Peter Quinn’s Hobby Made Him the Accidental VFX Artist to the Stars

Visual effects artist Peter Quinn turned his pandemic pastime into a video service to some top dogs, and Dogg, in Hollywood

When Snoop Dogg’s assistant slid into Peter Quinn’s DMs, informing him that the legendary rapper and cannabis god was a fan of Quinn’s work and wanted to chat about collaborating on a video, Quinn thought it must be a mistake.

For the Ireland-born, Los Angeles-based VFX expert who has seemingly cracked the code on capturing the internet’s attention with his short surreal videos, to have caught Snoop Dogg’s eye was too puzzling to believe. With a background in advertising, Quinn’s VFX work had been something of a pandemic hobby: he was making short, pithy, clips of him crushing himself, shooting a tiny version of himself through a basketball hoop, multiplying himself before the camera’s gaze, a dozen tiny Peter Quinns zigzagging across the screen. The videos were whimsical and striking and absurdly realistic. But were they also more? “Is this real?” Quinn finally DM’d Snoop himself. It was. Snoop wanted to meet.

Before long, Quinn was at Snoop’s Inglewood compound, touring his private casino, his basketball court, his private green screen-adorned studio. He brought his own $12 tripod, an iPhone, and a bunch of ideas he’d brainstormed at 4am. The idea was that they would work on a music video together. Quinn had been nervous about the collaboration—it was Snoop Dogg after all. But he has learned to embrace what he calls a uniquely L.A. mentality: “Say yes to everything and see what happens,” he says.

The air of possibility is what first towed Quinn over from Ireland. With lifelong aspirations in the field of motion arts, he felt he would soon be pressed again the ceiling that loomed over him in his native country.

“At some point, you just kind of figure out it’s hard to take that next step career-wise,” he says. “In Ireland, there is no Hollywood.”

So, he came to California and got enmeshed in the world of brand graphics and creative possibility. And then, naturally, the world of celebrity compounds, sitting in meetings with Will Smith, filming Camila Cabello in a Walmart, showing up at Michael Bublé’s front door. It is Hollywood, after all. 

Of their first meeting, Bublé tells LAMag, “I just immediately thought this is my kind of guy.”

Had he seen him with Will Smith first? Derek Hough? Either way, he saw him once and then all of the sudden, he’d seen him in four or five places. The impulse to become the next collaboration on Quinn’s roster was linked to a rather simple takeaway for Bublé: the stuff just looked cool

“There’s a lot of ‘just trust me’ when you work with him,” Bublé explains. “You don’t know what’s happening. He’ll have you sit in a chair, jump out of a chair, blow a bubble. There’s times when you feel like an idiot. And he’s just saying ‘trust me it’s gonna be cool.’ 30 seconds later he’s saying ‘we got it.’” 

To trust Quinn was not a huge leap for Bublé. It was perhaps even a bit instinctual.

“Is it the Irish thing?” Bublé wonders. “Kind of like the Canadian thing? There’s something about that self-deprecating humor and his sense of empathy. You know quickly this is just a normal good guy. He doesn’t come with an ego.”

But for all the trappings of normality, Quinn is that same normal guy who also happens to have done video work for James Corden. And who—seriously!—has collaborated with the Doggfather himself about five or six times last we checked.

And Snoop did not front, telling us via email: “I met Peter and my visuals took on a new life. He’s so dope and creative and fun to work with. So says Snoop Dogg.” Film emoji, flame emoji, fist emoji. 

 Currently, Quinn’s also working on a collaboration with his Weezer-hero, Rivers Cuomo, and he’s been pitching a project to a former star of Friends, though he won’t yet say who. The unique glimpse his work has given him into the private worlds of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars is a piece of rare fortune not lost on Quinn. 

“There’s something really fun about just going over to a famous person’s house and them letting you—random Irish guy from the internet—into their front door willingly…” he says. “It’s just a strange thing and I didn’t expect this to be my life.” 

This life largely began with an understanding Quinn developed as a career advertiser. “The common thing is you always have to picture a guy or girl on a phone going what’s next, what’s next? What’s next?” he says.

