A still from the 2012 blockbuster Prometheus
ESCAPE Studios, in Shepherd's Bush, is one of the most respected visual effects academies in the world whose alumni have worked on some of the biggest films of the past few years. Rupert Basham speaks to CEO and founder Dominic Davenport about being at the forefront of one of London's most creative and booming industries.
FROM the darkness of space a ship emerges.
Entering a strange and etherial atmosphere it makes a rapid descent through surging cloud towards a rolling landscape of jagged rock.
Hovering above the ground, it commences its landing and touches down on this foreign world - this celestial plain in the stars.
This is of course a scene from Sir Ridley Scott's 2012 blockbuster, Prometheus, and it was made by visual effects (VFX) artists who finely tuned their skills at a specialist academy in Shepherd's Bush.
In fact if you've seen any multi-million pound Hollywood blockbuster of late, the odds are that it was worked on by the alumni of Escape Studios, in Rockley Road.
The academy trains VFX artists to create and mould the fantastic computer graphics that audiences see on screen in films, TV and commercials.
Over the last decade or so, the British film industry has enjoyed a resurgence - partly due to the attractive tax breaks on offer to filmmakers choosing to shoot in the UK but also thanks to the emergence of a world class VFX industry and a precocious boy wizard.
The Harry Potter franchise really gave British VFX artists the chance to shine and the subsequent award nominations and billion dollars worth of ticket receipts has been a validatory stamp of success for the industry.
"The growth of the industry has been pushed by four or five visual effects firms," said Mr Davenport, "the success of the Harry Potter series had a lot to do with Hollywood's confidence in the UK delivering quality VFX work.
"Because of that and the constant validation of the industry, a lot of work is done here in London. More of those projects than you might imagine."
While Disney's latest science-fiction behemoth, John Carter, might not have resonated with audiences or critics, it was a landmark for the industry as British artists truly showed their talent by creating an intricate Martian world which won plaudits even if the story didn't.
In the background stands Mr Davenport, the CEO and founder of Escape who is moulding the next generation of artists and Oscar winners.
Sixteen years ago, after graduating with a first degree and MA in Fine Art from Chelsea Art School, he was finding it difficult to get his foot in the door.
He said: "There were only a couple of companies working on VFX, and it was almost impossible to get into those.
"I had an interest in technology at the time, but it wasn't as accessible as it is now, people were writing code to draw a sphere.
"I went from company to company picking up skills, more tech understanding, learning to push software around eventually working on title sequences, commercials, films.
"Those were really the fledgling years of the VFX industry.
"My experience of entering the industry was quite long-winded and painful.
"When I had the idea of setting up a college it was driven by my experience and how to shortcut it."
Offering short but intensive vocational courses, Escape opened its doors 10 years ago at Westbourne Studios, in Notting Hill, with just two tutors and 40 students.
It didn't take long to outgrow that space so Mr Davenport relocated to its current home just a stone's throw from Shepherd's Bush Green.
Each quarter, 50 to 60 students are accepted onto courses which last in the region of 12 to 18 weeks and there are also online distance courses which run for around 40 weeks.
Whilst there they learn the history and theory of the digital process, how to work with a moving image, how to understand the software and how to build worlds and integrate into live action film.
The studios also boasts its own recruitment department to ensure students find employment in the best production houses once they leave.
Mr Davenport is keen to stress that almost anyone with an artistic eye and a thirst to learn can break into the industry.
He said: "I think the type of people that really succeed are those that have a mix of skills, an artistic eye and a slightly mathematical and engineering side to them as well.
"But the British are kind of like that, they like to build something from nothing. You have to understand the way the world works because you're emulating it.
"The industry is booming and there is a demand for talented people with the right set of skills."
To mark the 10th anniversary of Escape Studios, the first ever four-day VFX Festival was held over the weekend, with all events, including demonstrations and workshops selling out.
For more information, visit http://www.escapestudios.com/