UPDATE: Wow, reddit! This was really fun for me. Thank you for all your interest, questions and comments. It's time for me to get back to work now, but if you'd like to follow me on social, I'm @FonHDavis on Twitter and @fonhdavis on Instagram. Hope to see you again soon!

In my 20-year career, I've worked on more than 30 feature films, including Interstellar, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Starship Troopers, Galaxy Quest, Elysium and the Matrix series. In addition to visual effects, I've worked on several stop motion projects including The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline.

I'm also a judge on Battlebots, which just aired on Science Channel.

Proof: https://twitter.com/FonHDavis/status/923579639921913856

This is a my first AMA. Go ahead and ask me anything!

Comments: 727 • Responses: 65  • Date: 

mistersavage2020 karma

Fon, you don't look a single day older than when I met you almost 20 years ago. WTF?

fonhdavis1129 karma

Hey Adam!!! Thanks for the kind words. I may not look older, but I am feeling it. LOL! You look great too!

dc-vm96 karma

Some people get all the luck! Did you two work together on anything, or was it just a meeting due to your professions? u/fonhdavis can you shed some light?

fonhdavis223 karma

Adam Savage, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci and I all worked together on several great movies at the ILM model shop. There are some great pictures of us together and a pretty fun BTS short called "Dig This" in the Matrix Revolutions boxed set featuring very young Adam and I. LOL!

fonhdavis147 karma

We are all still friends and occasionally work together on shows like Battlebots, White Rabbit, etc.

sharkweek247767 karma

Fellow VFX artist here. How do you deal with burn out? After 10 years the industry has me feeling pretty hollow and used.

fonhdavis904 karma

I get it. I have seen a lot of burn out with my work colleagues. I feel like balance and perspective is the key to not getting burned out. First take care of your health. Eat right and get that cardio. Spend quality time with friends who make you laugh. Do not get obsessed with how the industry is "treating you". Do it and love it or don't do it. Really make the best of every situation and stay solution oriented. Don't become the jaded one, become the one that makes everyone laugh.

Iritis270 karma

What was your favorite movie to work on and why?

Least favorite?

fonhdavis440 karma

That's tough one! My favorite changes with my mood, but I'd say Nightmare Before Christmas, the Star Wars series, Galaxy Quest and Starship Troopers ore my top 4, mostly because I still enjoy watching them and they were fun to work on.

ahab_120 karma

You should have followed that up with Would you like to know more?

fonhdavis193 karma

The only good bug, is a dead bug!!!

DimaSusinVoronezh19 karma

Is there movie you would like to work on? Thank you for time

fonhdavis97 karma

I really want to work on a Godzilla and Tron movie!

Art_7s238 karma

Where should someone like me who is interested in VFX go to get started? I’m currently in high school, and we don’t have any classes that offer anything that could be of use to me. I’ve been doing amateur 3D work in Cinema 4D for a few years but this is just a hobby as of now, and I’d like to learn more.

fonhdavis374 karma

They have great classes on the Stan Winston School website, Gnomon and I have educational DVDs on Amazon. My advice, study like your a sponge and start creating projects. Build a portfolio of the best quality work you can do and never stop trying. Never stop learning and challenging yourself. This industry is always changing and you have to change with it. If you work hard and you're nice to people, you will get the jobs.

TurtlesWillFly144 karma

How do you feel when people complain about visuals like CGI being lackluster despite a lot of hard work being put into most of it?

fonhdavis284 karma

I understand why people are down on certain VFX in movies. They bother me too, but I also understand that most of the time bad VFX come from challenging budgets or deadlines and are not usually the artists. atv my end I just try to push for better solutions like combining practical with CGI.

regeya140 karma

I think it's funny how there are specific scenes in Episode 1 where people complain about the bad CGI, and then it turns out that they're complaining about an actual model.

fonhdavis174 karma

There is a great documentary called the Prequels Strike Back that addresses that.

almondparfitt140 karma

Hi Fon, could you talk about the process for creating the bookshelves/multiple timelines scenes for Interstellar? One of my favorites. Thanks!

fonhdavis238 karma

I wish I could. I worked on the miniatures unit for Interstellar at New Deal Studios. We created many of the spacecrafts and blew things up for the movie. I love blowing things up!!! LOL!!!

