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April 22, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Rodolphe Pierre-Louis says “Johnson City kind of hooked me,” now growing ActionVFX there

“Johnson City kind of hooked me,” Rodolphe Pierre-Louis says of the community that he now calls home.

The native of Haiti moved to the U.S. when he was 12 years old, lived in Knoxville for a few years, and spent his senior year in high school in Johnson City before moving away to attend college in Miami. Now, Pierre-Louis says he’s back in the region “willingly” where he’s growing his latest business while also serving as a key player in the rebranded FoundersForge initiative (see our recent article here).

The new venture, named ActionVFX, provides stock video footage for visual effects and motion graphics. The letters VFX stand for visual effects and are used to describe imagery created, manipulated, or enhanced for any film or other moving media that cannot take place during live-action shooting. The current library offered by ActionVFX includes more than 90 collections with titles like large scale smoke plumes, muzzle flashes, gas explosions, exploding debris, fireballs and dust waves.

“Individuals buy from us all of the time,” Pierre-Louis says, adding that studios do, too, for both movie and television shows. ActionVFX’s clients include Netflix, The Walt Disney Company, and Paramount Pictures. About 85 percent of the content is real, while the remainder is computer-generated.

“We shoot everything locally,” he explains. For scenes involving explosions, Pierre-Louis works with Robert Fortner, a well-known West Tennessee-based pyrotechnician. “He takes care of dangerous stuff; our team focuses on video and editing.”

ActionVFX has 14 employees in Johnson City, having recently added four new people.

One might wonder how Pierre-Louis found his way to starting the company.

“I’ve been into filmmaking since I was 10 year old,” he explains. Then, after graduating from high school, Pierre-Louis started freelancing with a particular focus on music videos for bands. As part of that work, he began creating some effects for the videos he was shooting, something that led to selling those effects to others.

Around 2015, Pierre-Louis determined that his current venture – RodyPolis – needed to be taken to a different level. The company was providing mostly digital effects, and he saw a need to use cinema grade cameras the record actual live-action effects like explosions.

“I wanted to self-fund the expansion, but ran into challenges,” he said. That fact led to a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign with a goal of $20,000. Pierre-Louis raised $59,309. Within a couple of months of launching, ActionVFX, the company was profitable.

“It’s been a fun, awesome journey,” he says.

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