Fox & Co taking on a global market from Wellington

Visual effects animator and rebel CEO, Phyo Thu, shares how Wellington's screen industry transformed his ideas for the future

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Myanmar-born Phyo Thu came to New Zealand as a high school student with the intention of going on to university to study architecture. But his plans changed as he was exposed to a string of visual effects-heavy blockbusters that were largely off-limits in his home country.

At Massey University, filmmaker Sir Richard Taylor attended one of Phyo’s lectures and gave the class a peek at some of the visual effects technology that went into the Lord of the Rings movie. That was the deciding factor for Phyo who went on to pursue a career in animation and visual effects, first as a freelancer, then banding together with like minded creatives.

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In 2015, he started Fox & Co, a boutique animation agency based in Mt Cook. Phyo had visions of working for award-winning studios in Los Angeles or New York, but his Myanmar passport made it particularly hard for him to travel to gain experience. So he opted instead to build his own dream studio.

Fox & Co’s eight-person team now does 70% of its animation work for offshore organisations including the likes of Google and MTV. They specialise in applying the visual effects sophistication you’d expect from Weta Digital to smaller commercial projects.

“I don’t want to grow for the sake of growing,” says Phyo, who considers Wellington’s compact size and short commute times key factors working in the city’s favour.

“I want to focus on quality work, the majority of which will be completed here. You really can have the best of both worlds here.”

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