside me called The Convertor. The idea is to publish the worst, get a lot of negative feedback (accompanied by a lot of ideas and criticizing and trollers.) This machine lets me mix those elements to form some really great, better stuff (which happened to me in editing too, actually, I have another channel on YouTube about editing—can't tell you the name—and it began with a video having 60 dislikes and zero likes and a lot of people are praising my work now and the channel is a success!) So yes, of course I am going to do more effects this time. I'll try to make it 100x better and I hope I can make it at least 5x real and actually have 1000x more MAD ideas in mind for my next showreel, but to show them to people my VFX talents should be developed, so that I'm learning more, doing my best, and most important LEARNING FROM MY MISTAKES AND GETTING EXPERIENCE!

CHT: That's a great attitude, and I wish you luck going forward. Thanks for talking to us, Martin.

MG: It was really nice talking to you. I hope next time we talk will be when I make a blockbuster movie.

CHT: I look forward to that.


You can follow Martin at his new website.

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