Interview with Kaveh Ruintan – Freelance Animator


It’s another Monday, and that means only one thing.. a new post! This week we have another interview! I had the pleasure to chat with the one and only Mr. Kaveh Ruintan!! Kaveh is such a talented animator and great person to work with. I have had a great time working with Kaveh on two different projects now and he is a huge asset to any team. Kaveh is one of those animators who no matter the shot, he is going to give you something awesome to look at when it’s finished. He has such a great eye for animation. Oh yeah, and he is also just a super fun guy to chat and work with! Please, take a look at his demo reel below then give his interview at read! Kaveh has a ton of great answers and advice for all animators!

 

Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?

I’m from Iran and I’ve been working in animation since 2009

What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?

As long as I can remember I’ve always loved animation, I remember watching Disney’s Jungle Book as a kid and wanting to grow up and be just like Baloo The Bear. After Toy Story came out I started thinking that perhaps I can actually do animation for a living but still wasn’t sure. It was always in the back of my mind, then came a movie called The Incredibles and that did it for me, man, that film was so awesome that I knew then that life wasn’t worth living if I wasn’t an animator!

Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?

I’m self-taught in animation, but I have a degree in Fine Arts so I guess a little bit of both?

Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?

It was around 2013 that I got into freelance/remote work but I actually started my career working in house for a studio, back in 2009 I think, it wasn’t a very good experience for me and I got a bit discouraged in animation. After that I worked in house for another studio called Tuca Animation, it was a great place and I learned a lot, unfortunately that studio is no longer active but I met some amazing people who I’m still in touch with and two of whom I’m currently working with on a secret project!

Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?

The typical day as a remote animator for me starts around 9am, armed with a big cup of coffee, sitting at my desk, I usually like to start my day with watching a few clips from my inspiration folder. It’s a folder where I’ve gathered art works that I find inspiring over the years, there’s animation, live action, drawings, photography, paintings, you name it. It gets me excited for my day and also is a good reminder that I have so much more to learn!

The actual part of animating isn’t very different whether you’re at home working remotely or at a studio. You just sit at your computer and do animation. The one thing that is great about the studio environment is that sense of collboration that happens when you’re physically in the same room with other artists and you talk about your work, ask their opinion and bounce ideas off of eachother. Which of course nowadays we can almost replicate with online meetings where everyone joins in but it’s not quite the same.

Do you keep a regular set of hours?

I try to, but with remote work it’s not always easy to do. Sometimes other people are in different time zones and you have to attend meetings. But as much as I can, I try to stick to a 9am to 6pm working hours.

I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?

Yes! Improve your skills and grow! Start drawing, join a life drawing class if you can, if not just set aside an hour or two every day for drawing. Study film making, there are some great books out there (I’ll share some of my favorites below).

Study the work of masters, the 9 old men, James Baxter, Glen Keane, Sergio Pablos. Study acting, join an improv class if you can, study film, break them down, pay attention to composition, to lighting, to camera moves, the great directors always have a reason for moving the camera. Go outside and do some photography. These things will add to your knowledge and also help to keep you inspired.

In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?

I’ve worked on projects that we’ve done everything through email and I’ve worked on projects where there was a great pipeline setup with an online software like Shotgun or Cerebro. Usually it depends on the number of people involved and the production budget for that project.

How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?

I owe my first remote gig to my good friend and super talented animator Chris Mayne. He knew of an opening for a remote animator on a TV show that he had worked on and he recommend me, thankfully they liked my reel and I was hired!

I’m not sure if this would be helpful but, for breaking into the industry, there are two things that in my humble opinion are the most important. First is your reel, which should be good, there are a lot of great info on how to make a kick ass reel out there. Just Google it!

Second thing is your attitude and professionalism. It doesn’t matter if you have the best reel in the world if you’re not a team player and can’t collaborate effectively with others.

Also remember that animation industry in the world is a very small, tight community and most people know each other. Try to be respectful and professional to your colleagues, even when you’re in school, be nice to your fellow classmates. Try to help others if you can. The person sitting next to you right now might end up hiring for a project a few years later.

I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?

That is so true! It can definitely be tricky, it’s not always easy to plan ahead. I’m not sure if I have a good answer for you. I have doubled up on projects before and sometimes it’s been difficult. To me, I just try to plan ahead as best as I can as far as how long each project would take and go from there.