QCSsucksass102 karma

Did you always want to work in the movie industry? What pulled you to the VFX department?

fonhdavis185 karma

Yes, in my mind I will do this to the day I die. I love my work. I was originally drawn to it when I saw the Star Wars BTS specials. I saw model makers working on the movie, and thought, that's a job?! I want that job!!!

elliotm150468 karma

Hey Fon! What is, in your opinion, the perfect Battle bot?

fonhdavis108 karma

personally, I think the best Battlebot achieves a balance between destructive power and style. I like when they have a personality, and don't care for robots that just shove and pin their opponents. Professionally as a judge, I have no opinion, I just follow the rules. Luckily the newest rules also favor destruction!!!

krystynlo59 karma

It looks like you worked on Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. What did you do on those films?

fonhdavis119 karma

I created miniatures and prop restoration on the Star Wars Special Editions. Loved it! I grew up on those movies and then got to work on them.

Tugbeasttrapper19 karma

Hello! Were you able to keep some of those miniatures? Because if you’re as nerdy as I am, I’d showcase them in my living room...

fonhdavis78 karma

We were not allowed to keep any Star Wars miniatures, but they are in a better place. They go on tour around the world for people to enjoy. I do on the other hand build my own models and display them at home and office. I did get some fun stuff from other movies too. Just not Star Wars.

SHiRKiT44 karma

What was the funniest moment in all those years?

fonhdavis174 karma

There were so many!! I have worked with some really funny people. Grant Imahara and I used to work in the same CAD room with several others at ILM and we joked constantly. When Grant left for Mythbusters everyone in the room decided that I became 18% more funny, due to not having Grant to contrast my humor.

TheRealNezquik38 karma

Hello Mr. Davis, fan of your work and projects. If I could ask, what ever happened to Mouser Mecha CatBot?

fonhdavis42 karma

Thanks! Mouser retired after the Comedy Central Battlebots went off the air. Since the new show has no lightweight category, Mouser is not likely to come back.

tulitapepsicola28 karma

Most underrated bot from the reboot of battlebots or one rule you would change?

fonhdavis37 karma

Judging from comments on Twitter, I'd say Chomp is the most underrated. Its an unusual design and looks a little awkward, but take a closer look at the design and it's quite brilliant.

KingCantona77726 karma

Can you describe your perfect sunday?

fonhdavis73 karma

It depends on how much I have been working, but in general I really enjoy a good brunch out with mimosas, followed by watching movies and playing video games with friends and my girlfriend.

...when I had one. LOL!

practicaldad26 karma

What was your most memorable project?

fonhdavis90 karma

The one project that stands out for me is not what you'd expect. It was the Brisk Machete commercial with Danny Trejo. Designing the big mechanical gags in to that set was challenging in the best possible way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onZy29z3jso

mekisko23 karma

Hi, Mr. Davis. Can you tell us what were your responsibilities on Starship Troopers? I have a special place by my heart for this movie because I grew while watching it. Don't know if and how hard it was to do visual effects on it but I'm still loving all those effects(and the whole movie)

fonhdavis36 karma

I was a lead model maker in the ILM model shop. I helped build, paint and do stage support for many of the space miniature in the movie, including the lunar ring, lunar ring tunnel, space dock, and some of the Rodger Young models. There were many hour of overtime to achieve the scope of that movie. I loved every second!!!

Benivav16 karma

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my all time favorites. How much hard work/time did it take to make the VFX so seamless.

