Interview with Heather Carpini – Freelance Animator

We got another great interview this week! I am happy to share with you all an interview I did with the crazy talented Heather Carpini! Heather and I just recently met after working on a fun project last month. However, Heather has had an awesome career as animator, both as a freelancer and at some major studios working on big name projects! She is a really fun person to work with and an awesome animator to boot. So please take a moment, check out her demo reel below then give the interview at read. It’s got some great answers!

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

I am from Newport News, Virginia. I’ve been working in animation since 2002.

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

I can’t recall the exact moment. I always loved animated movies and cartoons. I was obsessed. I would pause Disney movies so I could draw the characters.  I was always drawing. And then when I was around 10 or 11 I started telling people I was going to be an animator at Disney when I grew up.  I still haven’t worked at Disney but I am an animator!

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

I went to Ringling College of Art and Design in the computer animation program.

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

I have worked both in-house and freelance animation jobs over the years. My first professional animation gig was working remotely in 2002 on the Hermie and Friends series for Glueworks Animation.  Most recently I worked remotely on the film “Rock Dog” with Little Zoo Studio.

I have also been fortunate to work in-house as a contract animator for Blue Sky Studios on the films “Horton Hears a Who!” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift”. I have also worked in-house for Sony Imageworks on “Green Lantern” and I’ve worked in-house at some smaller studios on various projects.

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?

My typical day as a remote animator can vary based on the project/projects I’m working on and if I’m working a “Day job” at the same time.  Typically if I’m solely working remotely my day starts in the morning around 7 or 8am, I check email and skype, get any notes together and make a plan for what I need to do that day. I work till I get hungry, take a lunch and then work till dinner. Usually there are some skype meetings/notes in there.  Sometimes my day is longer or shorter depending on deadlines and notes, sometimes I jump back on after dinner to hit any late notes so the client has the updates for the next morning.  The main difference between remote and in-house is that working remotely I make my own schedule – which I love!  I happen to be a morning person but if something comes up and I need to go out during the day I have the flexibility and can work at night if I need to, I don’t have to “request off” or be held to a schedule as long as the work is done and deadlines are hit.  Both remote and in-house have their pluses and minuses.  The thing that I miss the most about working at a studio is the sense of team work and the atmosphere, I really like having other artists and animators around to bounce ideas off, and especially having senior animators to learn from on a daily basis.  I also miss having an IT department, when you work remotely you have to handle all those software and hardware issues yourself!

Do you keep a regular set of hours?

Typically I try to… but that’s just my personal preference. I feel most productive in the morning so I prefer to work early and I try to stick to a routine as much as I can.  Sometimes given deadlines and feedback and time zones; that isn’t always possible and that’s where it’s important to be flexible as a freelancer. Sometimes the client’s needs are such that you have to work later in the evening or you get notes at the end of the day that need to be hit by the next morning.

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?

It’s always a good idea to be diversified.  Have a large skill set, maybe even a backup plan that doesn’t involve animation.  Slow periods can be devastating on your finances, not to mention your stress level.  Since I made the switch to remote freelancer and decided to stop chasing the in-house jobs I have learned to keep all my options open. During slow times I have taught painting classes, been a pet sitter, worked in graphic design, and real estate. The main thing is to have options and to make sure you save money during your busy times to help hold you through the slow times.

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?

For the past couple years it seems to be Skype is the most common tool for interacting with clients, both chat and video.  I’ve worked for a number of different companies and it seems like everyone has their own way of doing things. Many of the larger studios have some sort of pipeline system but some don’t. Smaller studios you might just be uploading scene files to an ftp server. It really just depends.

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?

Network, Network, Network!  I’m not really that good at networking myself but it’s a necessary skill in this industry. Every job I have had, I have gotten through someone I have worked with previously.

 

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?

Network, Network, Network! Go to industry events, keep up and participate in online groups and keep working on your reel. 11second club challenge is good, or make up your own stuff and have people critique it.  Above all, be persistent. Keep applying, send your reel. I got several rejection letters from Blue Sky before I got the job working on Horton Hears A Who!

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?

This is probably the least fun but one of the most important aspects of the job.  For taxes I use turbo tax but I’ve also gone on the IRS website and read about being self-employed, working from home and what I can deduct, so that I don’t miss anything. Make sure you keep detailed info and have a good filing system for contracts, invoices and receipts. Also, always read your contracts!

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 hope it does! With the speed of internet connections and ability to work off-site I hope more common place for studios to utilize remote workers. It allows for more freedom and stability for where you can live. Cost of living and quality of life is a big thing as you get older and having the choice to not live in California, Vancouver or New York is a big plus for remote workers. Also not having to relocate constantly to chase contracts in the film industry.   That’s my hope anyway!

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

Honestly I have loved all the projects I have worked on. The films hold a special place in my heart but the fact that I can work on such fun stuff and get paid to do it is truly a privilege.  Once, on a film, a supervisor gave me a shot that wasn’t very exciting and he apologized… I told him don’t apologize, there are no small shots! Every shot in the film needs to be there to tell the story.  So that would be my closing thought… remember there are no small shots or small projects, do your best and enjoy the opportunity!

Thanks so much to Heather for sharing her time and answers with us! If you want to learn more about Heather, check out her IMDB page, or her LinkedIn Profile links below:

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2593233/?ref_=nv_sr_1

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

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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/

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!