I began my career in Animation in an unlikely way: I completed a Bachelor’s of Music in Percussion Performance from the University of Michigan. So obviously, I must have come to Hollywood and done music for movies and television, and gotten involved with animation that way, right? Wrong.
After finishing at the Music Conservatory, I studied Nuclear Engineering as an Electrician’s Mate in the US Navy. So obviously, with all that physics and technology training, I must have come to Hollywood and worked as a Programmer or Technical Director or something, and gotten involved with animation that way, right? Wrong again.
After my time glowing in the dark for the nuclear Navy, I worked at an architecture firm in Washington, DC. But they didn’t hire me because of my technical background; they hired me because they were doing a lot of documentation for a $1.5 Billion research hospital renovation program and I wrote well. I wasn’t at the architecture firm for long before they and I realized I had knack for visual communication as well. So I started doing signage, maps, and interactive presentations for that hospital project. However, after the September 11th attacks, the Federal government changed their focus and that hospital renovation program was scaled back drastically, and my position was eliminated. I figured that would be the perfect time to go back to school. Animation school, right? It was actually a toss up..
I was torn between studying motion graphics and getting a Master’s Degree in International Affairs. Wait? What?!?! I grew up in the Washington, DC area and have always been interested in politics so I was looking at one of the programs at George Washington University. The other thing was, I couldn’t really find any programs in motion graphics (probably because I didn’t know enough to look in the right places). But I did see quite a few character animation programs. I started thinking a character animation program might give me some similar fundamentals.
Then, one day I watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; and I enjoyed it enough that I also watched the special features. Those behind-the-scenes features cinched the deal. But it wasn’t the amazing technical achievement of integrating virtual characters and environments with live-action. It wasn’t the work that appealed to me. It was the people.
The people I saw working on Sky Captain reminded me of the people I had been in the Music Conservatory with. They way they acted and interacted were very reminiscent of the percussion department there. They were extremely serious about their art but also simultaneously playful about it. I missed those people! So, off to Woodbury University I went to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation.
I got my first animation job while I was still in school. It was a couple month stint working on cinematics for the first Uncharted. Since graduation, I’ve been lucky enough to work on some pretty high profile projects (Star Wars: The Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and some iconic characters (Darth Vader, Master Chief, and I got to kill Superman!). Because of the nature of the shows I’ve worked on, my passion for martial arts has been invaluable. It’s a lot easier to animate guys fighting when you’ve already spent years studying the body mechanics of hurting people.
So, I have diverse interests, yet they all seem to tie in to one-another. Art and music are surprisingly similar in how their practitioners talk about them. Written narrative and visual narrative likewise share common structures. And an on-screen fight is nothing but a compact and intense story of struggle. So that’s my plan for this blog: talk about this diversity of topics piquing my interest but show how they all come back around to narrative storytelling.