P.S. How was it working on with Chris pratt? P.P.S good job an keep it up!

fonhdavis27 karma

I only worked on the VFX elements at New Deal studios for Guardians and never had contact with Chris or any of the live action departments. We did however get to soak, burn and blow up a lot for the movie.

BernieNator12 karma

Hi Fon! What got you into VFX?

fonhdavis28 karma

I was always drawn to creating things and solving problems. As soon as I discovered I could do that for a living, I set my sights on VFX as a career. It was 7 years old when I decided to pursue specifically miniature VFX. At age 25 I was in the ILM model shop living my dream. I had to create new dreams and now run my own production studio in Los Angeles. What a journey it has been.

Slingwadder12 karma

Would you ever consider building a new Mouser Mecha-Catbot? Or maybe a heavyweight version for the new Battlebots?

fonhdavis14 karma

I have considered building a new Battlebot, but not Mouser. I'd want to do something new that no one has seen before, but I really love judging on the new show and don't actually miss the fighting.

djhouston12 karma

Hey Fon !!! When and how did u receive your big break ?

fonhdavis32 karma

It happened gradually, but looking back I'd say it was getting hired to work on Nightmare Before Christmas. It was my first feature film and an incredible opportunity to work with an amazing crew, learn and build an amazing portfolio.

JohnH55011 karma

I've listened to the Freakonomics podcast on the future of VFX/CGI.

Does it concern you that lots of these jobs are moving overseas? Have you noticed a difference in the industry since the cost-cutting outsourcing began?

Lastly, is there a difference in quality between overseas vfx and home-grown?

fonhdavis9 karma

Yes, it really stings to see so much of the work move out of California chasing incentives. The differences are enormous. Most of my work these days is in New Media because very few features shoot in the US any longer. I have adapted well to the new economy, but it is certainly much more difficult than it used to be. The quality oversees depends heavily on budget, schedule and who is running the team, more than it has to do with the location in my opinion.

Reapers6578 karma

What was your favourite effect to make on GoTG?

fonhdavis23 karma

Rocket smashing his spacecraft through another one. That was the best fire ball I have ever witnessed. So much so I did a lap shaking everyone's hands on set after watching playback. It was an exciting night shoot at New Deal Studios.

PartTimeTulsa8 karma

  1. What makes the best battlebot?

  2. What is the last thing you feel you wasted money on?

  3. How do you feel about nachos? Side question, do you feel it should be spelled nachoes?

fonhdavis16 karma

The Best Battlebot is destructive and looks cool The last thing I wasted money on was a Disneyland Annual pass, but no regrets. Be there every week. LOL! I love nachos covered in at least 4 toppings, but do not believe they should be spelled nachoes, nachose or nahchoz.

Timothy_Vegas7 karma

What visual effect are you very proud of?

Are you able to point at VFX in movies and tell 'I did that' or is it all team work?

fonhdavis14 karma

I am very proud of so many shots! I have been on over 30 feature films at this point. the Elysium Raven crash was pretty epic, the Mjolner crash in Matrix Revolutions and the exploding space station in Interstellar were also favorites. I can say I worked on that, but not I did that. Our work does rely heavily on teamwork. We get close and starts to even feel like family after enough time working together.

Ilovebattlebots6 karma

When is season 3 going to be on I what to know when season 3 of Battlebots going to be on?

fonhdavis9 karma

I don't know, but everyone should tweet how much they want to see Battle bots Season 3. #WeWantBBSaeson3

Dandelegion5 karma

Has anyone ever told you that you looked like pro wrestler Al Snow?

fonhdavis4 karma

Yes, once in this AMA and also Asian Brad Pitt on other platforms. Both are cool by me. LOL!

high455 karma

Which was your favorite set piece in any of your movies?

fonhdavis5 karma

Again its very hard to pick one all time favorite, but I do love the snow spiral hill I worked on for the Nightmare Before Christmas. Working on R2-D2 is always fun! Restoring the original Star Wars and Star Trek props was awesome in a nostalgic way.

breezybaboon5 karma

I work in Stop motion animation which combines lots of practical elements created by hand or machine with the VFX world. Do you rely on any practical set pieces or props when working on your projects or is everything in the computer? Do you design the worlds or are they designed for you?

fonhdavis7 karma

Yes, we use a lot of practical elements, as often as we can actually. My team and I often build worlds, but also work in the world other create.

