Updated: Friday, 19 Mar 2010, 6:41 PM CDT
Published : Friday, 19 Mar 2010, 6:14 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Greg Omelchuck is one of three partners in a small Austin animation and special effects group called Moontower VFX.
You would think a guy like that would be a SXSW veteran, and Omelchuck has been to the film festival, just more or less, for the fun of it. This year, though, he and fellow Moontower owners Ray Pena and Raina James agreed to take the proverbial poison.
"It's hard to get people to go to your Web site and look at your demo reel; I don't know why, but it is difficult," said James. "And so when you can kind of come up and, 'Here's my demo, right here; you have to watch it because I'm standing in front of you.' And then they go, 'Oh, that's good.'"
The trio hit the festival hard, working potential contacts at parties, in halls of the convention center headquarters, wherever they could find people willing to listen. When they did discover someone with time and interest enough to stop, that demo reel was a potent force.
"We've been growing with the industry and we've got our skill set high enough now that we feel that we can compete with the big boys," said Omelchuck.
In fact, Pena has worked shoulder to shoulder with the big boys. Through informal networking with friends, he landed a gig in Los Angeles, working on the animation crew for the newly-released Alice in Wonderland.
"You know, Tim Burton, it was nice to see that he hand-picked some of my shots to be used in the film," said Pena.
So when the demo reel appeared on an iTouch at a SXSW party, eyes widened.
"When we show someone our reel, their first reaction is, 'You worked on Alice,' you know, 'you worked on that but I'm talking to you. How is that possible?" said James.
Moontower also worked on a "bumper" that was featured before most of the movies screened in the SXSW Film Festival. The short chronicles the adventures of a young woman who disregards the advice of her mother and goes for a walk, only to be attacked by all manner of beasts, zombies and unruly whatevers. Just as she is about to be swallowed by a shark, the words, "Stay home; watch movies," appear on the screen. The bumper brought even more attention to Moontower.
The goal is to land bigger and bigger jobs with the "big boys," until Pena, Omelchuck and James become "big boys (and girl)." Already Pena's name appears "at the end" of the Alice credits, a testimony to Moontower's growing heft in the computer graphics world.
"When you do see large films like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland," said James, "you forget that it's not computers making these things; it's people making them."