Leo Oliveto

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What is your name and your current occupation?
I am a freelance CG artist. I am also on the crew for the upcoming animated shorts “Hullabaloo”.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
One time I was a security guard in a middle school. There had been great tension between two large groups in the school that culminated in a pretty large standoff. Imagine two crowds of about 250 people each about ten feet from each other ready to go to war. It looked like a scene out of Braveheart or something.  The only thing between them for about thirty seconds was me. Luckily they didn’t charge. I have also been a dish washer ,gardener, and a lot of other things.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Certainly the project I have been most proud to be a part of is Hullabaloo. I have been lucky enough to know the creator, James Lopez, for several years now and have watch  it grow from sketches on the wall to a full on successful indigogo campaign. I have loved the Disney style of animation since I was a child so to be invited to be part of that team is a privilege and an honor. It’s not everyday you get to work with animation greats.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Well I was born in Buenos Aires Argentina but moved to Los Angeles when I was seven years old.  I guess you could say I’m just starting out in the animation business with Hullabaloo as it is going to be the first animation project I will be a part of.  Up to this point I have only worked on tv shows, games, and toys. How I got to this point is what I’m guessing aspiring artist would want to know. Most people would say hard work,determination, and luck. Although that last statement is true it doesn’t say much so I will tell my story. I took a job as a souvenir photo booth attendant at a special even at the Walt Disney Studio.  The only reason I took the job was to get through the gates, which to me always felt like the hardest step in the process. In the soundstage we were set up across from where some Disney animators were giving drawing lessons to attendees. I was determined to speak to one of the animators and show them my work. Once I mustered up the courage I walked up and introduced myself to to to man behind the desk. The crowd had cleared but he was still doodling on the page (this is where the luck part comes in). The man behind the desk was James Lopez. Well to make a long story short he became my mentor and over a period of a couple of years he helped me improve my drawing skills dramatically. Around this time I also decided I would go back to school to learn the CG workflow for animated films. I enrolled at Gnomon School of Visual Effects. As one of my projects I decided to model the car from Jame’s personal animated project (Hullabaloo). It was, I think, at that point when he decided to let me help him with his project. Fast forward about a year and a half and here we are. So needles to say it does take time, hard work, determination, and luck.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Well my day usually consist of exercise in the morning. Then I get right to work. As I do freelance as a cg artist the jobs can always range from modeling, sculpting, texturing, and sometime design. I might be working at home in which case I crank up the tunes and work all day till my wife gets home. Or I might be working in an office. A work day can range from 1 hour to 18 hours long. If I have time I like to work on personal projects in the evening and on the weekends. Also I’m constantly looking for new techniques on how to create cool stuff. During my free time recently I have been working mostly on Hullabaloo.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The part of the job I like best is when I get in the zone and loose track of time and space. You are so focused on what your creating that all your worries fly out of the window. Hours can go by and you don’t even notice. I find it very relaxing and therapeutic.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
My least favorite part is dealing with people that don’t understand that a working artists are professionals and should be treated with respect.  We should not be expected to work for free, for credit, or a chance to have our work displayed. People should understand that we are highly trained professionals with skill that not everyone posses and therefore deserve to be compensated justly.

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 use Maya, Zbrush, Mudbox, and Photoshop on a daily basis. What it seem like is happening is that the tools are getting less technical and more artist friendly. I feel this will greatly help in opening up the doors for truly talented artist to partake in the emerging technologies. This hasn’t really impacted my job as I find it necessary, in this day and age, to adapt to new tools as they gives you more means to create.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Like everyone else it’s getting your foot in the door.

If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I would have artist create their own opportunities and not wait for corporations to give them a leg up or change their ways. There was a point in time when the Walt Disney Company was just three guys and their wives working hard to create something they believed in. AND GUESS WHAT, WE ARE DOING JUST THAT!!! and you can help us do it by donating or spreading the word. Check out out campaign

Hullabaloo Steampunk animated film

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes more that I could talk about in a small paragraph. If you look at the animators working on Hullabaloo it’s enough to make you faint.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
The toughest situation I’ve had in life is being enrolled at Gnomon while my father was sick with cancer. It involved a very stressful workload from the school, working at my dad’s gardening business, and taking him to his treatments. Three days before my third term started at school he passed away. Anyone who has been through this situation knows what I’m talking about.Up to that point it was very tough. After that experience nothing seems that tough anymore.

Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Well I think I already mentioned it above HULLABALOO. Hopefully if the campaign goes really well so it can be more than a side project and become a full time job.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have an affinity for building muppets. I love collecting Haunted Mansion and other Disneyland memorabilia as I am a huge theme park nerd. Sometime I  imagine what it would be like if i was an Imagineer and come up with ride ideas. I was the best student in my wood_shop classes. And when i’m not being the dopest MC I like to croon my wife with some Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin melodies.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?

1) Make sure your portfolio is at a professional level. Your work represents who you are so make sure it’s the best it can be.

2) Network! Go to industry event. Meet people let them know you exist.

3) Reach out to people. Show them your work. Ask them questions about how they got into the industry. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SHARE YOUR WORK. Because of showing my work I gotten to visit major studios, a mentorship, and a lot of great critiques.

4) Grow some thick skin. Learn to take critiques specially when they will help you improve your work.

5) Stop saying your going to do something and do it. Take action.

6) MOST IMPORTANT! Don’t ever give up. Do what you need to do to get to where you want to be. If that means getting over your fears, do it. If that means going back to school, do it. If that means taking a crappy job to support yourself while you work towards you goals, do it!  You haven’t truly failed anything until you give up….or die. But if you die don’t worry because it wont matter anymore. lol a little Haunted Mansion humor.

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