Back to School

SVA NYC

My cryptic post from mid-March may have been a bit of a clue, and my last post was an acknowledgement of shifting priorities. A lot’s changed. And, if it wasn’t clear, I’m going back to school.

Bye Bye Blue Skies

I’m not at Blue Sky anymore. I haven’t been for three and a half months, and the separation has been…different. That’s a post for another time; it’s hard to figure out and navigate my feelings on the subject. After nearly four years, I left of my own choice, but systems in place made me feel I had no choice if I wanted to pursue my career goals in the animation industry. It’s not that I didn’t have support there–I absolutely did–it just wasn’t in the right places, unfortunately. It’s tough to be in management when you also want to create. There isn’t a clear cut path for creative producers.

A Hail Mary

At the suggestion of a co-worker, I reached out to my old school, School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC, to see if I could re-enroll and finish up the MFA degree I’d left behind when I accepted the Blue Sky gig. My four years at Blue Sky should have made continuing my degree impossible, but thankfully the new program chair was accommodating.¬†

Within three days I was re-enrolled, and had my course schedule and a laugh-until-you-cry tuition bill awaiting. Stay classy, art school. ūüėȬ†

Back to School…Again

As I’d finished the bulk of the challenging classes when I first attended, my classes are focused on the thesis film itself. So while my day-to-day assignments will be light, just progressing through each step, my year will be an overall hell. And as much as I enjoy teasing art school, I do want my MFA. Regardless of whether or not I agree with the systems in place that reenforce that want. But the art school/advanced degree debate a whole other post.

The Dragon of Thesis Has Reared Its Ugly Head

What a stupid title for this paragraph. But that’s how it feels. I’m Bilbo in the mountain, trying to steal my pile of gold which I traded in for a fancy piece of paper RIP me and I’m trying not to upset the sleeping beast within. All I’ve got are the clothes on my back, and rations that won’t even cover a week.

An adventure in higher education! Apparently. 

I’ve got a magic ring though.

Four years at an animation studio has hopefully granted me experience. I know it has. (And I even didn’t linger long enough for that magic ring to turn evil! Wow, look at this metaphor go!)

I’ve got a team, sort of.¬†

The co-workers I had became friends I have, and I hope that some of them will have the bandwidth to help me. That is, if they don’t have a battle of five armies of their own to fight. I have a few confirmed party members, and some that I hope I can rope in later.

Enough with The Hobbit

I know, I know, but it’s so good. The book, not the movies.¬†

To be honest, I’m scared. While scheduling out my production calendar, working back from the week the project is due and when I want to have certain things wrapped, I’d realized that I would have forty weeks from that week (which was five weeks ago) to make this film.

That’s…and insane production schedule. But that’s the norm. That’s why students burn out, and sleep under desks or in audio booths. That’s why I had a proper nervous breakdown the last time this all happened, and I ended up hysteric and in tears at 4am, lucky that two of my best friends were living in Asia and I could call them without the time being an issue.¬†

I don’t want to do this by any means, but that’s sort of why I need to, I guess? I still don’t quite believe that, which sucks because the sooner I embrace the mindset the sooner I can put pressure on myself.

Because I went through it before, I do feel more mentally prepared. Like I said before, I haven’t been doing nothing in between then and now. And while there is plenty that I haven’t ever done before (like use the Arnold renderer) or things I haven’t done in five years (lighting), I know I just have to put my head down and ram through everything.

Let’s Document the Madness

Five weeks ago, when I first planned out my schedule and noticed I’d hit on the Biblical number 40, I felt that it was too good to pass up. A bit on the spot, I decided that I ought to document my progress in weekly videos. There were a couple of reasons I thought I might like to embarrass myself on a global stage:

  • It doesn’t seem like there’s much in-depth behind-the-scenes for student films/one-man teams, so this seems to help fill a void
  • A topic that gets looked over a lot in these situations are things like mental health and burnout–the darker side of being a student.
  • Editing practice! Because I suck. And guerrilla filmmaking in general. Basic equipment and software, nothing fancy.¬†¬†
  • This project allows me to keep creating content of some form for my animation site, Animation Complex. While I wanted the site to be more objectively about animation, a year following my own journey beats a year of nothing.¬†
  • Getting comfortable vlogging/ setting up my camera in public, as well as comfort with public speaking–speaking clearly and concisely without rambling too much. Still working on that…¬†

That being said, here is my stupid face on the internet:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJ1R0b-8J6HecnkeGenR5bWPy-D_B5R3Y

I’ll be vlogging my progress in weekly videos. Like I said, they’re gonna be pretty basic, as they can’t detract from the actual work that needs to get done. So I hope you enjoy the good, the bad, and the ugly of my student life for the next year. I acknowledge that is probably a terrible idea, but here we are.

¬Į\_(„ÉĄ)_/¬Į

March 2017

I’ve never worked more OT than I have in the last few weeks. I’m talking almost every lunch hour as well as after hours. But it’s bee worth it. Check out the trailer to the film I’ve primarily been working on:

Trailer day is always pretty fun at the studio. There’s no fanfare or anything, but it gives everyone a little boost to finally be able to show something to family and friends, and to signal that a few months down the road this thing that has consumed most of your life for the past couple of years is out in the world.

Because of this, though, most of my personal goals this month were on the backburner, like my 31 Day Declutter Challenge. Totally did not succeed, but definitely made progress which I can talk about in a future post. But let’s chat.

