Aurore De Blois View Aurore de Blois's Primetime Profile

Aurore won an Emmy for her work on Battlestar Galactica and is known for, amongst many other projects, Jack Ryan, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ben-Hur, The Shape Of Water, Rocketman and the upcoming No Time To Die and Top Gun: Maverick.

Photo by Dan Abramovici.

Aurore De Blois

Compositing Supervisor

Passion for what you do is infectious in the workplace. I am incapable of hiding that in my work and have found that artists respond to a supervisor that is not just going by the numbers or ‘phoning it in’ but has a drive that pushes the team to really accomplish something, love what they do.


I am presently in Montréal, Canada, but this is not permanent for me. Life in the VFX business is quite nomadic. It is very difficult to find a VFX shop that hires full-time permanent employees, so I have moved around far more than I wanted or expected to. It always sounds more exciting than it really is, considering that uprooting yourself every couple of years to a new city or country is financially harsh, to say nothing of the stress involved. It is much easier to find it exciting if you are younger but at my age it gets harder to get thrilled over it after the fifth or sixth relocation. The right job offer always makes me think twice though.

Montréal came about after almost 4 years in Toronto, which came after 5 years in London UK, and time in Germany, Belgium, and Los Angeles. It is sobering to think about how often I have had to change jobs and relocate but in VFX it is common to be hired for a specific film and then move on after it delivers. I have been lucky to remain at one shop or another for multiple films but that depends on how busy they are and once it slows down again, people are laid off and away you go again. Oddly enough I had just been given a full-time permanent staff position for the first time in over 20 years -but then the pandemic hit, and so that ended as abruptly as it arrived because people were let go as the post-production work was drying up. I never look forward to relocating yet again but know that when the next gig arrives for me, off I go if the job requires it. I am hoping my next move is my last and permanent one - to Sweden.


I could talk for hours on this subject. Star Trek began syndication on television when I was four years old, and that determined my life goals. I was already mad for everything to do with space exploration with the Apollo missions taking place. By the time I was about 5 or 6, I was allowed to go to the local cinema. In the small town where I was born it only played old films back in those days, probably because it was just a small hick town in the middle of nowhere and we were lucky to get any movies at all. But as children the movies they showed were ‘new to us’ and we looked forward to the three-picture, all-day Saturday matinees. So luckily enough, I grew up to the classic sci-fi adventures of the 50’s and early 60’s from George Pal and Ray Harryhausen of course, who single-handedly inspired two generations of VFX artists. I do not know many in VFX who have seen -in a cinema- the classic films that inspired them as a child, so I was fortunate.

As I entered my teens, I was eventually able to expand my cinematic experiences to include films like 2001 - a Space Odyssey and I bought a super-8 camera. I began making my own little movies, experimenting with stop-motion animation, building models, and blowing them up with home-made gunpowder… I drove my mother insane with all that, but I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Eventually I left home, went to art school where I studied colour theory, design, composition, art history and photography along with taking drawing, painting, and sculpture courses. I met a few people who worked in film and television and they were amazed that I never pursued my dream of VFX. But I was raised to believe that it was an impossible dream that only those in Hollywood can attain. I got myself a computer and a few books, taught myself a few applications, and started to do my own work. Eventually I broke into Saturday morning cartoons, of all things. It was easy work to get at the time, but I wanted live action work in movies. But I could not get that without demonstrating experience in it, so I began making my own material to show. After a few years I started getting direct-to-DVD movie work and loved it, even though they were movies nobody would know about. Along came Battlestar Galactica, and my life changed.


Absolutely! During my early efforts to start my career in VFX, I was introduced to Doug Drexler- who is quite well known for his long-standing and eminent award-winning career in special effects and VFX. When we were introduced online through a mutual friend, Doug was still part of Star Trek and its many sequel series. I was thrilled to meet someone of his background who was a big part of Trek. But I was always too timid to contact him regularly in fear that I would make a pest out of myself, so I kept the communications very limited despite an insatiable desire to talk his ear off constantly.