What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?

Keep at it! This is going to sound like an old cliche but if you work hard, keep improving and getting better, sooner or later someone will give you a chance. If you can’t get into a studio right out of school, don’t be discouraged, keep learning, do small animations for practice, reach out to experienced animators, show them your work and ask for feedback. When I was learning I found a veteran animator through a forum and he agreed to give me feedback on my bouncing ball exercises. He didn’t ask for anything in return, he just helped me out and I learned a lot from him.

On that note, I’ll be more than happy to give feedback if there’s anyone out there who would like to show me their work, you can find me on twitter or vimeo.

Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?

I’ve done one small gig for a game a few years back. the game was never released so I can’t talk about any details. But overall, you need to pay close attention to mechanics, physicality and weight and to make sure to check your work from all angles.

Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?

When I started learning 3D, I learned some modeling, rigging and lighting. I wanted to learn everything so I could make my own short film! But I soon found out that it’s almost impossible for one person to master everything.

Having said that, I would encourage student to learn about other aspects of production, even if their focus is on animation (Just to clarify, by learning other skills, I mean to get a general understanding of how things are done). Those skills will definitely come in handy one day, as an animator, a general knowledge of modeling and rigging would be helpful just so you can understand how things work under the hood.

There’s been a couple times that I was asked to work with the rigging team to test drive rigs and to make sure they were production ready, and having an overall understanding of the technical side helped me to communicate more effectively with the TDs.

Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?

I’m probably the worst person to ask this from! I’m not very good at the business side of things, thankfully I’ve been lucky to have had jobs where people on the other side were more than fair to me.

What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?

I’m seeing more studios nowadays willing to do remote work, and it looks like it will be more common as we have better tools for online collaboration.

Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?

Almost every project that I’ve worked on has had some great memories and it’s difficult to choose one as my favorite. Usually the people that I get to meet and collaborate with are the highlight for me! But I think one of the best projects that I’ve worked on to date has been La Noria. The short film directed by veteran Pixar animator Carlos Baena and produced by Sasha Korellis.

Man, working on this project has been like an animation grad school for me, I’ve learned so much, and not just about animation, but about directing, editing, lighting, etc. Carlos and Sahsha are very generous with sharing their knowledge and also with letting us see what other departments are doing, I’ve worked on other projects where animators were only allowed to see the animation and not other stages, which is fine, but being able to see the whole pipeline and learn from the work being done by other artists  has been invaluable to me.

Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?

One thing that I believe in, is to give each shot my absolute best effort, regardless of how much it pays, how long the shot is or whether or not it’s a juicy shot. Take pride in your work, always try to do your best work in the given time, don’t cheat your audience, because what you’re animating will eventually be part of a show or a film that people will pay for with their money or their time.

Let me leave you with these words from the legendary animator Glen Keane:

“There come times when you’re so sick of a scene that you just want to say good enough, move on and be done with it – but what you’re really doing is cheating your audience.

You’re the only one who knows that you didn’t do everything you could have with it, and the audience doesn’t know they’ve been cheated. I just want to make sure I’m not cheating anybody by taking an easy way out.”

 

Recommended books:

On Film Making by Alexander Mackendrick
Director of The Sweet Smell of Success and the original Lady Killers. He also tought film at Cal Arts. Great book to get an overall understanding of story and film.
Five C’s of Cinematography
Great book to learn the fundamentals of photography, camera, composition, etc.
Adventures in Screen Trade by William Goldman
Awesome book by the writer of The Princess Bride and Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. He shares his experience as one of the top screen writers in Hollywood
Drawn to Life Vol. 1 and 2 by Walt Stanchfield
The lessons from a life time of animating and teaching. Priceless!
Acting for Animators by Ed Hooks
Great book to learn more about acting.
Artists Guide to Facial Expression by Garry Faigin
Probably the best reference on how the human face moves, and it’s written for artists! Highly recommended for animators!
In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
By the editor of GodFather III and Apocalypse Now. He talks about the essence of editing.
On Directing Film by David Mamet
By the writer of The Untouchables and Glen Gary Glen Ross. Need I say more?
Making Movies by Sidney Lumet
Director of 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon and Network shares his experience from some of his films.
Bill Peet: An Autobiography
An all around inspiring book by the legendary Disney story artist Bill Peet.
Painting with Light by John Alton
By John Alton, the master of film noir lighting. Great book to learn about light in live action films.
Story by Robert Mckee
The bible of storytelling in cinema!

