Chris Zwar, Class of 1991
Leading FX artist and animator, Chris is achieving great heights with a number of high profile projects, including our Sydney Opera House.
When everyone else in Year 12 was taking Science and Business subjects, Chris was looking for something different – media classes. He had to lobby for a combined Year 11 and 12 class to get one up and running in his final year at Luther given the number of takers was so low, but thanks to the flexibility of the powers that be and the support of Media teacher, David Modra, it happened. And thank goodness it did because that media studies class ignited what was to become Chris’ stellar career in motion graphics and his life as a visual FX artist.
It’s a career established in Melbourne in 1997 that took Chris to London for five years, and then, in 2009 back to Sydney where he currently freelances in the film, tv and advertising industry doing the animation and computer graphics that bring stories in the medium to life. He’s the guy that takes different elements such as footage shot with a camera, computer generated animations, photos or stock footage and combines them to create a final image. If you’ve ever seen actors being filmed on set in front of a greenscreen, Chris is the one who gets rid of the green providing the backdrop we see in the final product.
But that’s not all we’ve got Chris to thank for. You know those awesome artworks projected on buildings that promote and celebrate specific events, the ones that have featured, for example, on the surface of the Sydney Opera House? Well, Chris is the one behind a number of them. He created large video projections for the Sydney Vivid Festival and helped create the animations projected for the Royal Australian Naval Review – the biggest event ever staged in Australia, with Prince Harry as special guest. Wow. Just wow! ‘Having your work projected onto the Sydney Opera House is pretty cool’, Chris offered. Biggest understatement ever, Chris! We’re super impressed.
These career highlights emerged out of Chris’ work as a video editor for a Melbourne based production company. Over eight years with them he transitioned from editing into writing, producing and directing. This saw Chris write and direct a documentary for the ABC on warehouse raves and direct a few TV commercials. His side hustle involved developing a sitcom for the ABC. It progressed to the casting stage but didn’t make it into production. Nothing’s ever lost though, because an early version of that material was eventually repurposed for – guess what? – a Wicklow house drama competition! Chris had made a bit of a name for himself in the Luther community as a playwright, having written and directed Wicklow’s play in Year 11 (proudly following his sister’s lead, ten years earlier) and
co-writing and co-directing it with Tom Miller in Year 12. No wonder when at Uni Wicklow students got in touch and asked him to write the play for their house drama.
Chris, now a family man and proud dad of two, remains mindful of and grateful for the edge provided for him through the Media Studies department at Luther and for David Modra, whom he credits with setting his career on course. Early access to equipment and know-how enabled Chris to develop skills and get ahead of the game, even as a secondary student, in what was to become a rapidly progressive and competitive industry. Having a video editing suite was an enormous advantage. At the time, David knew of only one other high school that was able to provide anything like it. Chris made the most of it all – even spending school holidays making short films with the video production equipment, having convinced his friends to get in front of camera.
With the benefit of hindsight there’s something Chris would impress on current Luther students. It’s this: ‘Do as much fun stuff as you can! When you get to my age, the best memories you have are all the extra-curricular activities. You’ll remember things like house drama, school musicals, debating, camps and learning musical instruments long after you’ve forgotten all about trigonometry and what Europe looked like before World War 1.’ There’s a ring of truth to that.