Hawks to Watch: Barry Noel St. John

Why he’s a Hawk to Watch: 

Barry was a member of the ground-breaking visual effects team for Oscar winner “The Jungle Book,” so there’s that. He uses his KU Film degree every day as a visual effects producer at Disney. During his career, Barry has worked at the cutting edge of film technology, contributing his many talents to some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, including “Men in Black 3,” “Fast and Furious 7,” “The Jungle Book,” and “The Great Gatsby.”


Introducing …

Barry Noel St. John. Job: VFX co-producer at Disney. Age: 36. KU degree: B.F.A., Film (2004)

Tell us what you do for a living:

A selfie of Barry wearing a white beanie hat and actor Will Smith wearing a black baseball cap
Barry with Will Smith

I am currently the VFX co-producer on a forthcoming Disney feature film. Over the past 6 years I have been working as a VFX coordinator, VFX Production manager, and VFX associate producer on large Hollywood movies that require a great deal of VFX. Those films include “Men In Black 3,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Fast and Furious 7,” “The Jungle Book,” and “Ready Player One.”

In that time I have worked with many incredible filmmakers including Rick Baker, Ken Ralston, Barry Sonnenfeld, Baz Luhrmann, Don Zimmerman, James Wan, Spiro Razatos, Dan Sudick, Mike Wassel, Pete Tobyansen, Rob Legato, Andy Jones, Jon Favreau and Kansas’ own Joyce Cox, whom has been a mentor for me throughout my career. Needless to say, I have been a very lucky person whom was willing to “buy the ticket, and take the ride.”

A photo of Barry wearing a KC baseball cap and holding a glass of champagne, with his arm around actor and filmmaker Jon Favreau, who he worked with on The Jungle Book
Barry with actor and filmmaker Jon Favreau, who he worked with on “The Jungle Book”

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

The Jungle Book and all of its success has been the biggest achievement of my career thus far. On the Jungle Book I was the VFX associate producer and I managed the VFX pipeline from start to finish. This was a huge accomplishment for our team as we worked on groundbreaking technology from virtual production all the way through final delivery. It was two years of my life that I shared with incredible artists and talent and recently culminated in an Academy Award for our VFX work.

Barry holds an Academy Award Oscar between him and a colleague. The text reads "Barry was a member of visual effects team for Oscar winner The Jungle Book!"

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

At one point in my career I was a lighting director at Fox News. After nearly 5 years at Fox, I lost all my ambition to be there and work in a creative realm. I had simply reached my ceiling within that structure. I quit that job, jumped onto “Men in Black 3” for a lower rate and a position to start my career over. It was there that I met my future mentor, Joyce Cox. Joyce has taught me so much and helped guide me in success throughout my recent career – she probably deserves a small cut of my check, but don’t tell her that 😉

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

In 10 years I plan on producing films. I love VFX and working on the cutting edge of technology, but I truly love storytelling and I know how much I have to offer outside of VFX itself.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Picture of Barry talking to a classroom and a quote reading: "Know and then speak the truth. Never rely on relationships and kissing up to people. Your better served learning everything you can about what you’re doing, and proving your worth. Knowledge is power and Honesty is ones greatest offense and defense."

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

Never tell yourself that something is unreachable. It is all about believing in yourself and aspiring to hit the goals you set. Luckily I did learn this at a young age, and have practiced it at each step of my career. I had a plan at Fox, if I was not at point “A” making “B” amount of money by the time I turned 30 years old, then I move on … I left a year early at 29 years old once I knew one of my goals was not achievable.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

People clock out? We are like Quiktrip, 24/7, 365..

What is a fun fact about you?

I still play basketball as much as my schedule allows. I also used to run a charity football team when I lived in Brooklyn. I love sports and I bring the team environment to the groups I work with. At each step of the process, I preach the “team mentality” and using the words  “We” over “Me” in everything we do. I am sure I sound like a Lifetime movie to my colleagues.

I also make sure that I watch EVERY KU basketball game, even if it is live in the corner of one of my monitors while I work. Or I watch the replays on my favorite app WatchESPN. Even while in London, Australia, Italy, or wherever I am, I VPN into an American computer to watch the games.


Barry hijacks the College Instagram account to show us around the Disney expo:


Left: a picture of the Disney Expo banner with Mickey Mouse. Right, text reads: "Started the week off with a trip to Disney's D23 event."

 

Two pictures: one is black and white and shows Barry and his daughter. The second is a picture of Barry's wife and daughter posing in front of Cinderella's carriage. Text reads: "ONE OF THE BENEFITS OF WORKING ON A DISNEY FILM IS SHARING IT WITH YOUR KID!"

 

Black and white picture of Barry and Max Putnam with several KC hats in the background. Text reads: "Jayhawks in LA. Another benefit to being a VFX producer is bringing on KU students as summer interns. Max Putnam, happy to you aboard in L.A."

 

"THE VR REVOLUTION HAS WIDENED THE TOOLBOX FOR FILMMAKERS. While some cling to their 70mm film, others strive to immerse themselves with the film they make. There is no wrong way to make a movie."

 

Image of a computer screen with an image of a net used for graphic design. Text reads: ""VFX ARTISTS START WITH A CANVAS, THE SAME AS ANY OTHER ARTIST."

Image of 10 people standing in a line with Barry squatting at the front. Text reads: "IF YOU WANT IT, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS GO GET IT! ROCK CHALK. "Apologies I could not share more about my current job. We have strict rules. But I would like to show you that there are many Hawks out here doing it. This picture is filled with them, and we hired these people her in L.A."

Image shows Barry holding a gold mask award, a BAFTA, in front of his face. Text reads "Award Winner. Everything looks better through a BAFTA."

Image of the Disney Expo brochure and a 'The Lion King' mug and toys. Text reads: "Thanks for your time, Jayhawks. "Just got home at 9:15 pm. So many of my days are long and without glamour ... all that whining said, sometimes we experience the highs and receive good news."

 


Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.