An Evening with Pixar

I'm sure many of you were disappointed that there wasn't a Pixar movie for 2014 but now they have a lot of movies in the works and planned. More work for us! As such, Pixar will be looking for new talent that they can train and hopefully integrate. To share with us the upcoming opportunities of internships and residencies, before everyone was off for the holidays, we got a visit from Kim Diaz, senior recruiter, Ryan Howe, university relations program lead, and Anika Holloway, human resources coordinator. There are different type of internships, classroom based and production based. Classroom based internships are structured actually like a class where you go in to learn and be mentored. Story, animation, and the Pixar Undergraduate Program (PUP) fall under classroom based and last 10 to 12 weeks during the summer. The other type is production based where you will get to work on actual shows in production. As such, the openings are based on production needs and typically last 12 to 18 weeks.

Residencies are also based on production needs are are for those who want to be technical directors or go into software engineer and research. They can last 6 months to a year.

The summer internships and a few residencies have already been posted on so I hope you're prepared!

Speaking of being prepared, what exactly do you do and what is Pixar looking for? Apply online at the above link with your resume, cover letter, and a link to your online reel/portfolio. If your reel/portfolio is password protected, that's fine, just have the link and password included in your resume. Make sure to do all this by the deadline, March 1st 2015!

I probably already went over what goes into resumes, cover letters, and reels before but let's do a review. Limit your resume to one page and list any awards won, related classes, projects, and any events volunteering; show what you have done above and beyond a classroom setting. Make your cover letter stand out from others by having it being personalized and creative. Put your best work first on your demo reel and then followed by other best work (yes, only your BEST work goes on your reel) for a reel that is 1 to 3 minutes long; once you're finished, include a breakdown and always get others to review it.

Blizzard Panel

A quick break between the CTN posts. Something last minute and took me completely by surprised last week, right before CTN, was that I was asked if I would like to be on a super limited list to have my portfolio reviewed by Blizzard. I of course said yes and spent my last few hours before running off to CTN to put together a demo reel instead of attempting to finish my homework. The review happened today and it went well and I will be looking forward to improving my reel and applying to Blizzard's cinematics department. While my primary goal is still to enter feature film animation I will definitely not say no to games, especially not to Blizzard and their cinematics which are gorgeous. Following my review, AAU's Games Department hosted the first Blizzard Panel where they showed some of their work and talked about portfolio and internships. The panelists of the night were Tyson Murphy (3D character artist), Tad Leckman (senior training manager), Andy Lang (art manager of WoW), Scott Campbell (art recruiter), and Janine Tedford (university relations).

The night was opened with the cinematic trailer of Heroes of the Storm. It looked cool and fancy but I had no idea what the game was about. Looking it up now I see it is a MOBA which brings me back to fond memories in highschool where I would have LAN parties with friends and play DOTA. The character that I always played was the Pandaren Brewmaster because I loved his design, his ultimate is a hilarious split into 3 panda rangers, and his backstory from the the campaign mode of Warcraft III where he is a secret character unlocked through a special quest. He no longer exists as the same panda that I knew and love in DOTA2 but now I see multiple icons of pandas in the lineup of Heroes of the Storm so I'm hoping the brewmaster is in there.

There are two main sides to Blizzard. There is the Game Art and Cinematics. The interesting part of Game Art is that the artists are not just concept artists, modelers, or texture artists. With WoW as an example, there are only 2 people who are dedicated concept artists. Instead, Blizzard has each artist actually be the concept artist, modeler, and texture artist. Other roles in the Game Art department are the FX artists, animation, dungeon (which involve key story moments), tech art (riggers and scripters), and UI. Cinematics is run more like a small studio. There's the concept art, storyboard, layout/previs, modeling, tech art/rigging, animation, effects, surfacing/look dev, and lighting/compositing. Since I am focusing on being a lighter this is the area that I will elaborate on. The lighters are compositors and compositors are lighters which isn't terrible and I am used to compositing my own shots among all the projects that I am on. Blizzard does use Renderman as their rendering engine. Blizzard seeks to light their scenes to match concept art so that it can be very art directed. They have their own proprietary lighting tool that is not public so working at Blizzard will be an adventure in learning a completely unknown tool.

About portfolios/reels, a lot of it is about things that I have heard before. The reel is as strong as the worst piece and deciding what goes in and not is as important as the reel itself as it reflects on your judgement. Demonstrate abilities and interests. Design with viewer in mind. Always have it be growing as you are artists and should always be creating and improving. First impressions are important, whether it be the first image on a site, the first frame in a reel, or the first pose of of character. Be attentive to detail. While some companies dislike seeing fanart in reels, Blizzard is the opposite way and loves seeing it. Fanart shows that the artist is knowledgeable and has explored the worlds of the games. What's even better though is to show how you as an artist can take the game further. Blizzard loves cover letters so be sure to write a really strong and good one. Show your sincerity and passion of why you want to work at Blizzard. If you do get that interview, don't show up in formal clothes and a tie! They say to dress comfortably and it is perfectly acceptable to show up in casual clothes and even in flipflops.