Robbityy3 karma

What different backgrounds do the people you work with come from? I mean did they all study something VFX related or did they come into the industry later?

fonhdavis3 karma

There are a surprising number of industrial designers that work in practical effects. The majority are from film, vfx or art schools.

KDOGTV3 karma

Director here.

What advise do you have for directors working with visual effects artists?

I have a huge respect for your craft as it's essentially one that, when done well, is overlooked or not noticed.

fonhdavis11 karma

My favorite director technique for VFX is done in 3 steps while always focusing on the story telling.

  1. Shoot everything you can full size in-camera until physics, budget or schedule prevent it.
  2. Then shoot everything you can using miniatures until physics, budget or schedule prevent it.
  3. Then use CGI till fill in the the rest.

skydart3 karma


I had to put a question mark or they remove my comment. :(

fonhdavis4 karma

Yay! Hi Chloe!!!? Hope to see you on Halloween at Scum and Villainy!?

Inestimable_Me3 karma

Hello Fon! Any news on MORAV? What became of those awesome models? Cheers, a Bay Area mecha fan

fonhdavis3 karma

MORAV was put on hold when I relocated from SF to LA, but we are developing some top secret stuff for it again now.

CrusaderKingstheNews3 karma

How do you feel about the MegaBots/Kuratas Giant Robot Duel? Did it meet your expectations or were you disappointed in its blandness?

fonhdavis4 karma

Honestly, it left me wanting more, much more! With any luck we get more! More robot fighting destruction please.

thats_bone3 karma

Hey Fon! How's it going, big fan of all the movies you mentioned.

Kind of an off the wall question, but have you ever seen or heard of any of the type of stuff Harvey Weinstein is accused of doing? I realize that world is a few levels up in the industry, just wondering that stuff trickles down into the nuts and bolts of the industry as well.


fonhdavis7 karma

Sadly many of the problems of inequality and abuse coming out in the entertainment news are widespread across our culture and not just in entertainment. Thankfully I have not witnessed much of this first hand, but I have heard numerous upsetting stories from almost all my friends, men and woman. Its a problem that needs to be addressed as a country, not just an industry.

trinitatem3 karma

Did Keanu buy you a motorcycle?

fonhdavis3 karma

No, but I got a motorcycle using my pay from the Matrix Movies and others. LOL!

The_Rolling_Take3 karma

What is it like to be such a badass?

fonhdavis3 karma

Thanks for the kind words. I won't lie, its always nice to be complimented, but at the end of the day I am really just a person like everyone else, never as cool as my social media.

fleaflyrodeo2 karma

HI THERE! I never would have thought I'd be lucky enough to see a live AMA on VFX pop up.

  1. Are VFX jobs in the film/movie industry the generally the most successful ones? What are some of the VFX related jobs outside the film/movie industry you can name that you find interesting and worth taking note of?

  2. Also, what is your thoughts and opinions on the future of VFX and the direction that is is heading in?

Thanks so much for doing this AmA!!!

fonhdavis3 karma

I think you can have success in almost any area of the industry if you are driven and kind to people, VFX included. I have know idea where VFX or even where I will be in the future. It's one of the things I like so much about it.

