What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
In High School, I worked at a gasoline pump factory with a good friend of mine. I stood in a line and hung different parts on moving hooks before they went into a spray booth. It was repetitive and pretty grueling. I was only there for a few summers, but I learned a lot. Mostly about doing a hard days work and what that’s worth. Honestly, it was a valuable experience and one I remember fondly. Each day we had to find a way to make the work fun because it was so repetitive. Hey, animation can be pretty repetitive. Maybe it helped!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I co-directed the animation for Spaceship Earth at EPCOT center a few years back with my brother. That was a fun project to be a part of. There’s nothing quite like being backstage in Disney World in the middle of the night when the animatronics are still on. It gets pretty surreal. There’s definitely a different ind of magic than during the day.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from North Carolina. Growing up, I didn’t know that animation was something you could do as a job. So, I guess I’m a bit of a late bloomer. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I made a very short film and got a sense of what animation was about. After graduating, I moved to NY where I did some early Flash animation music videos. They were fun projects and I was left a lot of room to be creative, but we had to do them quickly. It was a great learning experience. After a few years in NY, I applied to CalArts, got accepted and moved out to LA.
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 mostly work in 2D, so I’m in Adobe stuff most of the time. Lucky for me, drawing is still drawing and story is still story, so I find that technology helps most in speeding up the workflow, which is always a good thing. New tricks are always good. It’s funny, I remember working in Photoshop 3.0. It was pretty terrible compared to today, but conceptualizing a project is still the same. I think it’s all about the process, which I’m always trying to improve on.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of ?
I just finished working on the animated sequences for He Named Me Malala. It’s a feature documentary about the life of Malala Yousafzai, directed by Davis Guggenheim. The animation plays a big role in the film, which I’m very proud of. Animation is such a powerful art form. It’s easy to forget what it’s capable of and how expressive it can be. I hope that the animated sequences in the film connect with people and give them a better sense of Malala’s story and message. I’m so lucky to have worked with a great team of people and to have spent 18 months focusing on a project with such a great message. That’s a rare and special thing.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
That’s something I need to work on. A crazy hobby could be rewarding. I’ve given some though to lion taming. I had a cat growing up. I’m sure that would help me quite a bit.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?Making a film, TV spot, show, etc. is always a shared process, and that’s a good thing. Working with other people well is what makes everything work. Find the part of the process and the place that speaks to you, and focus on that. I’m big on collaboration. It’s impossible for one person to be good at everything, but a team can be. Sharing the creative process across a team and be eye opening. You’ll get creative solutions and ideas you never would have found on your own.