While I wrapped up my schooling, this site took an unofficial hiatus. A year ago, I left my job at Blue Sky and returned to SVA in NYC, where I’d started on my MFA in computer animation in 2012. Overwhelmed, I switched to attending part time in my second year, before dropping out completely shortly after. That I’d gotten a job offer from Blue Sky was amazing timing for me, as it gave me an out that frankly, didn’t feel like a failure. SVA’s MFA Computer Arts program is an intensive one, teaching what normally takes four years jammed into two (or four, if you attend part time, but it’s structured and advertised as a 2-year intensive). Having only the most basic understanding of Maya prior to the program, I knew I was in trouble by week two of the program. Though when I dropped out, I only had two classes left, plus the final project, which seemed like an impossible thing for me. Even now, literally just finishing an animated short a couple weeks ago, making an animated short film still feels impossible. Even being handed my degree did not make it feel real.Continue reading
As the month of October comes to an end, I can’t help but realize how quiet I have been on this site. My last post was about SIGGRAPH was in August! While I post pretty frequently on social media, that’s of course not the same as a full on post. But with work on my thesis film taking up all of my time–to the point that I am even behind on my vlog series on YouTube that documents it–I thought I’d briefly mention some other places to find me. And maybe to remind myself that while I can’t do as many of the things I want while in my final year of my MFA, that I still occasionally get to do and see wonderful things.
I wrote a post over at Cartoon Brew! While the post is about an event that already passed, I still wanted to document it here on Animation Complex as a small milestone for me and my love of writing about animation. Something, as I already complained about, don’t get to do as much. So this opportunity was even more of a treasure to have come in such a creatively controlled year.
To write this post, I got to interview two of the women who put on the event, and it was such a fun conversation for me just as a person let alone a interviewer with a goal in mind.
One of my dear friends, Monique, runs an animation blog called Simply Robotix. We met when we both worked as PA’s in Blue Sky Studios story department, and bonded over our love of animation, writing, and wanting to DO MORE. I am so, so blessed to have her friendship, and to have someone who is so supportive of me. I think there are times when people’s overlapping interests create friction between them, but that has never been the case. I want our sites to grow big and old together.
She interviewed me earlier this month, which you can read about here.
Two other things of hers I am excited about is her recent recap of Nickelodeon’s visit to SVA (which where I am working for my MFA and where she earned her BFA). I wasn’t able to attend the event, but her post more than covers things. Second is her Diverse Toons series, which is a panel series that’s being hosted in various places in NYC. You can read a recap of a past on hosted at SVA featuring Blue Sky artists here. A new series featuring all women (and all friends of mine!) is being held November 10th, so be sure to follow her for updates!
Action Film Autopsy Podcast
One of the first things I do when I move to a new town is get a library card and check out the kinds of classes and events the community there gets up to. A few years ago I moved to a new town and saw that there was a podcasting class. Despite already knowing the basics of it, I decided to go, figuring I’d meet interesting people and be motivated to start a new project. I never did that podcast (yet) but during that class, I built this entire site, detailing my progress to the class week by week. So I’ll always be grateful for that class.
The teacher, Mike, became a friend of mine, as did his wife Kai and another classmate who is BFFs with them, Ric. Ric is a writer who’s done it all. And the next thing he wanted to do was a podcast.
The Action Film Autopsy is a podcast dedicated to dissecting and discussing action films. Most episodes are amazing interviews with people who work in the industry–stunt coordinators, fight choreographers, etc. The podcast updates every other week, but he has a recap episode every couple months that are just film reviews, and I’ve been guest-hosting those with him for a while now. The podcast recently passed the 50 episode mark, and it’s been fun watching it grow and seeing Ric enjoy himself making it. And of course, getting to argue and debate on some episodes. Take a look through the back catalog and give it a listen! It’s also now on iTunes if that helps.
Ferdinand Bonus Features!
Another small one that I wanted to document on here for the sake of a MILESTONE! Look, Mom–I’m in a DVD!
The bonus features and I go way, way back. These were a large part of my early learning about film and animation and figuring out the path that I wanted for my career. I used to want the job (not knowing if it was a job or not) of making the bonus features, because I wanted others to learn about the behind-the-scenes. You could argue that that’s what I want this site to be, now that I’m over analyzing myself.
