An Interview with Shauna Bryan


Shauna Bryan joined Luma early this year as our Sr. Business Development and Executive Producer of VFX.

Prior to joining Luma, Shauna was the VP of New Business and Production Executive for Sony Pictures Imageworks, as well as VP of Method Studios, Vancouver. She was among Vancouver’s first to produce high calibre visual effects for titles including, The Da Vinci Code, Blades of Glory and Angels & Demons. 

We sat down with Shauna to find out all about her exciting 25-year career in the industry, her favorite projects she’s worked on, and more. Have a read!

How did you get started in the film and visual effects industry?

I grew up doing theater, music, art and creative writing, alongside honor academic courses. Going to movies back to back, and on my own was my favorite way to decompress. When it came time to choose a career, filmmaking was a natural fit for my personality. I went to the Vancouver Film School in 1991and pounded the streets to get a job as a location PA. I did 2 years in development, 10 years in physical production, then moved into visual effects in 2003.

How did you segue into becoming a VFX producer? When you set out on your career path, did this ever cross your mind?

I never thought about being a VFX producer when I went into film. Visual effects were more optical effects at the time and there wasn’t an industry in Vancouver. I kind of accidentally fell into visual effects because I was starting to raise a family and wanted better hours than physical production provided. Once I realized how much of a storytelling tool visual effects were, and how creative of an industry it was, I was hooked.

Who were your mentors, if any, throughout your career and what did you learn from them?

I’ve had one incredible mentor in Tracey Jeffrey, a Vancouver based Line Producer I worked with for 7 years. Tracey supported me and let me have visibility and experience in all aspects of physical production. I broke down scripts, did first pass budgets and shooting schedules, helped the Executive Producers with script revisions and directed ADR at times. Tracey also allowed me to bring my children to set when they were babies and I was truly a working mom. Tracey was forward-thinking and I appreciate everything she opened up for me.

On the set of "Quarantine"
On the set of "Quarantine"
Everyone is talented, has the opportunity to grow and feels like family. It’s unique, refreshing and special.

What’s a project you’re most proud of and why?

The Da Vinci Code. I was working in a visual effects company called Rainmaker in Vancouver at the time, which was relatively unknown. To get the show, we had to go up against MPC, Dneg and Cinesite, do test work and set up a brand new facility in London. It was an amazing challenge and experience.

What project was the most challenging for you and why?

Blades of Glory. I was still at Rainmaker, it was 2006 and the technology to do full CG face replacements hadn’t really been worked out yet. We had to figure it out and set up an entirely new pipeline. On top of that, Jon Heder broke his leg during skating rehearsals, so all of the figure skating scenes were pushed by 4 months, to the end of the shooting schedule. Then audience previews started 2 months later and the studio wanted our face replacements to be at an incredibly high level so that the audience wouldn’t be taken out of the film. I’m still so proud of the film and “Blades” holds up from both a comedy point of view and a visual effects point of view today.

What’s your favourite type of film to work on and why?

Invisible visual effects that support a meaningful story, like “Jojo Rabbit”.

What made you decide to join the Luma team?

The incredible people. Luma’s founder, Payam Shohadai, has a wonderful philosophy which permeates throughout the company culture. The Luma supervisors, producers and artists hold a very high-quality bar and work as a team to reach it. As a result, everyone is talented, has the opportunity to grow and feels like family. It’s unique, refreshing and special.

Can you explain your title and what you focus on at Luma?

At the core, I bring in the work. However, to do that I have to understand the Luma team’s skillsets, limitations and future aspirations. I then take that and market it to production side visual effects teams, as well as to studio executives. Once a show comes in the door, I need to support the Luma producers, so that as a team we reach the client expectations for the work and get the best out of our artists while maintaining a healthy work environment. I need to be in the know on all projects and be accessible to clients so that there’s an invested team feeling from the top down. If Luma produces great work and both the clients and our artists have a positive experience, then it’s a win on all levels and I can be even more successful in attracting projects.

What’s important is the people you work with, being mindful, encouraging and working as an intentional team.

What’s your day to day like?

A lot of meetings, a lot of networking, bidding strategy, marketing strategy and project management strategy. 

What are the key skills producers need to possess in the VFX world?

Deep people skills and strategic thinking skills. A producer needs to understand how visual effects work obviously, but the people skills, strategy and the ability to pivot is what elevates a visual effect producer above the rest.

In what ways has the industry changed from when you started out to now?

Visual effects are a major component to every film. Even a small film will end up having around 300 VFX shots. The streaming distribution channels have changed the industry to a point where I’d say this is now the second golden age of filmmaking. The demand for content and the VFX/animation tools that we have now, allow for incredibly creative storytelling.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?

We’re making films, and while that’s an amazing thing to be a part of, we’re not saving lives. For me, this distinction frames the fact that what’s important is the people you work with, being mindful, encouraging and working as an intentional team. People, life and families matter. The rest is about doing your best work and having fun doing it! 

At Comic Con!
At Comic Con!