What is your name and your current occupation?
Hey, I’m David Rodriguez and I’m currently a Freelance Animator at Halon Entertainment. Working on a “Shhhhh” project.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I haven’t had any real “crazy” jobs, I would say mostly jobs you typically get when your young looking for work. My very first job was when I was 18 years old working at Toys R US. I was running on the main “Boys World” that was fun. Then after that I worked in Shipping & Receiving for some wholesale company. Very boring and physical work. I didn’t last there too long. I wouldn’t take a job like that again. You do too much for too little. After that, I landed a job at a doctors office as an office clerk while I was attending college.
How did you become interested in animation?
I would say the very first time I saw Toy Story in theaters. Ever since then I wanted to know how 3D animation was made. In some weird sense it felt like 3D was real but I knew that it wasn’t. I thought maybe it was actors with costumes then they did something to the video to make it look cartoony. LOL. Then later I saw Jurassic Park and, THAT WAS IT! I had to know how they created those realistic looking dinosaurs. That sparked it all for me.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Torrance but have lived in Lynwood, California pretty much my whole life. I guess to get into the animation industry you have to be good at what you do. I did what anyone else would do. You have to animate so much, that smoke needs to come outof your computer tower. That’s how you know you might make it in the industry. I animated until I felt I had a good 2minutes to show in my animation reel. I applied to about 50 studios Online (I’m not exaggerating the number) and fortunately a studio in Irvine called me up and hired me. That was the beginning for me.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
A typical day for me is to wake up around 8AM and hit McDonald’s for some Breakfast, mmmm-mmmmm I’m loving it. Work starts at 9:30 AM. I sit at my desk, turn on my computer and wait about 10minutes for my file to load on Maya. Then I have to log into my account in studio to check what my animation task will be for that day. Depending if I need to animate, re-animate, or fix some motion capture that’s what I will do ALL day. It’s pretty laid back for the most part. Since we mostly do Previs animation we don’t need to animate to a high level of detail in our characters. Just enough to demonstrate good acting and movement and get the point across to the director. We don’t do lip synch. We get 1 hour of lunch, which is cool because we ALL go out to lunch and walk to near by restaurants. We chat about movies and have a good time, then its back to animating. Our animator supervisor occasionally will come by and see what we’ve done. Sometimes he’ll suggest changes or just say, “Great job”. At the end of the day we submit our work for review and the following day, we check our animation task and take it from there.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I guess the best part is when you’re done animating. (not that I don’t like animating) But you get to see your work or co-workers animation come to life. I think that’s worth everything to me! It feels like you’ve accomplished to the success of the project you’re working on. That makes me very happy! I think I’m going to cry… I also like when our lead puts on the motion capture suit on, because we always make fun of what he’s acting out. LOL
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I would say most of the time your lead doesn’t have time to walk you through every detail about their proprietary tools for animation. Most of the time your just “thrown into the pool” and its sink or swim. Sometimes it feels like you have to bug your co-worker next to you for some advice on how to do something. You don’t really want to keep walking over to your lead and ask him every 5 minutes how to do something. Best thing is to learn from your co-workers or people that have experience. It okay and understandable if your new but its something you’re going to have to get used to. You can’t be shy in this industry. If you don’t know how to do something you better ask. If you don’t you’re only wasting your time and the company’s time. Its better to ask and move forward than to sit there and try to figure it out yourself sometimes. I’m sure some of you went or go through this often.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Its all mostly computer software. Mainly Maya and Photoshop. But I have used AfterEffects and 3D Max in other studios. We also use Skype to chat and to do video conferences with the director in London. That’s pretty fun.
I think everyone in the animation business know that studios mostly hire on Freelance basis. Which means you’ll be working in the studio for the length of the project, but as soon as the project is over, so are you. Which means you’ll probably have some down time, or no job, or as we say in the industry “in-between jobs”. It can be rough sometimes but if you truly love what you do you will keep animating and you’ll keep looking for your next project. I know people that have been our of work for about 1 year and others for about 7 months with no work. This is the most difficult part of being in the industry, specially for beginners. I’m sure if you’re REALLY good you will have no problem landing your next job. Animation is tough but you have to hang in there. I had a friend that had to change careers because he had a family and he couldn’t cut it. He needed something more reliable. But most of the time its due to the work on your demo reel or the timing for the studio hiring. Just do your best ALL the time and you’ll do good.
Sadly, not on a one-on-one conversation with an animation super star, but I did get to hear John Lasseter give a motivating speech at CAL Arts. I was invited by a friend who’s a student there. Also, one of my instructors at college worked as an animator for King Of The Hill. Love that show. He was very inspiring and always told us the truth about the animation industry.
The toughest situation I had in my life was losing my mother to cancer. Sadly she passed away in 2010 and I got my first animation job in 2009. I always told my mother that I was going to make it big and that one day I would take her out to a movie and see some of my animation work on the big screen. Life isn’t always fair but you have to keep your chin up and keep pushing for those dreams. I continue to push for that day when my animation work will make it to the big screen. I think my mother will be by my side when I go watch that movie. She was always supportive.
As a backup I started my own funny Spanish t-shirt store online. It’s nothing yet, I just designed some shirts and put them on a website. It’s always been my second passion to sell funny t-shirts online. I’m hoping to slowly grow my shop to something bigger. As of now I only have 11 designs and white shirts. But what can I say, it takes small steps first to learn and grow. Its called ElGuapShirt.com. I also played music when I was younger but I left it after 13 years of playing because I had to dedicate myself to animation.
No, I’m weird but not that weird…LOL
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
To be honest, animation is hard to learn. When I was in school about 90% of the students didn’t have good timing, poses or even the right attitude for animation. Animation is something you need to practice and come up with your own animation methods. If you truly want to become an animator you must practice it and create bad animation so that you can improve in your next one. If you truly want it you will never give up. Buy books, go on YouTube and look at tutorials for how to do something. Look at peoples demo reels and compare yourself to other animators. That is what you’re going to be competing against when you apply for jobs. I also have a YouTube channel where I teach my basic animation techniques. Check it out on YouTube AnimationMethods. Keep on animating and cheer to you all!