Continue reading “March 2017”

Top 5 Animated Films of 2016

fox and bunny having an argument

In 2015, I tracked my media consumption on a page on my blog, but then never did anything with it. Earlier in 2016, much like I adopted GoodReads to track my books, I created an account on LetterBoxd to track films, and my oh my, how much easier it is. I’m not sure why I never did your typical end of year wrap ups on my blog before,¬†but here we are making up for it.

That being said, I wrote the post over on my animation website, AnimationComplex.com. So please head over there and give it some love. ūüôā

Unfortunately, my picks were not totally in-line with the Oscar nominations, which were released this morning. We were on very similar planes regarding the film, but we definitely have our differences. And there’s one that I haven’t seen, that wasn’t nominated, that, based on performance and reviews, sounds like it should have made the cut. I also mention an animation-related documentary that was nominated for an Oscar as well! But I plan to go into the Oscars¬†a bit more in the future, both on AnimationComplex and on the in-progress, not-yet-launched Animation Complex YouTube channel.

Tech Inspiration in Seattle

I visited Seattle, Washington the first weekend of September, where my good friend moved. This is the third summer in a row where I made this trip, with the last two occurring after the SIGGRAPH conference. Despite not attending this year, my northwest adventure more than made up for my absence in LA.

Have you ever had a period of time¬†where things felt oddly connected?¬†Or maybe you had a few unrelated classes thematically spill into one another?¬†That was my week in Seattle.¬†This trip had a much welcomed, consistent¬†theme running throughout the duration, starting with the plane ride there. In the wake of the first casting news announced for Steven Spielberg’s filmic adaptation, I decided to re-read¬†Ready Player One. The book heavily features a virtual world, OASIS, where the characters spend most of their time, and where they truly live their lives. I’ve always had a strong fascination with more technology-driven cartoons, to the point where I probably would not be working in CG animation without them driving my interest into computers. The references to some of these properties, and others such as¬†WarGames really got me excited about these types of stories, and knowing about some of the VR and AR tech being developed, such as the¬†HoloLens, OASIS¬†won’t seem like a pipe dream for much longer.

In the years that I’ve known him, my friend has been a source of inspiration and assurance throughout my foray into CG/interactive technology. Working at Mircosoft, he definitely knows a thing or two about technology. We’ve always had similar taste in/appreciation for science, science fiction, art, media, and technology, so I supposed my little adventures being related shouldn’t be too surprising. ūüôā

Continue reading “Tech Inspiration in Seattle”

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet @ the NYICFF

Towards the end of March, I had the privilege of attending the US premiere of the 2015 animated adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet¬†at the New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF). The screening took place at the SVA Theatre on 23rd street, which gave me a chance to stop in and visit SVA, where¬†I¬†am a part-time MFA computer animation student.

I have been following this adaptation of The Prophet for a while now, honestly in shock that such a¬†film was even rumored to exist. When I first learned of it, it just sounded too good to be true: it is¬†a (mostly) 2D animated feature length film, with contributions from eight¬†of the world’s leading indie animators, and it tackles subject matter with a lot more depth than slapstick. I was so pleased that Salma Hayek was¬†seeing this through.

To be brief (and spoiler free), the overarching story follows Mustafa, a writer, artist, and teacher whose work was perhaps a little too liberal for his local government. Under¬†house-arrest for years, he is¬†taken care of by a woman whose daughter, a quiet troublemaker,¬†becomes an unlikely friend.¬†When his sentence is up, he is escorted by guards through the town, towards the docks, where he is to¬†be shipped back to his home country. Along the way, he encounters many of the locals, who welcome his¬†return with unbridled¬†celebration (to the displeasure of the government officials). He shares with them eight¬†sermons (a distillation of the original 26 poems), which range from topics of love, work, death, and everything all humans experience in between. These are where the work of the independent animators come through. I won’t elaborate¬†further, but I will steal a line from Variety’s Review, saying that¬†it “…doesn‚Äôt shy away from grown-up concerns.”

Still from the film
Still from the film

At times, I did find myself admittedly wanting to fast-forward through the main story, just to get to the smaller inserts done by the indie artists. Each one offered something new both stylistically and in the way they visually conveyed the more mature sentiments of Gibran’s poems. ¬†Although the overlying story was interesting in its own right, there was much to be desired for me. The cel-shaded CG was a bit awkward for me visually. Similarly, some of the gags involving minor characters (particularly the seagull and bumbling guard) seemed forced.

Ironically, the children I ended up seated next to disliked the inserts and I was treated to an audible sigh (“Another one!?”) as each one began. After the screening, I overheard the father discussing with his children, asking what they didn’t like about it. The older of the two (with approving nods from the younger) stated that the short animations¬†kept distracting them¬†from the main story, and that they were too wordy, which made it more difficult to follow along. As a child, I know I would have¬†preferred the varying segments over the overall story, but I also know that the depth of those segments would have been lost on me.

I am not going to go into the shorts any more, as I’d like to watch the film once more, as well as give other people a chance to see it for themselves in theaters before reading any sort of deconstruction.¬†And–in case it was a concern–this film does touch a tiny bit on God, particularly during a couple of the¬†inserts. But I never felt like it was being thrown in my face. The beautiful thing about the words of the prophet is that, regardless of religion, they are universal truths and experiences we share by simply being human.

I highly recommend seeing this film. Go see it on the big screen, support dream projects like this, support the indie artists and this beautiful collaboration. Support 2D animation–an animation that asks a little more of its audience–that calls attention to the freedoms of expression we often take for granted. Celebrate the wisdom and words of the prophet.

GKids has announced that the film will hit New York City and Los Angeles theaters on August 7, with a US and Canadian rollout following after.