One day, 2 years later, the telephone rang and this gruff New York accent complains how he has no idea how to pronounce my name- and somehow, instinctively I knew it was Doug. He was in Vancouver and wanted to introduce me to Gary Hutzel; VFX supervisor on Battlestar Galactica. He was building an in-house VFX team and I was the one Doug insisted on bringing in. That, as it goes, ‘was the beginning of a beautiful friendship’. Doug has been my north star, my advisor, my critic, my best pal, the one who makes me laugh, laughs at my jokes, and keeps me motivated. He has been my biggest supporter. From day one it was clear that nobody was going to get away with any discriminatory comments about me. With Doug, I felt for the first time that I had a chance at a career. In our early days working together, Doug always referred to our relationship as being Carl Denham and Ann Darrow in King Kong. At some point that evolved into John Steed and Ms. Peel from The Avengers. I always adored his references and he appreciated that I understood them; apparently something he did not get much out of other colleagues. Having someone who believes in you and trusts you can overcome all negativity. The world needs more Doug Drexlers out there making careers happen for those who struggle to get noticed, providing support and inspiration.

Perhaps the best way to explain how much he means to me as a mentor and supporter can be put like this: I always say that I got where I am today because of Doug.

But he always tells me ‘No, you did it.”


Unfortunately, that simply comes down to gender inequality and the struggle to endure the attitudes towards being an LGBT woman. With the prime exception of my time on BSG, my career has had numerous troubling experiences in that regard. It is much better now, but it still exists and is difficult to ignore. I had to completely hide my being trans entirely for most of my career because of the ridicule and discrimination it brought my way. I was even dismissed inside of fifteen minutes shortly after my arrival from one of my earliest jobs; and it was plainly obvious as to why. How does one prove that and receive the legal recompense due for such an offence? I often wonder how that employer must feel today, in a work environment that is far more sensitive and inclusive to these issues.

I still do not reveal being trans to the world openly, I consider myself no different from any other woman and only divulge it here because the Primetime has a vetted base of members who have pledged support for LGBT women without discrimination. Apart from that, I do not wish to be known as a trans person who ‘hides’ it. The world is changing, society is evolving, and I have been accepted as a woman in VFX who is capable and recognized for her career – whether some see me as a trans woman or not I managed a great career somewhere in all that.


It may seem odd, but a list of this type from me would not really include women in VFX- although there are some who have made it to this position, and I applaud and respect them for their achievements.

Women I look up to in admiration are the ‘Mercury 13’ women - who were secretly trained to become astronauts alongside their male counterparts. They had the ‘right stuff’ in equal measure but were denied their opportunity simply because they were women. They went through the same training and even scored far better than their male counterparts did in many physical and psychological tests. These women had the same jet flying qualifications and experience with one exception - they needed flight time with a specific type of jet – but were simply not permitted to fly them, because they were women. Beyond the catch-22, they were women and were never permitted to become astronauts for that reason.

This stands out to me for reasons that go deeper than merely my passion for space exploration and its history. It symbolizes for me the difficulties women face in VFX and in particular, to become members of the VFX peer group within the Motion Picture Academy. Its rules are such that women have a difficult time just qualifying to apply because one must be a VFX supervisor. And, of course, show a certain amount of experience in that role. However, few women are granted that job opportunity. In the past ten years, I have been presented with the solid vow of being brought into a VFX supervisor role three times - only to be denied, only to see younger, male colleagues rise to those roles despite having less experience and qualifications. What do you do? Speak up about it and you are a ‘complainer’ or ‘bitter’ or an ‘emotional female’. Say nothing about the blatant gender inequality that exists; and nothing changes.

The VFX business is still heavily dominated by men, and while there are a great deal more women VFX supervisors out there today than there were ten years ago, they number a small few and it is only in the past few years when they have arisen- and good for them. Change must come beyond just women directors being given their due in film and television – it must come within all areas of production.


I suppose I would whisper into my ear about not being too trusting and to be more cautious about entering the lion’s den. I think I was just as naive and wide-eyed as the next person when my career began and trusted too many people, assumed everyone shared my ethics. Other than that, I would demand that I learn computer programming. I regret never getting into that because it would have been a great help but at the time I started out, it was always about the art for me and being able to program custom tools was a specialized area that did not become the norm in the artist’s trenches until over a decade later. So, in retrospect it is not hard to see just why that never took place for me.