 

Thank you so much to Kaveh for participating in this interview. I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to get in-touch with Kaveh, below is his IMDB and Linked-In page.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm7699224/?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kavehruintan/

Interview with Nathalia Lemotte – Freelance Animator

Happy Monday! This week, I am excited to share an interview with the amazingly talented animation power-house, Mrs. Nathalia Lemotte! I have had the pleasure of working with Nathalia and her husband Caleb, on two different  TV series projects now. They are both excellent animators and make a killer team of freelancers. Nathalia is always great to chat with and she has had quite a career as an animator and some really great advice! So grab your beverage of choice, and sit back and enjoy. But first! Take a look at her and her husband’s demo reels linked below!
Nathalia’s Reel:

Caleb’s Reel:

Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?

I was born in Germany, grew up in Austria and am now living in Maine, USA. I have been an animator for almost 9 years.

What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?

I worked all kinds of office jobs at first, as that was the only occupation my parents would agree too (we Asians when given orders.. we obey). At one point I just needed something more artistic. I actually tried to get accepted at some universities in Austria for Fine Arts or Industrial Design. However, there was so much competition, and my portfolio was rolled up and tied together with a rubber band. Once I saw the other applicants with their huge leather map full of art properly put together, I was not surprised that I didn’t pass any of the exams to get accepted. I was neither trained nor ready for it at that point. So..  I continued researching the heck out of google about my future options until Animation Mentor popped up.

I love the arts but was not trained in them. I really like working on the computer too, so 3d Animation sounded like a good fit. My biggest motivation was more of a “I can’t work this office job anymore, I need more action and a lot more fun”. And the picture of me doing cartoons and animation for someone else to watch, laugh, cry or think about really sparked my interest, though it felt like I reached for the stars.

It was as if you were floating in the water and you can’t see anything and you are just reaching around you for help to pull you up and out of the water.  You are just swinging your arms left and right. Suddenly you grabbed something and you hold on to it really really tight, don’t ever let go. Then, suddenly I popped out in animation land.

Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?

I worked full time while doing AM so most of the art I learned on the job. I was lucky enough that people actually hired me and worked with me in my beginnings. I punched in so many over time hours because I just couldn’t get that leopard to run properly!

Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?

Lemonaut Creations, Oktobor Animation, Epics Studios, were my on-site jobs. Then followed a bunch of off site gigs which I started maybe 4 years ago and have not gone back to on-site ever since.

Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?

Typical day when working from home starts with changing my baby’s diaper and nursing. We normally get up around 6. I try to give myself one hour in the morning to wake up, tops, have my breakfast and get to work if I take the morning shift. My husband, also a freelance animator, then takes care of the baby until about lunch time and then we swap. That way we both get to work and take care of our child our selves. The key is, if it’s your work time, you only work. No facebooking or youtubing (it’s really hard sometimes), your entire focus needs to be on work. That way you get a lot done within 6 hours and believe it or not, you are toasted after.

Do you keep a regular set of hours?

Yes. It’s important for me to have that structure. But then sometimes we maybe go to the climbing gym in the morning (when it’s the least crowded for baby) and then we have to punch in the hours in the late evening to catch up.

I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?

I would advice not to animate as much. Once it’s crunch time you won’t see much of the day light. It’s good to take a break from monitor and get some sun or even just draw something on paper. But just get a break from animating on the computer and refresh your eyes, refresh your head. If you really can’t stay away from the computer, watch some of the latest movies. That can be really inspiring and motivating.

In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?

Besides Shotgun and Cerebro it seems very popular to work with FTP clients. I also saw the use of Dropbox very often, although I think that one is really terrible. I personally don’t like working with Dropbox on animation gigs because I often had troubles with syncing and suddenly I had file doubles and what not. I don’t think Dropbox is very ideal for an animation project,.

How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?

Networking seems to be key, but also very often it’s just luck. You might just be connecting with someone over Linkedin for example that needs someone right now and you are available and off you go. You just have to keep trying, keep working on your reel, keep connecting with people, go to gatherings or events.

I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?

