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It’s been almost a decade since Joshua 'schwar' Davies founded CSB-Digital and launched the ‘AlamDV’ visual effects product. Over the years much has changed, with the release of the Lab products and PhotoKey, the company changing its name to FXhome and growing from three to seventeen staff.
The FXhome team is currently busier than ever, so it wasn’t easy finding time in Josh’s packed schedule to ask some questions. But ask we did, and here are his answers, covering the past, present and future of the company...
1. It's been about nine years since this all started. Back at the start, what prompted you to start your own company, rather than going into 'normal' employment?
My dad prompted me to start my own company - he generously offered to support me, and the rest of the original FXhome team, during our formative months (and years). Since then he has always showed unwavering support for what we do and I'm hugely thankful for the opportunity he gave us.
2. Things have changed massively in the last five years. Has the change happened in ways that you expected, or has it surprised you?
Much has surprised me over the years - luckily most of it has been positive! One of the greatest things about my job is that I go to work every day expecting to see amazing stuff, only for the team to surprise me with something even better!
3. The last few years have seen massive expansion. How different is it handling seventeen employees rather than just three?
The work is very different now so it's not really a direct comparison and the team has always handled themselves. Every member of the team takes ownership of their work and shows incredible commitment towards our final goals.
4. How do you go about finding the right employees and making sure they fit into the team?
Everyone at FXhome has no ego, is massively loyal and is really willing to both learn and teach fellow team members. If you find someone with those kinds of qualities they're bound to fit in at FXhome. Oh, being pretty good at Left 4 Dead also helps!
5. Despite the company's expansion and regular trips to the US for shows and meetings, the base of operations is still in Norwich, where the company was founded. What makes Norwich continue to be a suitable home for FXhome?
I don't think Norwich will always be the only home of FXhome but at the moment we're still a small company so we are logically based local to the original team members. Luckily there is quite a pool of talent in the east of England and some people even move to Norwich to join FXhome.
6. You've seen a move away from being the lead programmer to more of a management and creative role. What prompted that change?
Well, technically, I'm the least qualified developer at FXhome! I still do problem solving with the development team but I'm mainly involved in the design and specification of the software. I also work with the creative team because this is something I'm very passionate about. The less said about the management bits the better!
7. You've been getting more involved with filmmaking, with Fracture and shooting the Wizard Combat clip and some other projects we can't talk about yet. Is that an area you'd like to explore more?
I really loved filming the Wizard Combat footage for the excellent tutorial series Simon put together - I hope I can do more of this in the future. Fracture was a dream come true for me - it was amazing to be part of the filmmaking process. I know it has been a long time coming but I have massive respect for Ashley who, with little input from FXhome, has been the driving force of the project for its entire post-production.
8. Are you working on any non-FXhome projects outside of work?
There are enough projects going on at FXhome to keep me working 24 hours a day if I let them! Having said that, I would like to do some more filmmaking in the not too distant future and I also hope to make some graphics for an iPhone game which Jack may make in the future.
9. Over the last nine years you've seen people come and go in the community (and then come back again). What's it like watching people's skills gradually improve?
Filmmaking always takes a great effort, especially if you're trying to learn new techniques and improve! It makes me really happy to think FXhome, with our software and community, has helped people enjoy that process a little bit more.
10. Who is your favourite employee?
Without a doubt Rodney Bodney, followed closely by Lamarr.
We tried to pry some sensitive information from Josh, but he swiftly unleashed the hounds and we had to run for our lives.
Next week we’re going to be heading deep into the movie industry, to find out exactly how to get into the industry with tips from our man in the industry. None other than Matt ‘Hybrid “I’m in the industry” Halo’ Plummer.