BFA, Film & TV, 2011
New York, NY
What are you currently doing?
I'm currently working at Blue Sky Studios, a division of 20th Century Fox, as a story artist on Ice Age 5 (2016). My past film credits include Rio 2 (2014), Book of Life (2014), Peanuts (2015). I've always interested in watching films as a kid. I love making up stuff with writing and drawing. I figured a story artist position would be an ideal fit for me to get started in the industry and a perfect place for me to learn and hone my story-telling skills. So far, it's been a challenging, exciting and satisfiying journey.
What aspects of your education, including internships and/or student projects, do you think best prepared you for your career?
During my junior year at Tisch, my professor Dean Lennert from Intermediate Animation Production, invited director/producer Steve Hickner as a guest speaker. Steve is also an NYU Alumnus, a rare talent who has worked at almost all the departments of animation studios before he took up leadership roles. His insights and industry tips were very inspiring and encouraging, and gave me a clear vision of what I would have to do during the rest of my time at Tisch.
I came to realize that feature animation tends to hire very specialized talent. To break in, one has to focus on one area of expertise. I choose story without hesitation, for eventually I want to direct, and I thought the story department would be the best place to learn and grow. Therefore, I spent my senior year storyboarding, designing characters and writing. I took an independent study class with professor John Canemaker on storyboarding. The portfolio I developed in that class helped me get a story test from Dreamworks Animation studios and couple of interviews at other major studios. Unfortunately I wasn't chosen. However, the feedback I got from the major studios was extremely helpful. I went back to drawing table, took all the advice to heart and did a new portfolio. Then, that landed me a story trainee position at Blue Sky Studios. My experience showed that people in animation are so humble and approachable, as long as you are driven and eager to learn, you will find so much help and encouragement from industry people you meet along the way.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to accomplish this same achievement?
I think the best way of learning is by doing it. There is no short cut. Keep on writing, keep on reading keep on drawing, keep on finding content that excites you and keep on talking to people! Along the way, you will meet so many friends and mentors who can bring your new vision to life and make you feel alive.
What would you tell your freshman self if you could do it all over again?
I was a very focused student. Once I set my mind to something, I will pursue it wholeheartedly. Thus, sometimes, I neglected other aspects of my life. If I can give any advice to my freshman self I'd say: stories comes from life experience, so get away from your drawing desk, or editing room, experience life, widen your horizons, step out of your comfort zone, take risks. There are things you have to do at the moment that might seem like a chore or a waste of time, but looking back it might be one of the most valuable life experiences you'll have, and it might be where your inspiration comes from.