One time we worked on three different projects at the same time. It was so insane and this might be one of the tougher things about freelancing. You gotta be pretty flexible and that is not so easy, especially if your partner, who you want to go on vacation with, has a set schedule and needs to take time off early. In my case we both do the same thing so it works. But we had situations where we planned a trip and work was still going, so we bought a couple of laptops for those situations. That way we can always be available for work, at least to some degree, as we don’t want to be working only while vacationing.

What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?

Take Chris Mayne’s awesome “Animation Industry Job Postings” List and go to the “studio list” tab. Contact Studios that hire remote and just introduce yourself. It’s always good to connect and maybe some studio just happened to need someone right away.

Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?

Yes. Works the same really. No difference in the pipeline of work.

Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?

No I don’t. Up to this date I keep contemplating to learn more, but I honestly have not found the time or drive to dive into a new subject. Also there seems to be new specialties and technologies popping up every time I check! That makes it hard to keep up. But generally speaking I believe that more skills can give you more opportunities. I often see job posts for animation + some extra skill. Smaller studios don’t have the budget to hire one person for every area of production. So if they get one person that covers more basis that will save the studio a lot of money.

Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?

My husband does all the negotiation, I am too soft for that. As for quoting, you want to decide on how much you would like to earn an hour (this is how I think) and as you gain more experience animating you get a sense of how much work you can get done, so with that you get to a rough quota. It’s good sometimes to negotiate to adjust the quota as the project runs. We sometimes try a project for a month and if we think the quota is way off, we talk about our quota to the studio again and hopefully everybody  is happy at the end :).

Google has a lot of good resources if you  look for “invoice templates”. There are all the same in core, so just take one, tweak it a little, put your logo in it, done.

I use Quick-books and Turbo Tax which basically does the whole job for you with your taxes. Quick Books connects to your accounts and you can export all your data into Turbo Tax.

With contracts you basically want to make sure the important things are written down like Who, What, When, How much.

What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?

I certainly wish and hope so. From a studio’s point of view it is more risky to work with remote people. Communication can be hard and different time zone can make a collaboration difficult. Also security can potentially be an issue. So for those working remotely, let’s try to be as professional as possible to make hiring remote freelancers more attractive. With that I mean, honor the NDA for example. On the other hand, I believe that studios need to realize how advantageous remote freelancers are. You don’t have to fly them in, accommodate them or handle their visa’s. I believe it could save them a lot of time and money to work with remote people vs. on-site.

Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?

I loved working on the Nickelodeon TV shows Penguins of Madagascar and Robot and Monster. The scripts where so good, the jokes cracked me up! The character designs where very appealing and it was just a real fun project.

Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?

If your situation allows it and you would be into it, try to get into all the studios first (working on-site), building relationships, growing a network and getting production experience. It’s also a opportunity to learn from others in-person. Later in life, especially if you want to settle (and I am really only speaking for myself of course) it will help you a lot for working from home, building off those relationships you developed. Word of mouth goes a long way.

 

Thanks a bunch Nathalia, your answers were awesome!

If anyone would like to contact Nathalia below is some more links to her information.

Portfolio Website: http://nathalialemotte.weebly.com/about-us.html

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5286210/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathalialemotte/

 

Interview with Chris Mayne – Freelance Animator

Chris Mayne Banner

I thought I’d start off the series of interviews with the one and only Mr. Chris Mayne! I first met Chris when I was in my second class at Animation Mentor. He was always very active on the school forums and facebook pages. When I learned he lived in Kansas (a city not typically known for a large animation industry) I was very interested to learn how he still managed to have a such an awesome career in Animation! I wrote Chris an email back then asking for tips and advice on navigating the animation industry as a remote/freelance artist and he gave me some really great information. I directly contribute this advice to my ability to land a good freelance gig shortly after finishing Animation Mentor.

I had the pleasure of working with Chris on the TV series “Yoko” for Wizart Animation. He is an amazing animator and just really fun guy to work with. He also is extremely generous with his time and effort to help others. He maintains an extensive spreadsheet with tons of Animation Industry Job Postings and keeps it up-to-date very frequently. Please, before reading the interview, check out some of his awesome work in his demo reel below!