Immersed in a constant study of how to get attention in a media-saturated world, Quinn learned quickly that the gag takes center stage—and it can’t waste any time doing so. The idea that the fun stuff should always come up immediately became a motto he lived by. 

And that penchant for fun and slapstick comedy with a contemporary twist has become a hallmark for how he approaches his video effects. He has sent Will Smith flying backwards into a towering California oak. He has beamed Bublé up in a UFO. He has sling-shotted Yungblud into a power line. He has suspended Derek Hough, mid-air, over his backyard pool a la Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare,” an art school inspiration of Quinn’s. 

And for all the visual absurdities Quinn has learned to tape up on the digital walls of his social media, it’s actually a hearkening-back in time that really drives Quinn.

“It’s almost an anti-performance,” he says. “Something that feels like the modern day silent film era.” In other words, he’s a contemporary Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin, you know—if they had access to Adobe and a green screen. It’s the art of the one-man show, the single gag before you have time to tinker with it and screw it up. 

Though he can be found rubbing elbows with movie stars and regularly asking them to email him pictures of their backyards so he can storyboard, Quinn’s influences are more cerebral. Abstract. Fine art. If Georges Méliès had an Instagram page, it might look like Quinn’s—right down to the handlebar mustache the two artists share. And really, Méliès and his famous film A Trip to the Moon, is what is often on Quinn’s mind while he works. For Quinn, there was a sense of quiet fantasy there you couldn’t beat. 

“You’re always asking for someone’s attention,” Quinn says. But his way of approaching videos is a way of almost apologizing for this. “It’s like admitting okay, I feel bad. So I’m gonna crush myself or put myself away.” The instinct for self-deprecating humor is an innately Irish one. It’s also one that Quinn credits as a field guide when he’s looking for collaborators. Who might be game for a similar kind of laugh? Old Spice-era Terry Crews? (Yes). Surreal and ironic Will Ferrell? (Hopefully, one day). 

But what does it take to get a foot in the door, figuratively and literally? For one thing, Quinn’s a creative Swiss Army Knife—designing, shooting, and editing all the content, not overcrowding the film set with a large and elaborate crew. For another, Quinn credits his ability to get most projects filmed in ten minutes. He gives the gift of time because, after all, why would someone like Snoop Dogg or Will Smith want to wait while you adjust a lighting fixture or change a lens?

But as much as Quinn prides himself that his fast-food timing meets Michelin-quality product, every now and then life finds itself imitating art and something can go just a little catastrophically wrong. This happened not long ago when he was shooting videos with Bublé. Wanting to put his best foot forward, Quinn gave himself a fresh shave. He showed up to Bublé’s home and Bublé had Quinn help himself to some coffee while he went to put on a suit. It was surreal—Michael Bublé making coffee, deciding what to wear, ambling casually around the house. The stuff of dreams. 

They moved outside ready to work, Quinn the consummate professional. And within the first ten minutes, a fresh shaving cut broke open on Quinn’s face. “Uh, you’re bleeding,” said Bublé. And they descended around Quinn—Bublé, his assistant, his makeup artist—all simultaneously trying to stop the blood, massaging an obscure Australian skincare product onto Quinn’s skin.  

It’s a comedic undercut that parallels Quinn’s own artistic taste for mishap. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that he was there, drinking his coffee, filming a Grammy winner, allowing said Grammy winner’s makeup person to continue treating the wound in action.

“Growing up in Ireland, it sort of felt like celebrities were untouchable. Everything over there,” Quinn says. But then he came to Los Angeles and he started making his videos and he saw where that boundary might be a little more permeable, untended and flexible for the sake of art. 

“Quite often,” Quinn says, “I can be watching a film and just think ‘Oh, I wonder if I can get in touch with them. Mostly it’s a sort of impenetrable world. But actually, if you just say ‘Hello’ sometimes…” Quinn stops there and shrugs because really, he’s the proof. 

Proof that if you say hello, you might just get a hello back.

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