Behind the Scenes with Thomas Mouraille

Published on 24 January 2024

Susie Kleis LinkedIn Project Manager at Wētā FX

Thomas Mouraille, Lead Matte Painter and Environment Generalist, joined Wētā in 2016 and has become a part of the Wētā family.

Can you tell us about your background?

I graduated from ArtFX school in France in 2006, and got my first job as a Generalist TD in Paris at Mikros Image (now rebranded MPC/The Mill). After 2 years working on commercials, I got introduced to Matte Painting on the French movie 'Paris 36', where I had the opportunity to learn from one of the most talented Matte Painting Supervisors, Christophe "Tchook" Courgeau.

I joined MPC London in 2010, to start working on the 'Harry Potter' franchise. I stayed there for a few years, perfecting my workflows and crafting techniques, but also gaining experience in leadership. In 2016, I got an opportunity to join Wētā FX, and here I am.

Why did you join Wētā FX?

I remember the first time I watched 'The Lord of the Rings', back in the days when I was in college, and being stoked by the visuals. It definitely left a deep impression on me. Later 'Avatar' and 'Planet of the Apes' came out and raised the bar further, redefining industry standards in visual effects. Being able to join Wētā FX was more than an opportunity for me, it was a privilege.

Can you summarise your role in one sentence?

As a Lead Matte Painter/ Environment Generalist, I am responsible for the creation of digital environments using the most appropriate workflow for the task in order to efficiently achieve the best result possible.

What is your favourite part about your role?

I actually love the diversity of the tasks. All the shows have different requirements: they cover a range, from planet-size robots to various large landscape and city environments. Each show brings new challenges to overcome.

What are your favourite Wētā shows?

I actually have 3 favourite shows, each of those feel very special to me for different reasons.

The first one would be 'Game of Thrones - Season 8'. I am a big fan of the novels and the TV series. Being able to work on the last chapter was a truly exciting passion project in a way. I had the chance to work on some shots with all the famous landmarks of the series such as Kings Landing, Winterfell, and Dragonstone.

The second one was 'Black Widow'. The Gulag environment was a challenging sequence and forced me to develop new workflows which I am still using nowadays.

The last one is 'Eternals'. It was the first time I had the opportunity to work on a large-scale creature, it was so gigantic that it was considered to be a whole environment.

What advice would you give to young people starting out in VFX?

Be passionate and stay curious. Keep learning something new each week: working in the visual effects industry is a never-ending learning marathon.

Also, make sure to practice physical activity as often as you can, as digital artists sit on a chair for 10-12 hours on a daily basis.

What do you like about working at Wētā?

More than the shows you work on, I believe that the people you work with are for me the most important thing. I feel lucky to be part of a department which has a genuine team player spirit and kindness. We do our best to cross pollinate knowledge, skills, and enable artists to pick up challenging tasks and support them to achieve their goals. This is precious, and we always do our best to preserve this healthy dynamic.

Name your 3 favourite things to do outside of work?

I try to get the most of proper quality time with my family and kids, and enjoy what Wellington has to offer: walks in natural reserves, picnics to the beach, city, you name it, Wellington has it all.

I love surfing and never imagined I would have the chance to live and work close to the ocean. I was stoked when I discovered there was a surf spot only 5 minutes from the office. I try to go there as often as I can and when the right conditions kick in.

Finally, I enjoy boxing. I realized it is such a great way to relieve stress while learning new skills and practicing cardio at the same time.

What do you love most about living Wellington?

Wellington has so much to offer if you like outdoor activities. You have easy access to the ocean, mountains but also to the city. I want to emphasize how easy it is to travel from the beach to the city, or from the city to the mountains and go for a quick walk.

We tend to forget about the human-size aspect of this city. From my point of view, it has most of the advantages of a big city without the inconvenience, which makes Wellington quite unique.

How do you stay inspired?

I usually get my inspiration from novels: sci-fi and medieval fantasy mostly. The inspiration you get from them fuels your imagination to craft unique visuals around it.

I believe that travelling contributes a lot to building up our visual library. New Zealand offers a wide range of majestic and iconic places you can be inspired from.

Also, the vibrance and saturation of the skies create unique lighting scenarios, something we don't find easily elsewhere.

Finally, a bit classic but nevertheless true: studying pieces from the Old Masters and visiting museums still remain the greatest way to stay inspired when you need it.

-Thanks Thomas!