This may be a bit of a segue, but today, young people starting out in artistic VFX roles learn programming - parallel to the creative aspects. In my opinion, the creative area falls far behind. I find that as a supervisor I spend more time teaching artists how to ‘see’ and must do a lot of art direction in that regard – but it is a part of the job I love because first and foremost I consider myself as a creative person with artistic vision as an asset. VFX artists - those I have had the pleasure to have worked alongside and those I had working under me - these younger people know how to do the work very well. It is just that few seem attuned to working in a visually creative mode and only work technically, which might come across as a contradiction in the VFX business, but it is quite true. So, I like to cultivate creativity in my team, encourage them to watch more films especially older films before CGI came about, and just to look at art because it will provide infinite creative fuel that will heighten their work. I certainly do respect and envy their coding skills though, these young artists. In a way they are luckier than I was to start later so they could acquire those skills. But I think that I was luckier to have started when I did because I obtained inspirations they do not understand and value the creative importance differently. So, in reverse, I would strongly suggest to artists starting in out VFX to ensure they stay on top of the creative facets of the job. Watch films endlessly - and do not stick just to contemporary CGI-laden films. Seek out older films. Learn the history of VFX so they can appreciate what their careers grew out of. You would be amazed how few can name of any of the pioneers of VFX or their contributions. Even fewer will even want to see a silent film or anything made before 1984. That’s not right. It is part of VFX history and should be respected and known.


I would like to see VFX studios’ big bold words about zero-tolerance towards discrimination and abuse being more than just words. Unfortunately, it is still very much a man’s workplace where women struggle to get noticed and are simply treated differently. A male figure is ‘decisive’ when choosing a course of action; but when the female does the same; she is being ‘bossy’. The male demonstrates ‘leadership’ when he firmly expects his instructions be followed, but the female is being ‘emotional’ or is being ‘hysterical’. The only thing that seems to circumvent it is having more women in management and higher leadership roles. Fortunately, I have experienced examples where a woman’s voice and knowledge matters, but it has not been very common, and it is overdue for the VFX industry to change that.


Indeed. ‘Times up’ and Me too’ have both brought profoundly overdue awareness towards abusive behaviour in the film and television industry, but it is just the beginning. The VFX industry is well known for having abusive workplaces and conditions (at least within the VFX industry itself), and every effort to unionize has been crushed - so I am very concerned there. I think if the full extent of what has happened over the years in VFX was made public to the extent that ‘Times up’ and ‘Me too’ have been, the industry would face a reckoning of equal force and be shaken up for the better.

Not a pleasant fact to bring up but I know of no-one within VFX that is unaware of it – it is the ‘elephant in the room’. It is high time for VFX to enter the 21st century in an evolved social manner. But I would like to see the legacy of these movements bring about positive change in every career field.


Passion for what you do is infectious in the workplace. I am incapable of hiding that in my work and have found that artists respond to a supervisor that is not just going by the numbers or ‘phoning it in’ but has a drive that pushes the team to really accomplish something, love what they do.

My approach to running my team is something I like to call my ‘Captain Kirk’, as silly as it may sound.

Kirk respected his crew. He knew when to let them ‘just do their jobs’ because they earned their positions on his ship and would deliver without him having to look over their shoulders constantly- he trusted that they knew their jobs. He kept cool under pressure and would not raise his voice. He appreciated their input, praised them, and let his satisfaction show. He took risks with them and accepted the responsibility that goes along with his decisions. Kirk cared for his crew and protected them even if it brought harm his way. That only earned him further respect from his crew, who would gladly follow him no matter where it led. Nothing controversial to it, this is leadership plain and simple. It is how I operate within my department, my crew, my artists. I am nothing without them, and I am responsible for their work. I take it very seriously but do all that is possible to ensure that the artists also understand that it is my job to stress and worry – their job is to enjoy being creative and make cool VFX shots. If they are the ones with stress, then they are focusing upon the wrong thing or I am doing something wrong to alleviate that worry from them. I have found that when my artists understand that and see it through my actions that I mean what I say, it results in excellence from them. It creates a win-win scenario all around.


My time on Battlestar Galactica will always be the best time of my life, and most people do not really understand why I always say that it may never be surpassed for me. It was more than being part of a ground-breaking show that raised the bar, pushed the envelope, redefined, and pioneered feature-quality VFX for television. It was how we worked – with total, complete creative control over every shot we did. I have never had anything like that since and may never again.