A co-worker sent this out a little while ago–the video is unlisted so I didn’t know it was posted online! I’ve seen this feature before as it’s on the Ferdinand Blu-ray, but now you all can see it.
I’m in there for a blip, a shot of me laughing, but the day we filmed this was so surreal and funny that I want to share. It was a roller coaster ride working on Ferdinand, which I detailed in a post, and this video just serves as a fun little reminder, almost like home movies.
Lastly, I’m going to be starting an email list so that anyone who wants to keep up to date with my posts can be notified. It won’t be anything too crazy. Probably a little email once every couple weeks or once a month even as school gets crazier. So if you are interested please sign up with the form here.
Thanks for reading!
So, this site has been very quiet. There’s always stuff cooking in the back kitchen, but only about 2% of it ever seems to make it to the front where you’re all sitting.
That number was about to drop from a dismal 2% down to 0% due to some life changes–I’m going back to school. Having gone through this challenge once before, I know that my time will be extremely limited. Even with lighter coursework this time around, and the lessons I’ve learned from both the first time I attempted this and the last four years of experience at my previous job, I know that this will be a very intense time.
To be completely frank with you, the last time this happened, I had a nervous breakdown in a sound-booth at 4am one day. I phoned my friends who were living in Asia (and therefore wide awake), hysterical. My friend in a lab next door, Allie, came around to check on me. The issue I’d been struggling to fix for the last two hours she was able to solve in 30 minutes. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She was so good at that type of thing–still is (we were lucky to have been co-workers these last 4 years!)–but I never seemed to improve, it never seemed to sink in. I think the intense two-year time line of the program was a large factor. I just needed more time for these concepts to sink in, plain and simple. I started attending part-time, and that helped immensely. Before I knew it though, I’d been offered a job I’d have been stupid to not take, and, with an admitted sigh of relief, I ended up having to drop the degree to work full-time.
But it never settled well with me that I didn’t finish. It wasn’t even about that program in particular, so much as getting that master’s degree. I like school. I have mixed feelings about it, the price mostly, but I’ve always been a fan of academia (or what it was intended for, at least). It’s not a perfect thing, but nothing is.
After leaving that program, I thought I’d never get a shot at it again. I’d made my peace, and even started considering OTHER programs, because lord knows I needed to drop another small fortune on school. But I’ve been given a rare opportunity to return to that program.
This fall, I’ll be returning to SVA, and I’ll be picking up the very first project I had pitched and worked on five years ago. I had some things done, but am mostly starting from scratch again with that same story inside me, getting a second wind.
And I had the crazy idea of documenting it all. It’s not going to be pretty. Ohhhh no, no, no. I expect tears, anxiety attacks, and teeny tiny victories here and there. I am hoping for a different experience this time, but I know that certain things are to be expected, for better or worse. Some people will and have already argued that I deserve and should build in some sort of work-life balance, and that just isn’t a thing when you’re making your thesis. It’s honestly a toxic culture, but one that yields results. I’m not saying I condone that environment, but it slowly boils down to a test of endurance. And I learned so much from that first time, I’m much more mentally prepared. I might not remember the particular skills I’ll need, but I have the knowledge and articulation now.
This first video pretty much just summarizes that all, providing the setup. Forty weeks! Can she do it? WHO KNOWS!
I am really sorry if you were interested in this site for all of the reasons I previously set this site up for. Like I said, I think I’d rather shift gears these next ten months rather than go another year without anything on here. And then I’ll shift back. Then I’ll get to do what I should have been doing all along–making videos that celebrate the history and industry of animation.
Please watch if you’d like. If you want to follow along, please feel free to subscribe to the YouTube channel, or sign up for emails whenever I post a new blog entry.