Lets get started…

  • Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?
    • I’m from Overland Park, Kansas and have been animating for a little over 8 years now.
  • What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?
    • I’ve always been interested in animation but honestly didn’t really give a lot of thought to becoming a professional animator until later in my life. I graduated from college with a marketing degree and worked various jobs for a few years that I just wasn’t happy doing. I knew a change was needed. While watching The Incredibles in the theater, that was when the heavens parted, choirs were singing, and it just hit me that I could be doing THAT for a living.
  • Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?
    • My adventure in learning how to animate started at the Academy of Art but continued through Animation Mentor, where I was part of the 7th graduating class.
  • Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?
    • I actually started my career at a studio in Kansas City. It was the only time I’ve worked in-house. That studio is no longer operating, and I’ve been animating remotely for 7 years now.
  • Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?
    • I would say what I like the most about animating remotely is I feel I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I’ll split my time between the day and night to finish up my work if needed. Most studios really don’t mind when I’m animating as long as I get my stuff done. There are times I miss getting to work side by side with other artists though.  While I utilize things like Skype or Google Hangouts to chat, it’s just not quite the same as face-to-face interaction.
  • Do you keep a regular set of hours?
    • Not necessarily. Ideally I prefer to get all my animating done during the day; however, like I mentioned earlier, it’s the flexibility I enjoy in my schedule.
  • I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?
    • Take a vacation!!! Recharge your batteries. After that, you could do some personal animation tests. I’ll also try to do some additional networking and reach out to studios to see if I can nail down some future projects to work on.
  • In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?
    • Email is still the main method of communication for me although I have used Skype and/or Google Hangouts a little more often. I haven’t been involved on too many projects that use something like Shotgun; however, there have been a few. I’m seeing more and more job listings stating a desire for candidates to be familiar with Shotgun, Perforce, etc.
  • How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?
    • My first remote gig came courtesy of a former mentor I had in school. I stayed in touch with him after graduating and when my stint at the Kansas City studio came to an end, I made sure to contact him again to see if he maybe had any projects he needed help with. While he didn’t have one at the time, he did have a lead on another job with a friend of his.  Thankfully it worked out to where I got to be a part of that project, and ever since then I’ve been working from home.  I’ve found the most important thing through my years of freelancing is definitely networking and then staying in touch with who you connect with.  Stay on their radar so when they have a project (or know of one) needing extra help, your name is at or near the top of their list of who to contact.
  • I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?
    • Oh yeah, I’ve totally doubled up on projects and have even worked three at a time before. You need to know what you’re capable of doing. I hate turning down work and have definitely had my ass kicked a few times because I just couldn’t say “no”. Be smart with your planning/scheduling. If you don’t feel like you can take on additional work, don’t force it.  You may likely end up putting out crap animation and then the studio won’t want to work with you again.
  • What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?
    • Be proactive with creating a great reel. Talk to other artists and get their eyes on your work. Do lots and lots of networking. Talk to studios.  Start getting your name out there. You may snag some remote work in the process.
  • Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?
    • The only thing I’ve done for game studios is work on some promotional videos/trailers. I can’t say that was really any different, but it has afforded me the opportunity to work on some extremely fun characters.
  • Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?
    • I’ve only done animation in my career. When I first started learning animation, I did do a little modeling and rigging; however, that definitely wasn’t for me. It’s actually pretty scary to look at what I did. I’m going to go curl in to a ball in the corner of a room and cry a bit now that I’m thinking about that….I will say I have missed out on some jobs that required other skill sets so it can be advantageous to be able to do more than one thing.
  • Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?
    • I wish I had someone to handle the business side of things. It’s actually what I least like about all of this. I typically get contracts from the studios so there’s no need to make my own. Make sure you’re reading them though. Don’t just blindly sign your name. If you have questions, ask them. On a couple contracts I’ve been able to get some things added, reworded, or removed.  When it comes to invoicing, make sure you put an actual invoice number on it. It seems trivial, but studios will appreciate it.  I also try to put descriptive information on the invoice for services I performed, such as what project I was working on, dates I worked, etc. For taxes, I can only speak in regards to U.S. taxes. But keep track of everything, whether it’s paying for cloud storage, upgrading your computer, etc. Working at home, you can also deduct a portion of some of your bills, such as utilities.
  • What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?
    • I’m not surprised about the growth. For some, hopping around from state to state or country to country totally works for them. For others, it’s just not feasible for various reasons. The technology is already there though. More studios could utilize remote workers if they wanted to. I don’t know that it will ever be the norm, but I do at least stay encouraged that there has been an uptick in the number of studios willing to work with remote artists.
  • Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?
    • Definitely! The very first TV spot I ever worked on was for Lucky Charms cereal. That one will always hold a special place in my heart. I got to work on quite a few Lucky Charms commercials after that and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. I also did some animation on promotional videos for Lego Dimensions that I absolutely loved.  Coincidentally my kids got a huge kick out of that as they would sometimes watch me working on it. Animating Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle was such a blast. There are so many other projects I could easily name here, but for the sake of time and sanity of anyone reading this I’ll just leave it at those.
  • Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?
    • I love animating, but it has definitely been a difficult journey. You can’t get discouraged during the rough times. We all go through them, but we have such a supportive community. Take advantage of it. I’ve made so many friends in the industry and could never thank them enough for all the help they’ve given over the years.