After BSG, whenever I start work at a new VFX shop, there are always one or two people who are fascinated that I was part of BSG, but most people think I am weird for speaking of it in such glowing terms so many years after it ended. Perhaps if they experienced the level of respect and freedom that I enjoyed on BSG, they’d understand better. Almost all my award recognition came from BSG and propelled my career, so it was instrumental in my path forward. Since then, there have been a great many films I am terribly proud of for different reasons but those always fall under a ‘best of times, worst of times’ situation for me so it is difficult to see anything matching or surpassing what BSG was for me.


I was fortunate to be working throughout most of it, but that ended in September of 2020. As someone who lives a bit like a hermit already, the pandemic lockdown was not hard for me to adapt to. But it afforded me the long-sought-after opportunity to have uninterrupted time to devote towards writing my mini-series, something that is finally nearing completion. It is something I have been working on slowly over the past 6 years and involved numerous trips to Cannes and Sweden for meetings with producers, financiers, and actors. It was not easy with a full-time job that is demanding on my time but somehow, I managed to write around 90% of it over those 6 years over weekends along with its development.

It really began when I was a child; a ‘dream movie’ I always hoped I might see one day. But during my time on BSG it occurred to me that nobody was ever going to make anything like what I wanted to see, not with the popular content and style in science fiction being what it was. So, I ultimately had an ‘aha!’ moment where I realized that, if I wanted to see my dream movie, I really have to just make it myself. I was already working with the best in VFX, so I felt inspired to go for it and it gradually grew and developed from there. In the past several years I have managed to get concept art, proof-of-concept work, actors attached, producing partners, financing and now some major producing interest has arisen. Next year should be an extremely rewarding one with the momentum that has come along.


I watch my favourite films and conduct a lot of research for my own project. Being in VFX and having a predominantly sci-fi work history, it is easy to assume that is all I watch. But while I certainly have an expansive sci-fi film library that starts with silent films and every decade up to contemporary films, I also have an equal number in other genres that inspire me in some way. Classic Hollywood films, dramas, musicals, a few comedies, documentaries, and many, many foreign-language films – the bulk of which are of course Swedish - mostly Ingmar Bergman. Nothing inspires me like his films. A day does not go by without me having watched, re-watched, studied, or being entirely absorbed in at least 3 films from my library. During the pandemic that number has risen to six or more a day! I just soak it all up like a sponge. Along with that is a book and magazine library that covers my exhaustive research material for my mini-series project, constantly being mined for information.


Many years ago, during my time when I lived and worked in London, I mostly spent what little free time I had in museums. I attended a lecture from a NASA/JPL Mars mission specialist who had one of the coolest jobs in the world, driving the Mars Rovers - Spirit and Opportunity. He lived ‘on Mars time’ quite literally, and during the periods when mars was behind the sun – when the rovers were out of communication and in hibernation mode – he had his holidays. We became dear friends. About a year later he emailed me with the most amazing birthday gift. It gets complicated to explain the technicalities behind it all, but I have a place on Mars named after me from MER Opportunity, on SOL 3342 (referring to it being on Mars for 3342 Martian days) ‘Waypoint_Aurore’ lies roughly at 2^14'38.47 South 5^21'28.81 West. After the MSL Curiosity Rover arrived at Mars years later, he did it again for me. Probably the nerdiest present of all time especially for someone like me. It still gives me goosebumps to look at the maps and photos to this day.


“Never give up because then; you have already failed.”

The most powerful example of this comes from something that Doug Drexler shared with me fifteen years ago. It was a letter from Walt Disney Studios dated 1938 to a young woman. She must have seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and was deeply inspired to work in animated films. Reading between the lines, I believe she wanted to become an animator. But it is a rejection letter that explains to her that ‘only young men’ do the drawings and animation; and the takeaway was that (essentially) perhaps she might want to rethink her career goals. I cannot imagine how excited this young lady must have been to have a response from Disney only to have her hopes crushed so mercilessly with blatant gender inequality. Making the letter more striking is how the letterhead features artwork from Snow White: she appears at the top of the letter next to the girl’s name -while the name that signs it at the bottom- where the Disney studio name appears features the wicked witch offering a shiny red apple.

I always found it sad, moving, and ironic but also inspiring. I have a copy of it framed in my home and when I feel depressed, I read it again for motivation. It never fails to motivate me. I know Disney has evolved since then, but that letter stands as a monument to what it represents, and I sincerely hope that girl achieved her dreams.

Thank you, Primetime, for the opportunity to speak my mind a little and share about myself and my career.