Blue Sky Studios’ latest film, Ferdinand, based on the 1936 children’s book The Story of Ferdinand came out December 15th of last year. And today, we learned that it was nominated for an Academy Award! It’s not Blue Sky Studio’s first nomination, but it’s the first in a while. Ferd is Blue Sky’s twelfth film, and the third one that I’ve worked on. This is the film at Blue Sky that I am most proud of having contributed to, mainly because it’s the one that I definitely contributed the most to, and because of who specifically on the film I was able to support. On Ferdinand, I worked in two departments as a production assistant (PA) where I helped manage those departments day-to-days. This won’t be a full post-mortem, or cover all of my feelings and thoughts, as I am 1) not allowed to discuss certain things 2) don’t feel that it’s my place to discuss certain things, but this is just my own little celebratory post.
For the uninitiated, Nerdfighteria is the community that has grown up around YouTubers John and Hank Green–known as the vlogbrothers–for the last decade. This past February, I had the joy of attending Nerdcon: Nerdfighteria, which was a convention intended to celebrate those 10 years, along with fellow Nerdfighters from all over the world. The basic principles of the community are acceptance and empathy, un-ironically enjoying the nerdy things in your life, being kind to others, decreasing the amount of suckiness in the world, and reminding yourself that every other person you meet is just as complex as you are. Also that we are made of awesome. The number one rule in Nerdfighteria? Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.
What does this have to do with animation? Getting there!
Of all the great things to come from the vlogbrothers’ early start in online video, one of the best was a grant they received from YouTube (back when they did that) that allowed them to create an educational show called Crash Course. And what makes Crash Course stand out among the droves of online video? It’s animation, brilliantly done by a small Canadian studio called Thought Cafe. While fantastic, accurate writing, and complex educational concepts are why we tune into Crash Course, the animation is 100% what makes it so successful; it’s what ties all of the best qualities of an educational show together and really helps the material stick in your brain.
What a time to be alive and in love with animation. This year saw a record number of film qualify, and I know that we’ll just continue to see each year yield a larger pool of contenders. We’re seeing more diverse films, more innovation, bigger budgets, smaller budgets and a more global representation. Not saying that in previous years we weren’t, as indie films have been cracking the nominations a number of times in the award category’s sixteen-year history. That’s a whole other post I’m excited to dive into! But for now, let’s take a look at the 2017 Oscar nominations.
I have to be honest. I love the Oscars. But it’s also one of my biggest pet peeves as an animation fan. There have been a lot of debates about the validity of the animation categories, particularly feature animation, and how votes are cast. They have tried to fix this by adding more voting members, but one can’t help but continue to be a little cynical about it all. Again, I do enjoy watching the Oscars–for me personally, growing up, it was always a yearly motivation. It’s a very self-indulgent night for film. It also tends to be a fun night to poke fun at animation, either by having a comedian introduce the section with disparaging jokes, or have a director whose film is 95% VFX win and then thank everyone except for the artists who literally made it. It’s also been dominated by the same company for years, which, as the article I linked previously highlights, does have you asking questions. And that issue doesn’t just plague the Oscars, but rather every awards show. Even the Annie Awards–a show specifically for animation–has had its share of controversy in the past, and like the Oscars, have taken steps to remedy it, such as revamping the voting and adding an Independent Animated Feature category, a debatable move in itself.
Another thing that often irritates me during awards season is, sadly, the fans at times. I have had enough debates with animation fans of forums such as ASIFA-Hollywood president Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research Facebook group to know that there are many self-proclaimed “Disney purists” out there who will blindly support the company. I think we’ve all seen that in some degree, whether someone says they loved the new Star Wars because they just love Star. And we are all very guilty of it too. I love Disney, but I’m not so blinded that I can’t criticize it.
I think the thing that frustrates me about these types of people is that their mind is made up before it even gives any other options a chance. Or even worse, they pick their clear winner without having actually seen all of the nominated films. That, in my mind, immediately invalidates your opinion. You can’t be a fully-informed voter if you are NOT fully informed. You can’t judge based on some of the information. You may have loved Moana, but perhaps The Red Turtle will blow you away. You can’t know that unless you see it. I remember sitting with friends after seeing Inside Out wondering how any Disney/Pixar film could top that, and then Zootopia came along and knocked me completely on my ass. I saw pictures for My Life as a Zucchini and didn’t know what to make of it at first, but gave it a try, only to realize that it was one of my favorite films–animation or otherwise–of the year.