Jose Mari “Joma” Santiago


What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Jose Mari “Joma” Santiago. I’m currently into Pre-Production work doing Storyboards and Character Design for  Goriotik Multimedia, a small  animation studio here in the Philippines, specializing in traditional, Flash and 3D animation for local TV commercials. Since I work for a small studio, I also act as Animation Supervisor once we proceed to animation.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Unfortunately, animation is the only career I have pursued since graduating from college. I took up Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Advertising in the oldest university here in Asia, the University of Santo Tomas.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I have worked on a lot of shows since I started as an In-betweener back in 1991, but as an animator, I must say that my proudest moment as an Animator was when I worked on the Kronk’s New Groove project back in 2004, where I really had fun with my scenes.

How did you become interested in animation?
I always loved watching animated movies and Saturday Morning cartoons since I was a little boy. I started drawing as soon as I knew how to hold a pencil. But I only became interested in animation when

I was in senior year in college, when we had to make a 2-minute animated short film  for one of our classes. I was given the responsibility of being co-director of that project, that even though I myself don’t know the first thing about animation back then, I had to take a ‘crash course’, so to speak, by buying Preston Blair instructional books just so we could finish our school project. That experience made me realize that I wanted to pursue this medium more. 

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from the Philippines and after graduating from college in 1991, I was fortunate enough to hear about an In-betweener’s training program for Fil-Cartoons, which was then a subsidiary of Hanna-Barbera studios here in the Philippines established back in 1988. I took the usual tests, and eventually I got the job as an In-betweener. Then in 1995, I became an Animator for Fil-Cartoons until the studio closed shop in 2002. After Fil-cartoons, I became a freelance animator until I got a job from Tooncity studio,back in 2003, that specializes on Disney TV and Direct to DVD shows like Tarzan 2, Kronk’s New Groove, The Fox and the Hound 2 and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning. After Little Mermaid 3 wrapped in 2007, I felt I needed to do something else other than just animating day-in and day-out, so I decided to leave Tooncity to pursue other avenues related to animation. That’s where I started to try my hand in Pre-production, specifically, doing storyboards and character designs for a small local studio called Goriotik Multimedia, here in the Philippines.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
When I was still an animator, I always say that in the animation business, everyday is a day to prove yourself all over again because in this business, you’re only as good as your last work. So, as soon as I get to my desk, I review my handout scene, check the ex-sheets and the storyboards for a clearer idea on what my scene is about, then probably listen to the soundtrack over and over again, then do some thumbnails to rough out the scene as loosely as I can, and finally, do the rough animation of my scene before I could show it to our animation supervisor/project director.
Now that I’m doing Pre-production work, there isn’t exactly a ‘typical’ day for me because sometimes I have to go to a meeting with some clients to pitch some boards, or sometimes I go straight to the studio to check our artists’ work, whether it be rough animation or just briefing them on their scenes. Or, if the schedules not that tight, I could practically just sit on my chair and sip a cup of coffee. And for me, that’s a luxury!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The best part of this job is being surrounded with creative individuals and making movie ‘magic’, so to speak! I love that this job can only be done with team effort. The product, or the show, IS the star. No one person could do this, it’s a collaboration of talented individuals working on something special.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The deadlines! Need I say more? hahahaha

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I don’t want to discourage anyone into pursuing this wonderful career, but, like any other creative-oriented job, you have to deal with a lot of egos and sometimes these egos clash. Egos and office politics (sometimes), are probably the most difficult part of being in this business. And also, at the end of the day, it’s still a business. Which means we have to be professional enough to set these things aside for the bigger picture.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
For our Pre-production/Design needs, we use Sketchbook Pro for basic sketching and inking, then Photoshop CS5 for painting done on a Cintiq 21 inch monitor.For our 3D needs, we use Maya 11.  For Flash animation projects, we use Adobe Flash CS4 and Toonboom cutout animation, we use Animate 2 and Animate Pro.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
The most memorable for me was meeting Marc Davis, one of the 9 Old Men at Disney, in person when he was invited to speak in Seattle back in 1997. It was my first time to go to the States and that’s probably the highlight of my visit. Probably the next most memorable was when Andreas Deja visited our studio here in the Philippines to oversee the production of Kronk’s New Groove (back in 2004) and at the same time, we were given a chance to be personally evaluated on our work. Most recently, I have worked on a feature-length project for a good friend of mine, Scott Petersen of Golden Streetanimation. We have worked together on Kronk’s New Groove and Fox and the Hound 3 for Disney’s direct-to-DVD projects.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
The toughest part was when our first studio, Fil-Cartoons was shut down in 2002. It was every man for himself at that point and I had to literally knock on different animation studios’ doors looking for work. Fortunately, during those times, there was enough work on other studios to go around, so it didn’t take too long for me to start animating again.

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Well, I do animatic illustrations and storyboards for some local TV commercials. I also do monthly illustrations for FHM Magazine, Philippines. These help me to be a more well-rounded artist, and it keeps things interesting. I would like to go back to my fine arts roots by doing some paintings again someday, just so I don’t get burned out with my day job. 

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Keep drawing and keep doing what you love. Draw anything and everything, that’s the only real way to sharpen your skills. In this line of work, there are really no shortcuts. Believe me, I’ve worked with some of the best local and foreign animators and directors, they can smell you a mile away if you’re ‘faking’ it. And as cliche as this may sound, have fun!

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