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uMedia CEO Jeremy Burdek talks Boutique VFX and Mariah Mundi

uMedia were involved in the action-adventure, based on the series of novels by G.P. Taylor, from its inception.

Brussels-based visual effects house uFX is providing design and effects services for Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box, currently shooting in the UK. The film is a Narnia-esque action-adventure based on the first in a series of novels by G.P. Taylor. uFX’s parent company, uMedia, were involved in the film from its inception, providing a range of services, including concept development and funding through its uFund arm. ScreenTech spoke with uMedia CEO, Jeremy Burdek, about uFX’s work on Mariah Mundi.

Can you tell us about the beginnings of uFX?

Jeremy Burdek:  I am one of the three founders of uMedia, and one of its branches is uFX and overseeing uFX is one of my responsibilities. uFX has two locations, an office in Soho in London and an office in Brussels. We have around 15 fixed staff at the moment. We have a core team of artists and we can go up to about 20 artists in London and 60 artists in Brussels. Originally, uMedia was working on quite a lot of films with a London-based visual effects company called MFX (Motion FX). And because we were getting along really well with the people behind MFX, we started to have a discussion and though there might be an opportunity for a boutique vfx company based in both Brussels and London to be able to deliver a first-class experience on European projects. In Belgium we have access to a lot of French and Belgian productions, due to the financing available here in Belgium. The idea was to be able to offer those films some expertise that you could only really find in London or Paris. So we created a joint venture between MFX and uMedia and that started uFX.

And how does uFX fit in with the other services uMedia provides?

JB: Being linked to uMedia as a group means we can offer other services to producers. Not only can we provide visual effects through uFX, but we can propose projects to the other companies in the uMedia group, which include avenues for funding, production, distribution and sales.  The depth of services is something very important to us. On our current production, Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box, the reason the producers, Karl Richards and Peter Bevan, chose uFX is we have worked with them a number of times before and I think they were pretty happy with the service we delivered. In this world it’s very much about the quality of service you can offer. There’s obviously the price aspect, but I think one of the most important things is the service that you can offer to producers. That is how you build relationships and how you get repeat business. That’s something we have tried to institutionalize in uFX. Every time we finish a project, we send a survey to the producers to try to get feedback from them and so far, we’re quite proud of the feedback we’ve received.

Can you talk about uFX’s involvement in Mariah Mundi?

JB: Because we had a long history with Karl and Peter before it was a natural match for us to start with them in the early discussion about Mariah Mundi. They have both been involved with uFX from its creation and are company directors. We started very early, providing concept work and doing problem solving as early as the development stage of the film. We were very flexible with our workflow and built it around the needs of what Mariah Mundi needed.  They sent us early versions of the script and it was really a situation of open communication with the producers, giving them a breakdown and saying, “These shots are going to be really expensive. Let’s see how we can make them work in a different way, working with sfx and the art department.” We wanted to optimize the vfx budget always with the aim of getting the most production value on screen. It was, in a way, a partnership. We also did quite a lot of previsualisation work to make sure they could realize the shots and again minimize the actual vfx cost, and also avoid having to spend more in post-production to correct things. Right from the beginning there was the decision to spend the money on the vfx and on the shots where it will show the most and focus on the things that will make this film special.

Does uFX have any plans to expand beyond feature films?

JB: We work primarily on feature films, but we’re considering the possibilities of opening up into tv and advertising. Our team has about 50 years of experience in the vfx field and they have already had a lot of experience in tv, especially for the BBC in London. So it’s definitely something to explore.

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