Rick Sander and his crew
from Culver City-based HOAX Films are finding success by redefining the model
for what a boutique visual effects design company can achieve.
LOS ANGELES—Rick Sander is Creative Director for HOAX Films, a digital production studio he
founded with Executive Producer Alexis Nelson in 2010. HOAX Films provides VFX,
color and finishing services for commercial, feature and web clients worldwide
while maintaining a Southern California local presence.
Since the company’s launch,
the creative team at HOAX Films has been working with clients as diverse as
SpikeTV, NBCU and Lockheed Martin and collaborated with Britney Spears, Katy
Perry and other stars on music videos.
Rick Sander

In December 2013, HOAX Films
won six W3 awards for its work on an experiential website for client MEBO
international, a pioneer in regenerative science, by incorporating feature film
quality VFX and animation onto the MEBO Campus site, built with the help of Conceptual
Designer R. Douglas Nelson.
Here, Sander discusses his
career, his goals for HOAX Films and what it takes to succeed in the visual
effects business today.
   How did you get started in visual
Rick Sander:    In 1993, I enrolled in a couple animation
courses at UCLA and took a reel to VIFX where I was lucky enough to be hired by
Star Wars alum VFX Supervisor John Wash. At VIFX, I was privileged to
work for guys like Richard Hollander, Boyd Shermis, Anthony Lamolinara, Dan
Kaufman and DJ Desjardin, all heavy hitters and Academy members. It was a
magical place to get your career started, working on films like Titanic,
Star Trek, X-Files, Blade and Face/Off.
                  What happened next?
RS:                   I did the rounds at most of the big L.A. studios.
 It really was a Golden Age for Imageworks, Digital Domain, Centropolis,
Rhythm & Hues. I was one of the first people hired at Asylum’s new CG
department under Nathan McGuinness in 2000 where we were working out of a
corporate apartment with the computers on kitchen tables.
Spider-Man 2, which would win the
Oscar for Achievement in Visual Effects, I took the opportunity to go overseas
and spent time at WETA and Animal Logic, where I worked in look development for
George Miller on Happy Feet. I think half the films I had the privilege
to be a part of were recognized by the Academy, BAFTA or VES.  
I came back to Los Angeles in 2007, the guys at Gradient FX were extremely
supportive as I got started supervising. The three shows I did for them were
each nominated for VES Awards, and it was was a great honor to be a part of
that.  The experience of working with very talented, very special people
gives you the confidence to take big steps.
MEBO Campus
                  How did you start HOAX?
RS:                   I opened a VFX Department for Spike TV’s Deadliest
in 2009, which did about 1000 shots a season. This was a daunting
challenge and it needed very strong people to deliver the best work. I had
worked with EP Alexis Nelson at Motion Theory in Venice the year before and
asked her to join me. The following season, we started HOAX Films as a vendor
to Spike TV, opened an office and hung out a shingle.
Int:                   How did your past experience
affect how you set up and run HOAX?
RS:                   VFX was a starring member of the Deadliest Warrior
cast and soon enough Alexis and I were involved in all phases of producing the
show; from episode design and scouting to shoots and second unit to editing and
color. We also helped advise other departments, like makeup, wardrobe and
stunts so Spike could keep as much money on screen as possible. We learned we
could really help expand the creative options for the director while
controlling costs for the producer.  That has been the most important
development for HOAX as an asset to our clients.
on all of our projects, we are usually asked to be part of the production as
early as possible because it saves the production money while letting the
director have more tools and options.  It’s a pretty great situation for
Int:                   What about HOAX’s business
model? How do you remain busy and successful?
RS:                   VFX is vulnerable to budgetary whims, which forces
you to be extremely realistic about the business.  When feature film VFX
started to collapse in L.A., we refocused on commercial, corporate work, web,
experiential media and interactive branding.  When you can bring feature
level work to, say, web takeover ads, clients are shocked at their new
production value savy options.  It’s very exciting.
Int:                   So what’s next for HOAX?
RS:                   HOAX will continue to offer our clients the
highest quality creative to support their projects and stories. We’ll also
continue to help guide our clients through the process so they always know what
to expect and what we can do to make their project more exciting and
About HOAX Films
HOAX Films is a Culver
City-based digital production studio specializing in visual effects and design
for feature films, broadcast, commercials and web content. The company combines
top-tier creative talent, a streamlined workflow and efficient production
practices in order to make studio-caliber visuals accessible to producers of
independent films, television production, web media, advertising and music
videos. HOAX has contributed to multi-media advertising campaigns for Game
of Thrones
, Harry Potter and Absolut Vodka, as well as projects for
Spike TV, NBCU and Lockheed Martin. It also recently won six W3 Awards for its
work on the ground-breaking experential website MEBO Campus. 
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