What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Avner Geller and I am a visual development artist at PDI/Dreamworks.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I guess the most extreme one would be serving 3 years in the israeli Military… doesn’t get much crazier!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
One of the most creative and enjoyable experiences I had was creating the short film Defective Detective, with my friend Stevie Lewis. it was so satisfying to be able to conceptualize the story and bring it form early development to a fully realized film. We were very luck to share this film with many people on the web and in festivals around the world, and were honored to receive a student academy award for it, as well as an Annie nomination. Prior to my job at Dreamworks, I was part of the team who was working on Henry Selick’s “The shadow King” (which I hope will get back into production soon). it was a true honor to work with one of the people who inspired me the most to get into animation.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in the states. My parents are both Israeli and when I was 4 years old we moved back to Israel where I was raised. I always loved drawing and been doing it since I can remember myself. as the years pass my passion for drawing and storytelling got bigger, and I got into comics and Animation. it was clear to me that I want to do it professionally one day, and when I finished my military service, I Moved from Israel to Florida, to pursue a degree in animation at Ringling College of art and Design.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My day starts with a long commute to work . I try to use that time to read, listen to podcasts and draw. I love drawing people on the train, although I must admit that drawing the “person sitting and staring at their phone” pose, can get a little old after a while. When I get to work I get my coffee, check some emails and getting ready for an art review that usually happens early in the day, then I have my list of assignments, which vary from one week to another, and I start drawing.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love the variation of subjects I get to deal with. especially on the film I am working now there is a great variety of locations so every assignment could be very different from the other. Also the fact I could work on a design one day and then on some color keys for a sequence keeps things interesting. One thing in particular I really like is the research stage, Before starting to work on something, I collect images, videos or any reference I need in order to study the subject. you get exposed to a lot of things this way and it’s a really fun way to learn about things you don’t know much about.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Since we work on such huge projects, sometime you work on tiny little details and not exactly sure how it fits into the bigger picture, so it’s hard to connect with the work. Luckily every now and then you’d see a WIP screening and then it all becomes clear, and the enthusiasm comes back.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I usually work mostly digitally, or sketch on paper. most of the work is done on a cintiq in photoshop.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The industry is really saturated these days. with so many schools out there and so many talented artists. A lot of studios are cutting expenses, laying off employees or shutting down completely. Job security is a huge issue these days, and it feels like you always have to be prepared, and be on your toes. Another aspect, is the constant need to try and reinvent yourself from time time and come up with something completely new and fresh.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Definitely! I think one of the best experiences I had is to meet personally so many of the artists I learned from and admired. A lot of them became close friends. The animation world is so small and it seems like everyone knows each other. I keep bumping into people I met in the most remote places, and recently even got started to work with some of them.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I think leaving Israel and moving to the states was probably one of the hardest things I had to do. it meant leaving my family and my friends and start a new life. After being here for 6 years it’s still difficult sometimes but I try to go visit as much as I can. I really appreciate the opportunities that I had and when I go back I try to go to schools and universities and talk to students and artists, and share my experiences and the things I learn here everyday.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am always keeping my mind busy with developing new projects. Recently I’ve been really enjoying writing little stories that describe experiences from my life, I found it to be a great documentation tool as well as a way to make little mundane events, much more memorable. Other than that I am working on couple series of illustrations. More than anything I hope to make another short film sometime in the future.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Hard works and great attitude pays off. Keep working hard on what you love to do, if you work on things and topics you are passionate about it will show. Try to focus your interest. it’s good to have a variety of skills, but you really want to make sure that you are great in what interest you the most ( this is mostly true if bigger studios are you goal). There is a common conception that artists are just “naturally talented”. Really, it’s just like with dance or music. You have to play your scales every day until you are fluent and master your tools.