Having been a professional animator and visual-effects artist since he was 16 years old, director Neill Blomkamp survived the indignity of having his first studio film taken away from him by turning the independently financed sci-fi opus, "District 9" (2009), into a major box-office and critical hit. Born on Sept. 17, 1979 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Blomkamp grew up amidst the social divisiveness and government-approved minority white rule of apartheid, which had a profound and life-changing influence on his later creative vision. Meanwhile, his parents bought him a computer when he was 14, which led to his experimenting with 3-D animation, as well as practical effects and prosthetics. When he was just 16 years old, Blomkamp was hired by television producer Sharlto Copley to be an animator for the production company, Deadtime. Two years later, his family relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he studied film at Vancouver Film School. He also earned some practical experience as a visual effects artist for The Embassy Visual Effects as well as Rainmaker Digital Effects, serving as a lead animator on the Kevin Costner/Kurt Russell vehicle, "3,000 Miles to Graceland" (2001).