The Reel Black List: VFX and animation guru Bilali Mack
Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is an annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity on a daily basis.
Bilali Mack was born in Accra, Ghana and raised in Windsor, Connecticut. He graduated with a B.F.A. in animation and motion media from Emerson College and has rapidly established himself as a talent to watch in the visual effects and animation space.
Bilali has honed his approach as an artist with stints at Brickyard VFX, Smoke & Mirrors and MPC, working with top directors including Mario Van Peebles, Thomas Bezucha, The Russo Brothers and Lance Acord.
Mack currently furthers his education at the forefront of animation technology through his continued involvement with SIGGRAPH. Outside of the studio, he spends his free time perfecting his street photography, taking in the latest indie film launch and strategizing his next dinner reservation.
Let’s meet Bilali!
What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
I originally wanted to be an archaeologist–only because I watched so many ‘Indiana Jones’ films growing up. I thought it was the coolest job in the world. Then I realized what I liked best was that it was fake, as well as well-made films.
How did you get into your industry?
After I got my B.F.A. in Animation and Motion Media from Emerson College, I transitioned more to the VFX space with stints in shops like Brickyard VFX, Smoke & Mirrors and MPC, and under great directors including Mario Van Peebles, Thomas Bezucha, The Russo Brothers and Lance Acord. I joined Alkemy X in early 2020 as a VFX Supervisor.
Who were your mentors?
I look up to Spike Lee as a filmmaker. As a direct mentor, I worked with a guy named Anders Beer, an animation supervisor on Shrek back in the day. He was one of the first people I interacted with who had industry experience, and I learned a lot from him.
He’s one of the people I message when I’m making a big career decision, or when I need advice. He’s probably my oldest mentor. I also played basketball in high school and college, so my coaches were like my life mentors throughout.
Getting my first film funded. My documentary was the first thing I self-funded; it was a big project, where we raised $26K from Kickstarter to fund it. It felt pretty good to say we raised money via this Kickstarter and that other people really wanted us to make it.
When I first started my career, I wanted to be a computer animation artist. I applied to Pixar, but I did not get in. I thought for sure I was going to get in. I don’t know why, but I thought I’d be a Pixar animator for life. Never working for Pixar is probably my biggest disappointment. That, and I had a chance to buy a bunch of Bitcoin at $10 a share, but I was in college and decided not to spend the money.
Name your biggest pet peeves.
When people declare their opinions as a fact. You’re allowed to have your opinion, but you can’t declare it as a fact.
Predictions for your industry over the next decade.
First, that real-time and virtual production will disrupt a big part of the filmmaking process in the next 10 years, if not the biggest part. Second, that Christopher Nolan is going to make an animated feature film.
Name a job you had that would surprise people.
I used to clean office buildings, janitorial-service style, when I was growing up with my mom. We would clean offices late at night and early in the morning before people arrived, and before my mom started her full-time job as a teacher. We did it as a startup business to make the money we thought there was to be made. We kept it up for maybe two months, waking up miserably early in the morning, before we stopped.
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