Posted 30 August 2023
Interview by Frankie Mari
Mention Munaiba Mahmood

How self-taught VFX assistant Munaiba Mahmood landed work with Netflix, Disney and Marvel

How do you break into visual effects [VFX] as a self-taught creative? Just ask Munaiba Mahmood, who has gone from a BTEC in media studies, where she honed her skills via YouTube tutorials, to working on major productions. Through approaching and simply “talking to people,” she managed to land her first job in the VFX department of the critically acclaimed Netflix series The Crown, and has since worked on projects such as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as her latest upcoming Disney show, Culprits. Here, Munaiba tells us how to build a network where these opportunities can arise.

Munaiba Mahmood

Munaiba Mahmood

Job Title

Freelance Assistant VFX Editor




ITV, Disney Streaming

Previous Employment

Netflix Trainee, 2022

Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do as an assistant VFX editor?
As a VFX [visual special effects] assistant editor for film and TV, I receive new versions of VFX shots that come from vendors, ready to cut in for the in-house VFX supervisor to look at. In between doing that, I am often requested to upload assets and references that are be given to the artists to create the effects on the shots.

Grabbing references is quite fun. It basically means looking for videos or images from other films and TV shows which are then used by the artists for the current show you’re working on. It also involves creating mini edits whereby you create a sequence of shots requested by the production team, which are then presented to the director so they can apply their vision to it.

“To be a VFX assistant editor, you definitely need an interest in film and TV, but also some basic knowledge of editing software.”

What kind of skills are needed to do your role? Would you say you need any specific training to do what you do?
Definitely an interest in film and TV, but also some basic knowledge of an editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Davinci Resolve or even better Avid, which is mainly used in the majority of film and TV.

Having a sharp eye for detail is important, as you’ll be looking at shots quite deeply and intensely to fix and perfect the smallest of details. But that also comes with practice. Some basic understanding of Microsoft Excel is good, as sometimes we use spreadsheets. The thing about VFX assisting is that you learn the majority of things on the job though, which is really good.

Munaiba mahmood creativelivesingroress 02

Munaiba’s workplace set-up

What have been some of your favourite projects?
Getting to work on The Crown season three. It’s very interesting to see how much work goes into a show like that.

Also, being able to assist the VFX editor at Framestore and having worked on the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special which came out as part of Disney+ and Marvel Studios’ Special.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was fun too. It was such an amazing experience working on my first feature film and seeing it slowly come together. It’s a must watch for any Marvel fans! As you can see below, they film it live action first and then references of animals are taken to bring the character to life.

Behind the scenes of the VFX process for Guardians of the Galaxy

How I got here

What has your experience of being self-taught involved?
During college I used Adobe a lot and found that I really enjoyed using it. I would watch YouTube videos and just follow along on Adobe, creating what I was watching. That’s how I gained an interest, and more skills, in editing. If you’re trying to land an entry point into the film and TV industry, applying for runner or trainee positions can help you better understand the roles you may want to do in the future.

Networking helps in many ways, so definitely build yourself a network of people who you come into contact with. Finding a mentor helped me massively. I found one through an organisation called Arts Emergency. Once you’ve signed up with them, they send you emails every month or so.

There’s something they do called Wish List, and through that you’re able to get assigned a mentor. I’ve had 2 mentors in the past who have helped me find some work experience, meet other people in the industry and also get a better understanding of what it’s like to be working in the field.

“Finding a mentor helped me massively. I found one through an organisation called Arts Emergency.”

Arts Emergency’s wish list initiative, aimed at supporting emerging creative talent with opportunities

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
My journey was very slow at the beginning. It was also quite scary because you just don’t know where to look to find jobs in editing or VFX.

I joined an organisation in college that helps young people breaking into many aspects of these industries, one of them being film. Through that, I made a few connections and I got accepted to be a member of Film London. I informed them of the types of interest I have in film and it was a journey from there in finding a job to land. My first VFX job was on Netflix’s The Crown, and that was all through connecting and talking to people.

“My first VFX job was on Netflix’s The Crown, and that was all through connecting and talking to people.”

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
Firstly, I’ve always had an interest in how films have been made. What’s done behind the scenes really mesmerised me from a young age, so that pushed me to work in film.

Second thing would be films like Inception, Doctor Strange and mini series Moon Knight. The VFX really blew me away when I watched them, as it’s not common to see those kinds of effects in other films and productions.

Lastly, my teachers in college inspired me to do what I wanted to do and encouraged me to be the best I can be creatively.

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
It honestly depends on what path you choose and how you like to do things. For me, it was making connections and promoting myself through word-of-mouth that got me jobs. I always try to be the best at what I do when I’m working, so that people will recommend me to other employers in the industry once we’ve finished working together.

For every project you do, promote yourself and let your team know what your interests are. If it’s not in the area you are currently working in, they might have opportunities for you to shadow. But also, they can keep you in mind if they come across any jobs that might be suitable.

Social media can be a big way of promoting yourself – whether that’s making an Instagram account and posting your work on it, having a showreel and creating a website or building a network of people on LinkedIn.

“Always let your team know what your interests are; they might have opportunities for you to shadow them, or be able keep you in mind for future jobs.”

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
I would definitely say Covid and my confidence. Many productions paused for a long time and also locked down, so not being able to go out and work was one the hardest challenges I personally felt during that time, but also not having the confidence to go and approach opportunities was tough.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Try to keep your work rhythm consistent when you’re first starting. Aways be looking for the next job to apply for when you’re doing short stints of work. I’ve been getting used to figuring out my schedule when finishing a project, and finding another show I can work on a few weeks later. This way, you know you can continue to support yourself, as money will be coming in from each job you line up after the next. It’s just the nature of freelancing.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
With every project you work on, bring a notepad and pen with you. It’s one of the first few things they expect from you on your first day of starting a job. It shows you’re prepared. Sometimes they don’t tell you to take notes, but they expect you to write things down.

Always check your work! Double and triple check it – because you may just have missed something. That’s what a good editor does.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar career?
Be patient, very patient. It’s not easy getting into the industry so join organisations that deal specifically with film or creative arts. I suggest Film London; they have many connections and helped me a lot in finding exactly what I want to do.

Go to networking events. It’s not about making friends, it’s about building your contact list with people who can help you out in the industry.

Interview by Frankie Mari
Mention Munaiba Mahmood