The internships have recently been opened up. Among the many positions Blizzard is looking for 10-15 cinematics interns. The deadline is January 31st and it is a 12 week paid internship over the summer.

Blizzard also has an annual art contest that also has begun. It has the same deadline of January 31st and would be a great way to get your foot in the door. There are categories for environment, character, weapons, and game animation. What I would love to do is a very short, 10-20 second long, cinematic clip. Unfortunately I will be leaving the country briefly for winter break and have no way to work so that may prove somewhat difficult.

AAU Fall Festival - Nickelodeon Panel

On the second night of the Fall Festival, we have a Nickelodeon panel where Amber Beard, manager of the writing and artist program, and Veronica Esquivel, the talent acquisition manager, come talk about the Nickelodeon studio and their internship and writing and artist programs.Unfortunately I found Nickelodeon to be disappointing, at least pertaining to me, as they consider themselves a preproduction studio. For their shows they do all the scripts and designs in their Burbank studio but the actual production of their shows is outsourced to other countries. For those who wish to be producers, script writers, or character/environment/prop designers, Nickelodeon would be more appealing to you.

A little about the Nickelodeon studio first. They have a "kids first" philosophy that drives their work and how they interact with the community. Nickelodeon gives back with things such as a philanthropy project that is done by the interns. Art books are created and inspired by the interns which are then donated to children and schools that have been affected by budget cuts. Nickelodeon creates both 2D and 3D animated cartoons. Of their 3D animated cartoons, Nickelodeon has series such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kungfu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness and Monsters vs Aliens were on their list but as the shows are wrapping up as Nickelodeon's contract with Dreamworks comes to a close. Of their 2D animated cartoons, while T.U.F.F Puppy and The Fairly Odd Parents have wrapped up, Nickelodeon has Spongebob, Dora the Explorer (which is now getting a spin off series called Dora and Friends where Dora is older), and Legend of Korra. Nickelodeon is picking up three new shows, Shimmer and Shine, Breadwinners, and Pig Goat Banana Cricket, so they are definitely looking for new talent! Nickelodeon splits their studio by department. Each show is their own department and all the artists and crew of that show sits together rather than having all artists in one corner, writers in another, and producers somewhere else. As I've mentioned before, Nickelodeon considers itself to be a preproduction studio and most of production is done in other countries. Other areas that Nickelodeon is involved in are post production, animation development and current series, casting for animation, writing and artist program, business and legal affairs, finance, MTS, and special events and human resources.

The internship program, or Nicktern as Nickelodeon likes to call it, is open to junior and seniors. it is a ten week long internship that is open in the fall, spring, and summer. It is a paid internship program and interns are expected to work 16-30 hours a week, Monday to Friday 9am - 6pm. It is a great way to get a job at Nickelodeon due to exposure of meeting all the producers and talent that are there. As an intern, you won't be contributing anything artistic to the shows but it is rather more of a producer assistant type of role with the main objective of exposure and easier access to become hired afterward. An artistic portfolio is not required for the application, instead what Nickelodeon is mainly looking for is passion, excitement, and a strong, clean, and organized resume.

The Artist Program is available to students after they have graduated. NAP (Nickelodeon Artist Program) seeks to nurture the development of emerging and diverse artist for positions within Nickelodeon. NAP is a six month long paid internship that follows the Animation Guild's trainee/apprentice payrate. There are two available tracks, the general design track (character, background, prop, and color design) and a new storyboard track. The interns are assigned to a production and mentored by a lead artist who will guide the interns to advance their portfolio and develop professional skill sets. NAP has a three phase structure. The first phase, Welcome to Nick, is where the interns are introduced to the studio and the NAP department sits down with the design and storyboard department to determine which artists is more suited for which productions. The second phase, Are You Tired Yet?, is where the interns are placed on a production and assigned a mentor who will give projects that will need to be completed. The intern will spend three months on one production and then the last three months switch to another. The last phase, So You Think You Can Draw, is when the intern can take a art test for available position to attempt to be hired as a full employee. The NAP uses an online application system. For the general track, Nickelodeon is looking for a portfolio that shows a diversity in skill. There should be 5 to 25 images that may contain things such as character design, environment, props, color, life drawing, animal drawing, and even works in progress; an animation reel is optional. For the storyboard tracker, have a short film or multiple sequences boarded which showcases your ability in storytelling, staging, clarity, and acting ability; a portfolio or animatic is optional. Only a total of four artists are chosen for the program, two for the general track, and two for the storyboard track.

The Writing Program is very similar to the Artist Program in that it also seeks to attract, develop, and staff writers, has a three phase structure, is salaried, and up to 4 writers are chosen. The writing program lasts for one year and is for both live action and animation. For submission, write a spec script that is comedic, either live action or animation, and is based on a half hour television series that is currently on air and produced for network or cable. Veronica suggests not to submit a script for a Nickelodeon show as you may cause yourself disadvantages if the judge reading over your work is involved with the particular show and thus may view it with a more critical eye. If you make it to the second round of interviews, the phone interview, if you don't have a second spec script, you will automatically be disqualified. As a writer, you love writing and will always be writing so by not having more work to show would be strange and makes you appear to lack passion and interest.