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Reconstructing what happened, "one hundred per cent realistic"

Deneb Sabater, VFX producer on Five Days at Memorial, Emmy Award for Best Visual Effects

[ 07/02/2024 ]

"The road to get here has been very complicated," says Deneb Sabater, VFX producer of Five Days at Memorial (Después del Huracán, in Spanish), a series that won an Emmy in the Best Visual Effects category for the work done by El Ranchito in the second episode. However, "it was clear that I wanted to dedicate myself to this". And now even more so, because the reward obtained encourages him to continue his professional career.

She has made around twenty series, shorts, films... Although "when I started, there were almost no animation projects in Spain, nor any companies," she recalls. "There were very few offers of assistant or coordinator positions. I also graduated during the economic crisis of 2008-2009, when there were no jobs. It was a challenging time for me.

Hampa Animation Studio and the short film Margarita gave her "my first opportunities". Then came the changes because "in audiovisual, you move wherever there are projects". You change "your company, your place of residence, you work long hours, you move a lot, and you struggle a lot because it is not easy for women to reach a leadership position". Aware of this situation, Deneb was one of the founders of Mujeres de la Animación en España (MIA), a unique organisation in Spain created to promote equality for women in the animation industry.

Spanish animation, an internationally recognised sector

Since August 2021, Deneb Sabater has been part of the team at El Ranchito, one of the best-known Spanish companies specialising in visual effects design. Here, as a VFX producer, she has had the opportunity to work on the series Five Days at Memorial and Sombra y Hueso, managing the entire visual effects creation process. "I couldn't believe that two works were nominated in the same category, but... everyone is happy when their work is recognised.

Deneb explains that the work done on these two series is very different. "Sombra y Hueso is fantasy, and we focused on creating creatures that don't exist, while in Después del huracán, we went back in time to the moment of the hurricane and the five days that followed."

The Five Days at Memorial series is based on Sheri Fink's Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-ravaged Hospital. It chronicles the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans in 2005 through the aftermath in one hospital in the southern US city.

It is a series that tries to be faithful to what happened. "ABC, the production company, sent us all the information about the building and the surroundings of the hospital so that the reconstruction would be the same: the streets, the houses, the hospital signs, the building... We wanted it to be realistic because many people who had suffered would be watching the series". That's why the reconstruction of the space and the events were "one hundred per cent realistic".

Deneb's work is to make the unbelievable credible, reconstruct what was destroyed, create a scenario, or bring a fictional character to life. "We took great care in every detail. Everything was recreated. More than ten months of work, 135 people in El Ranchito and the compilation of images, documentaries, news... to recreate in the series exactly what happened".

The Gandia campus is "the best choice I have made"

Deneb Sabater, who lives between Xàtiva and Madrid, studied Audiovisual Communication at the Gandia Campus of the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). "I wanted to do something in the audiovisual field, but I didn't know what. My mother went to some talks and saw that there was a Bachelor's degree in Audiovisual Communication in Gandia". About the campus, "I have only good memories. I learnt a lot and made friends, making my time at the university even more special. There was a lot of connection with the rest of the classmates from other promotions, with the academic staff... I think it was the best choice I ever made," she says.

When asked what advice she would give to those just starting, she doesn't hesitate: "I would give them the same advice we were given on the first day of the degree presentation: that it won't be an easy way, but if you really like this industry, perseverance, enthusiasm and believing in yourself will make you succeed".

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