FatBelly VFX launches in Brisbane

Shannan Louis, Sally Barnett and Louise Bertoncini.

After opening in Vancouver in 2020, Fatbelly VFX has expanded to Brisbane with plans to focus on Australian projects and elevating women’s careers.

A boutique company, Fatbelly is female-owned and operated with credits that include Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Fate: The Winx Saga, Upload, and Creed III.

Fatbelly’s founder is Shannan Louis, an Australian-Canadian based in Vancouver, who serves as head of studio. Out of Brisbane, Sally Barnett is the general manager and Louise Bertoncini senior VFX producer.

The decision to expand to Down Under was in part because Louis herself is Australian, the federal and state Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) rebates, and a desire to work on Australian content.

The plan is for the Brisbane studio to work almost exclusively on local projects, and it will not necessarily share work with the Vancouver studio. Since opening doors July 3, the team have already begun work on a number of independent Australian films and an episodic project.

With studio and streamer work impacted by the US strikes, Barnett tells IF she is excited that some of the first projects to come through the studio are local indies.

“It’s super special for us to experience and really get in there. We said we wanted to work in the Australian market and it’s literally happening. I think that’s just phenomenal.”

The team in Brisbane is small so far and is looking to grow, but Louis tells IF she’s keen not to lose Fatbelly’s boutique status at the same time; staff numbers will probably max out at 20.

“We believe that’s the most amount [of people] that we want to work with to ensure that we’re running projects at projects as effectively as possible,” Louis tells IF.

Among Louis’ chief aims in creating Fatbelly was to build a visual effects company that empowers its team and has a social consciousness; the name ‘Fatbelly’ was chosen to signify that people are well taken care of, both inside and outside the studio.

In particular, Louis has made work/life balance a priority. That means taking on realistic levels of work for capacity, and allowing the team more opportunities for remote work, giving parents a chance to work from home either permanently or just a few days per week. To make this process streamlined FatBelly uses Arch Platform Technologies for its pipeline.

“Our staff are our assets; we can’t produce our work without them. Happy workers are a productive workers – we’ve all have heard that saying. If they’re strong, solid and happy, then it of course it flows up to our clients,” Barnett says.

As a female-led company, Louis is also keen to walk the talk and elevate women working within VFX into creative positions, acknowledging how male-dominated the sector is.

“It’s hard being a woman in this industry,” she says.

“What Fatbelly is really is trying to achieve on the whole, is changing the industry and making it better.”