Your welcome, I'm glad you are here.

elijahccarlson2 karma

I want my children to get interested in robots because I think it could a fun and interesting career choice for them in the future. Do you have any suggestions on what to start them off with? They're ages 9 and 10 by the way.

fonhdavis3 karma

I'd say get them a subscription to Make: magazine and see what they show interest in.

dave66872 karma

How can we get CGI out of movies? Thanks.

fonhdavis3 karma

We don't want to do that, we jsut need to focus more on quality, story, character and a balance between CGI and practical.

edmond_dantes672 karma

Are you a Star Wars fan and if so, what was it like to work in that franchise?

fonhdavis3 karma

I grew up a huge fan of Star Wars. Working on them was interesting and different than I pictured it to be. I thought it would be nostalgic, but most of the time we were just focused on getting the work done. That being said sometimes I'd take a step back and let the 7 year old in me smile from cheek to cheek.

TheSilentTitan2 karma

hey love your work, im wondering why does it cost so much to create visual effects in movies and shows? ive heard most of a movie's/shows budget goes into creating the visual effects, why is that?

fonhdavis3 karma

It takes a very large team of people, many long hours, using expensive tools and software to do the work. It's never as easy as it looks in behind the scenes videos.

kshucker2 karma

I’ve never heard of you, but I think you look like the WWF/WWE wrestler, Al Snow. Has anybody ever told you this before?

fonhdavis3 karma

That's awesome, I have also been called the "Asian Brad Pitt" LOL! Which I love hearing! LOL!

joelfriesen2 karma

I love special effects - especially the pre-CG stuff! Thanks for making what is basically magic. I got hooked when I understood how they made the hair grow in American Werewolf in London by pulling it through a latex skin and reversing the footage.

When you were a kid, what effects impressed you the most? What movies or scenes stick out? Are practical effects going away? I've heard that there is a desire from audiences to see more practical stuff, and I hope I am correct.

fonhdavis4 karma

I was most impressed with the Empire Strikes Back, Alien and Blade Runner. I don't think practical is going away any more than actors are getting replaced with CGI. There is still a very good place for using practical effects to tell a story.

Spinymad2 karma

What is your favorite Dinosaur?

fonhdavis3 karma

Triceratops is my favorite dinosaur.

SVcross2 karma

Do you like Steak and Cheese sandwiches? Like a Barros Luco? Have you eaten one?

fonhdavis3 karma

I don't eat a lot of sandwiches, but sounds delicious right now. LOL!

GuiHarrison2 karma

Do you feel satisfied with the work you do? Do you ever think about doing something else? Have you ever suffered or witnessed abuse? Do you feel reasonable paid for the amount you work for?

Thank you so much for doing this and sorry for the many personal questions BUT: I've tried to follow this carreer for over 10 years and thought that this was my calling. Around the time of the the hole life of pi breach, that many people came forward to talk about abuse or underpayment and the fact that I couldn't land internship jobs around here that paid minimum salary (while making reasonably well as a designer and later as a programmer), I gave up on it. I'm now nearly 30 and still haven't shaken this idea from my head yet. But I would like to make a conscious decision about it.

TL;DR: I've tried this carreer for many years and "gave up" but I'm still thinking about going back in the game, but with reasonable salaries and work/life balance.

fonhdavis3 karma

I am very satisfied with the work I do and could not imagine doing anything else. I have heard many stories of abuse at other companies. I don't work for those companies. Sure, I wish I could make more money, but I am comfortable and happier not focusing on the money. I love the work I get excited to show up for every day.

AntusPantus2 karma

What do you do for fun, Fon?

fonhdavis3 karma

I love hanging out with my friends and oddly being creative, making things, just like I am at work. More specifically, movies, video games, really good food, the gym, theme parks and theme restaurants.

carcollector362 karma

Hey Fon,

Do you know if there will be another season of Battlebots anytime soon?

fonhdavis3 karma

I hope so. #WeWantBBSeason3

Agrypa2 karma

What kind of hours do you and your people put in once production starts?

How do those hours compare to the CGI folks?

fonhdavis5 karma

we try to keep 8 hour days in production, but once a production fits full speed, shoot days average 12 hours daily with the occasional crazy deadline push driving teams to work 16 to 18 hour days at times. CGI has been similar in my experience.