Thanks so much for your time Chris!

If you would like to learn more about Chris, or contact him for work below is a link to his IMDB page and his linked-in account.

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5284095/
LinkedIn:
 https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrismayneanimation/

The blog is back.. and with a vengeance!

It has returned!

Actually, I just finally came up with some good (maybe?) ideas of things to write about and also help keep me creative and accountable to the craft of animation! It’s been quite some time since this blog had some new content and I hope the new stuff will be interesting to those of you who read it! I had a lot of fun actively writing throughout my whole progress at Animation Mentor. Once AM came to an end and I got into the grind of working and of course just life in general, the blog started to get pushed to the way side. Which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I did a whole heck of a lot of animating since I last posted and have learned a great deal!

I also had a lot of big life milestones happen since the last updates! Mainly, I finally married my beautiful wife, and we moved from our beach life in Panama City Beach, FL back up to the big city and my hometown of Chicago, IL. My wife got a great job opportunity to work up here and we made the long move up! I sure miss the sunshine and our great friends in Florida, but its nice to be back in familiar territory and have the big city available. Also.. a big city with a pretty decent animation industry!

New content coming your way soon!

As I said, I finally came up with quite a good list of things I want to do on this blog. So, I thought I’d give you a preview of what’s down the pipeline and coming to your beautiful browsers soon.

Interviews with Freelance Animators & Remote Animators
I always wished there was more content when I was starting out freelancing and working remotely, on how the animation industry worked from that perspective. There is no shortage of amazing articles and videos of animators working in-house at the big studios like Disney, Pixar etc. However, the animation industry is a large one and there are TONS of amazingly talented animators who work freelance and remotely all over the world. I’ve had the pleasure of working with quite a few of them and have decided to start interviewing them to show people how the industry is from our perspective. The first of these interviews will be posted quite soon!

Shot Breakdowns
I’ve finally been able to get a hold of some of the finished professional work I’ve done on feature films and TV series, and I’ll be making a series of short breakdown videos to show how the progress of a shot looks from start to finish! I always found it fun to watch these videos and they can be very eye-opening and educational.

New Reel
I am slowly putting together a new demo reel with my latest work and hopefully should have that launched soon enough, you’ll have to wait and see!

New Articles! – I plan to write some new multi-part blog posts that explain a variety of topics. Especially things I always wanted to read more about when I was first getting into the industry. Now that I have a few years of experience under my belt, I felt I could expand on some of the things I have learned. Topics such as: TV Animation versus Feature Films, Workflow Changes, Using reference for quick animation, and much more!

Anyway! It feels good to get back to this, I have a lot more content coming very soon and just wanted to make a post and let everyone know this blog is coming back, and I hope that you guys will stick around and enjoy the new content!

Animation Mentor Graduation and CTN 2014 Recap

Whew! What a busy couple of months it has been! I have not been able to get as much content on the blog lately as I would have liked but all for good reasons. One being that I have been very busy animating away for work and the other being that I was traveling to Burbank, California for the Animation Mentor graduation ceremonies and CTN Animation Conference.

This post is going to be a recap of the events and exciting things that I did while out in LA. First off, let me say this, CTN is one of the most inspiring, fun, exciting, educational things I have ever attended. I cannot put in to accurate words how amazing the experience was. Getting to be surround by other people all with the same love and passion for animation that I have was just awesome. On top of that, getting to hang out with, discuss, and attend lectures with many of my animation heroes was incredible. I likely will not be able to hit on everything I did, but I wanted to at least touch on some of the most memorable and impactful things that took place in the four days I was at the conference.

