Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hot Chocolate with Stars

The Starbucks at 56th and Lafayette was an unsuspecting host of a very important meeting yesterday.  Very important for my daughter (and me).  It was Mitzi’s idea.

Alyssa has been carrying and filling sketchbooks for a long time.  She and her bestie both do, and they share artwork and write stories together, each taking turns writing chapters.  Alyssa has also been drawing and animating on our computer, and sharing her work on an art-sharing, social network site called Deviant Art.  Check out her work on Deviant Art and on You Tube.  While her peers have been playing sports, performing in band, going to parties and dating, she’s been faithfully creating and honing her drawing skills on her Wacom tablet. 

It’s her senior year in high school.  Time to pick a direction.

Dream #1:  Computer animator for a large film making company.
Dream #2:  Elementary school teacher.  

Ball State has just sent her an acceptance letter.  She was leaning toward going there to major in elementary education (she LOVES children), which is a practical, local, affordable choice.  Really, she could be a wonderful animator/illustrator OR a wonderful teacher of children.  I don’t want her to have any regrets later about the path she did not take. 

Alyssa got the opportunity to sit down with two accomplished computer animators, Lindsay and Kevin Andrus.  Lindsay works for Pixar, and is the daughter of my friend and coworker Mitzi.  Lindsay has worked on films such as Bolt, Toy Story 3,  Brave and Up.  Kevin is her husband, and he works for Dreamworks.  Kevin has worked on Bee Movie, Rise of the Guardians, Monsters vs. Aliens, and How to Train Your Dragon

Kevin, Alyssa, and Lindsay.  And Dr. Who.

Alyssa brought her portfolio.  They were very encouraging and specific about what she is doing well, and offered suggestions on how she can keep advancing herself.  Kevin said her portfolio is already good enough to get her accepted into art school.  They talked about traditional art/animation school (Ringling, SCAD) vs. online specialized animation training schools (Animation Mentor, and the pros and cons of each.  Both require rigorous training and many hours of practice.  MANY.  In summary – your chance of being hired is mostly dependent on the strength of your resulting portfolio, your work ethic, and the connections you make…not so much about where you went to school, although an effective curriculum will help you develop those things.  

Alyssa learned more of what it’s like to work for companies like Pixar and Dreamworks...what Kevin’s and Lindsay’s lives are like…the hours they put in, crunch time, the travelling they do, the famous people they meet or see…the bad days and the good…the thrill of having been a part of large team of talented individuals who create a beautiful thing that audiences can enjoy for generations, and seeing their names in those credits. 

We learned which states and cities are the hot spots for different kinds of animation specialties.  To my dismay, there is nothing here in Hoosier-land for animators.  Not really.  But it’s very exciting stuff for Alyssa to think about.  I want whatever will make her happy and for her to love her career.

Alyssa and I are both very appreciative of the time that Mitzi, Kevin, and Lindsay shared with us over coffee and hot chocolate.  We really enjoyed the talk and the feedback.  The Q&A was immensely helpful.  Alyssa left that meeting with stars in her eyes (me too, actually). We will never forget it.