CTN Expo !

Sitting in the airport right now waiting to get on a plane back to Boston after CTNx 2017 - I have to start writing this now, even though I'm dead tired, because I know that as soon as I get back to MIT I'll get swept up in that life again, and I need to record everything I've absorbed in LA this weekend before that happens.

Photos first!



and I got his signature: 

I shook his hand - my hand was so sweaty - and HOLY SHIT WOW. WOW. At the talk his friend Paul showed a lot of his newer works - the works he has online are all pencil drawings form older Disney movies. He moved to color and digital a while ago and wowowowow the newer work was so amazing too. 

Most interesting talks I went to: 

The Illustrated Film Poster with Tomer Hanuka -- Tomer Hanuka is this amazing illustrator that does work for all the big magazines like New Yorker, Nat Geo, Time. He actually talked about the cover he did for the MIT Technology Review last year !!!(which I still have pinned on my wall from when I snagged it from Burton Conner front desk) This is hands down the best artist talk I have ever been to - Tomer showed a bunch of pieces and the sketches, references, and iterations it took to get to the final illustration. His thought process was really interesting and his whole mindset is really humorous, even though his work is not really. He talked a lot about how he tries to create scenes that capture an entire movie, or book, that don't exist in the works themselves - he also let on that the weird, eerie feeling that a lot of his pieces have is intentional, and is part of the point.

Paul & Paul -- Paul Briggs and Paul Felix are both visual development artists at Disney Animation. The talk was mostly Paul Briggs talking about Paul Felix with lavishly inserted praise (not that any person in the room disagreed with any of it). Paul Felix has almost no work online, and at this talk they showed a bunnnch of his pieces from the last few decades (stuff from Bolt, Inner Workings, Big Hero 6, etc). Apparently he went to Harvard originally as a premed, then changed to government related studies, then in his last year switched to art, and pretty much just learned on his own (he said his brother taught him some stuff, but he never seemed to have gotten a formal education in art). I don't know if I personally could be any more inspired by a human being. 

Getting into Story -- Louis Gonzales and John Hoffman are both story artists at Pixar, and they talked a lot about what the point of story boarding is, and what students should be aiming for in their story portfolios. They also showed an animatic from Ratatouille and another from Cars 3. Up till this talk I had never considered going into storyboarding, because I had always looked at the work and thought "These drawings aren't that good, so this can't be that interesting". But storyboarding is actually the work that determines the whole movie! They get pretty much just the script, and board from that, even before vis dev happens. The boards are meant to be only as developed as necessary to understand what's going on. It seems quite hard though - you need to have a sense for direcitng and humor and film, and layout/camera angles, and timing, and be able to draw well and very quickly. I think I definitely want to learn this when I get out of MIT. 

The Dam Keeper Poems (Screening) -- A series of shorts directed by Erick Oh. These were so lovely - I didn't understand at first why they were called poems, but they are definitely poems. 

Advice I got from portfolio reviewers:
- Focus your portfolio on character, or background, etc. (at least in TV animation). It's really hard to get in as a character designer, so if you have interest for background or prop it's good to try getting in there.
- You can tell when someone had fun / energy when making a piece or not - so work on projects you are actually invested in and passionate about, don't just make work that you think is what others want to see.
- Personal work is important - don't neglect the things you enjoy making because those are the things that other people connect with the most. People get hired off interesting personal work that has nothing to do with the roles they are hired for - though it is also important to show that you have the technical skills to do whatever job it is.
- Game studios have a greater variety of styles and content, and if you work at a smaller one you get to work on designing more of everything.
- Work on painting - especially surfaces if you want to try for game studios - my work is lacking in finished paintings.
- Do a variety of environments for a background portfolio. Apparently at CN at least, background painters color the lines done by background designers. So for applying to that kind of job, they don't care about drawing ability in the portfolio, only the colors.

1. Make what you are most excited to make
2. Story art is really cool
3. Keep your voice
4. Make friends! Everyone is so nice.

One thing that was kind of disappointing - animation and visual development seems to be incredibly male dominated. The vast majority of the speakers and directors are men. I know, from the number of talented female artists I follow on social media, that there are plenty of women in the industry. However, it seems like the upper tier of jobs (art directors, production directors, etc) are pretty much all male. I was pretty surprised by this, and also kind of disheartened. It definitely is not a difference in skill level, and the industry is so new I kind of expected it not to operate like a boys' club. I really hope that this isn't actually the case, and that going forward and working hard will get me where I want to go. I guess this is always the case, except that the nature of gender bias in many industries means that some people get a lot farther a lot faster...

Also if I go again, I am definitely just getting a floor pass.

All in all, CTN got me feeling a lot more comfortable about trying to get into the industry the way I am. It was really cool getting to talk one on one with people I have admired through the internet for so long, who work on the things I want to work on. Also, everyone is so nice and helping to others - a lot of the artists were doing portfolio reviews at their booths. I am glad, because I had no idea what the atmosphere would be like, since some other industries I've gotten a feel for are somewhat competitive and cold. I have also realized that I am nervous to move out to Los Angeles though - it's kind of strange, I have only been at MIT for 2 years, but I know I'm going to miss it and all the friends I have made there deeply. The amount of time that people I met at CTN have been working made me feel how transient what I have in Cambridge is. Also Los Angeles is just. so. BIG. It seems like it takes half an hour to drive literally anywhere, and the buildings are all so spread out. Maybe this is just because I've been living in a city for a while, but it seems like it'd be lonely to move out there without other people.

Aside from all that - all the amazing work I saw this weekend has me super inspired to finish MIT and get out there. I can't wait to start everything.


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