Day 1:
Walt Disney Animation Studios Tour and Q&A with AM Alumni
The first thing I did after checking into the hotel was to head over to Walt Disney Animation studios and was lucky enough to participate in a special tour for AM alumni. We got to tour the animation studio and see a ton of top-secret behind the scenes stuff. We also got to see the various film stages and back lots of the studio where many of the movies and television shows you see are filmed. After the tour we then got to sit in the famous on-studio theatre and have a Q&A session and hear the stories from some fellow AM alumni who have all gone on to become Animators at Disney! It was a truly inspiring experience and something I will never forget. The Disney Animation Studios is a pretty magical place.

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Animation Mentor Graduation!
I finished the Animation Mentor program back in March of 2014, but the official graduation ceremonies for the graduates did not take place until just this month. AM wanted to hold them at the same time and venue as the CTN conference (awesome idea). The graduation ceremony was not your typical sit in a giant theatre and walk across a stage in some dorky outfit (been there, done that) instead, it was an informal party with an excellent speech by all three of the founders of the school (Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena).

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Signed Diploma by Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly!

Signed Diploma by Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly!

Then, to top it all off they managed to get the legendary GLEN KEANE to be our commencement speaker! Let me say that again, GLEN KEAN – the man who is know for animating some of the most iconic disney characters of my generation (Ariel and The Beast to name a couple). Glen is truly one of the greats, he is so sincere with both his animation and his talks. It was really an amazing experience. I managed to snap a picture of him while he gave his commencement speech.
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After the speeches, it was time to party! I was able to mingle and have drinks with so many of my friends from school who up until that night I had only ever talked to online! It was amazing to meet everyone in real life. I got to meet friends from school who came all the way from the other side of the world including, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Vienna and so many other places!

Day 2:
This was the first official day of the conference and it was a packed day for sure. It started off with a keynote speech by Glen Keane and he showed off his beautiful short film he created called ‘Duet’. If you not seen it, go to youtube right now and watch it! It is a beautiful piece of art. He also gave an awesome behind-the-scenes look at the making of it.

After the keynote, I had to head to my first demo reel critique session I had scheduled. I was paired with Ruben Aquino – who is a retired 2D Disney Animator, he played a big part in the animation of Ursula on the little mermaid! I was nervous to show him my work, but he was such a nice, and genuine person! He really enjoyed my demo reel and gave me some excellent feedback and notes.

Later that day, I happened to run into Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena just sitting outside and offering to critique people’s demo reels. I immediately got in line and was able to have Shawn look at my reel! It was a great feeling to see him watch my reel and actually laugh out loud at one of my more comedic shots! It’s truly a pretty awesome experience to see your artwork evoke an emotion in someone else; especially, when they are a Supervising Animator at ILM! Shawn also had a lot of really positive things to say about my work and gave me some really great advice on how to improve and what to add to it!

That night I got a chance to meet up with a bunch of my friends and fellow alumni from Purdue who have since moved out to LA and are all working at various major studios around town. It was awesome getting to reunite with a lot of good friends whom I haven’t seen since graduating college back in 2012! It’s also awesome to see that so many of my friends have gone on to do work on some really awesome video games and films!

Day 3:

I started off Day 3 with another demo reel critique from Disney. This time it was with one of their CG animators. This critique session was part of their booth in the exhibition hall. I got a chance to get some really great feedback from a current CG animator at Disney. After that, I headed to one of my favorite workshops of the whole conference. It was a very small workshop with Freelance Animator – Ken Fountain.

Ken is a veteran DreamWorks animator who has since gone out on his own as a freelancer and he gave a super informative and inspiring talk about life as a freelancer and independent animator. It was some excellent information for me and super relevant to a lot of the stuff I have had to learn over the past 9 months starting my career as a freelancer. After his presentation I got a chance to hang out and talk to him in the hallway for a bit and we bonded over both being originally from Chicago, in-fact he grew up about 20min from where I did and we had a lot of stuff in common. I was able to get him my business card and really hope to stay in touch with him and seek his advice when I can!

