Behind the Scenes with Avatar's Production Assistant, Connor Murphy

Graphic of the Navi characters, Neytiri and Jake Sully. Photo from

In 2009, Avatar became the highest grossing film in the U.S and Canada, and won three academy awards including, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects.

Staples was lucky enough to host one of the people who helped make these awards a reality: Production Assistant Connor Murphy.

In his presentation, Murphy shared both his film experiences, as well as the path of events leading up to him becoming a production assistant. After snagging a job as an office intern and getting a number from a guy on an elevator, he worked on two movies for the next two summers and improved his motion editing skills. He then explained how, after this, he hit a lull in his career, and did not get a job until his 1401st sent email.

As for Avatar, Murphy’s job was to apply human motion onto the Navi (blue people) and the Banchi’s (dragons), and to fine-tune those movements so that they looked natural (this was essential due to the Navis’ long, skinny proportions). Although he admitted that it was the hardest job he’s ever had, and that he often put in rigorous, 100-hour work weeks, he said that he learned a lot from working with James Cameron, and became friends with many members on the set.

“We used to joke that Avatar was a little like childbirth. It was a wonderful experience we’ll never forget, but it was really tough at times,” Murphy said, summing up his experience on the movie.

Staples was the first school he’s spoken to. His main purpose in presenting was to illuminate a little how motion editing works, and to send the message that art can be a career.

“I felt conflicted as a student because art didn’t seem like an entirely ‘real’ career. It takes significantly more self-motivation to make it into one but I wanted to demonstrate that it’s perfectly feasible. From what I’ve seen, the same applies to most of the other arts like acting and music,” Murphy said.

Murphy feels incredibly lucky to have worked with Giants Studios for so many years. He urges students to take advantage of job offerings, as he is a prime example of how they will often connect you to places in the future.