What is your name and your current occupation?
Steve Nichols, Animation Supervisor currently at Digital Domain on the Fox Feature Film “The Watch”.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was a bit of a goth so I took a job at the local Funeral Home as a groundskeeper….not the best place to increase your social circle. I also worked at a “mom and pop” Video Store Clerk and loved it.
There’s a bit on each film. But, I’d have to say working on District 9 was epic for me. I’m so proud of everyone’s hard work, the director was Fantastic and the budget rivaled the craft service budget for Avatar. Go team!
How did you become interested in animation?
The first time I saw a Ray Harryhausen film. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad on late night TV. I was hooked. The monsters were filled with empathy, and I had never seen anything like that before—I was hooked.. I also used to pour over the ILM book, The Art of Special Effects…must’ve signed it out from the library 100 times.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Vancouver, BC…but from way before it became the new hot-bed of animation and VFX. I took art classes at a local college and attended the Sheridan College Summer school program. I was extremely fortunate to catch the eye of some ILM recruiters and the rest has been an amazing adventure.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
This really depends on the project, Ideally, we have a production Touch-base first thing to get a snapshot of what the day is going to be like and plan our targets. Then, Dailies–first with my leads and then with my team. After some desk time, I sometimes get lunch. In the afternoon, there are reviews–sometimes with different departments and desk rounds in the afternoon–usually sprinkled with Fire Alarm-like meetings and needs from production…sometimes it feels like that game Silent hill– Alarms go off several times of the day make you run for your life and scramble to solve problems…then you try and make it back home at a reasonable time!.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like several aspects. One of the biggest is working with amazingly talented peeps. It sounds corny, but our job is to make something amazing from nothing and it takes a great amount of talented people to do this. I love and despise the of starting a new film, It’s exciting and also incredibly daunting to see what Filmmakers have dreamed up. The bar is incredibly high now. I also really love seeing the end product with a True audience, sometimes it’s humbling but it’s still alot of fun.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Ultimately, this job is not 9 to 5. I hate how much time I spend away from my wife and children and your family all sacrifice for this industry. Also, Vfx is “hot” now….There are thousands of people that graduate every year from expensive courses geared towards a career in the VFX industry. I’m ecstatic that people have an outlet to learn more about their passion, but for a large part, the the goal is to turn out students. There’s a lot of uneven-ness with the students and ultimately new teams. It’s disheartening to find artist’s struggling after paying so much and finding out the “hard way” they may not be cut out for the industry…at least in that discipline.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Mainly it’s Maya all the way. sometimes Nuke.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I find now with a family, it’s the work/life balance.
I was amazingly fortunate at ILM during my 12 years there to meet Chuck Jones, and Ray Harryhausen among the highlights. I’ve also met Pete Doctor, accidentally destroyed Sean Connery’s ear drums and knocked over a young Leonardo DiCaprio…long stories….
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I WISH!! nothing that I can put into writing.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?