That night, I attended a wonderful talk by Andreas Deja, who is another legendary animator like Glen Keane. Andreas worked on films like Roger Rabbit, and then onto be the lead animator for many famous disney villians, such as Jaffar, Scar and more! After the talk, I ended up staying up until 2am just hanging out at the hotel bar and the outside lounge just talking and meeting other AM and CTN attendees. One of the coolest experiences was hanging out with some fellow AM students and having Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly wonder over to us and just sit down at the fire pits and hang out with us and we all just geeked out about animation, drank and stayed up talking late into the night! It was a really memorable night!

Day 4
The final day of CTN was filled with more workshops and critiques. I got another walk-up critique by a DreamWorks animator Mike Safianoff which was awesome, and really helpful. I also ran into some of my mentors from AM just walking around the conference, Nicole Herr (class 5), Aaron Hartline (class 1) and Sean Sexton (class 6) were there!

Finally, I ended the night back at Walt Disney Animation Studios with a special on the lot screening of Big Hero 6. Afterwards there was a special Q&A with the Head of Story for BH6 – Paul Briggs and the Director of the short film ‘Feast’ – Patrick Osbourne. It was a fantastic film and made even more special by watching it at the studio where it was all created!

Here is a pretty awesome vine video from the screening that Darrin Butters (Disney Animator and moderator of the Q&A) took.

Now that it is all over, I have returned home and to work, even more inspired and excited to be apart of this truly amazing industry. I learned so much, met so many great people and cannot wait to attend CTN again in the future!

New shots and updates!

Well, it has been a little while since I’ve posted some new work so I thought I better get around to sharing what I’ve been up to! I’ve been dedicating some of my free time from animating for work to continue to animate on some personal tests. The type of animation I do for work is a much different style than that typically found at the feature film level of animation. While still very fun and challenging, I want to be as well rounded as animator as I can be and continue to push myself in all styles. A while back, I posted up a blocking pass for a subtle acting shot I had started. I can now say that it is finally at a point that I’m going to call it done. The main purpose of this shot was to improve my subtle acting and facial performance skills. I purposely chose to use a more complex rig that would allow me for more facial articulation and enable me to get more nuance into the performance.

I learned a lot working on this shot, and have already taken the lessons I’ve learned and started applying them to another shot that I am in the early stages of blocking on. I was fortunate enough to have a good friend of mine from Purdue, Andrew Kennedy light and render my shot for me to make it a little more polished and pretty for my demo reel. Andrew is super talented and you can find more of his work at his website (www.andrewkennedy3d.com).

On another note, I was graciously asked by the Purdue SIGGRAPH Student Chapter to skype in and give a talk about my experiences so far as a professional animator and my journey from being a student to now. It was a really fun experience getting to chat to the current students there. It feels like just yesterday that I was in their same shoes, sitting in the familiar labs of Knoy Hall of Technology and listening to other alumni who have gone on to work in the industry. It was a great experience and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. Hopefully some day, I’ll get a chance to make it back to campus, I sure do miss it!

I think that is enough rambling for now, I’ll leave you with TWO shots. The first one is my final version of my facial acting shot and the other is a look at my first pass of blocking on my next personal shot I’ve begun working on using the super awesome “Mery” rig.

“Past Doesn’t Matter – Final”

 

“I’m Hot – First Pass Blocking”

Quick Run Cycle Test

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Wow, it has been too long since I have posted on here!  After animating all day for work, it is sometimes hard to get the motivation to put in more hours on my personal shots. I am still in the process of refining my acting shot using the Argus rig from Long Winter Studios. I actually just got the studio library/pose library for his rig which should help a lot getting my lipsync pass roughed in on him.

Anyways, something my mentor had recommended for me prior to finishing up AM was to practice some cycle animation. I have wanted to get my hands dirty with some cycles and video game style animation for a while now. They seem like the perfect kind of exercises to practice body mechanics and for my limited free time because they often are very quick animations in general typically less than 100 frames. I also have been looking for an excuse to try out this awesome free rig called “SAM” from CreativeCrash.com

This is just a quick post to share the run cycle I created today in just a few hours worth of work. I’m sure there are things I can improve on it, but in effort to keep completing small shots I figured I’d call this one done for now and move on to a new exercise.

Check it out, let me know what you think!