School Stuff

I’m adding a campaign I did on here for my Art Direction Seminar. I ended up changing my product last minute, but I’m pretty happy with the results. This is also for the benefit of my teacher to have my blog and my final project in one place :).

Thanks for everything Sean!


Designer Spotlight: Steve Jobs

What does Steve Jobs have to do with designs in movies? Uhm, more than you think. Ever heard of a little animation studio called Pixar?

Because of his association with Apple, not many people know that Steve jobs was a huge part of Pixar’s history and inception. He even named it Pixar himself.

That is a comic I did back when I had a comic running in The Daily Texan newspaper. Steve Job’s death was a pretty big deal on campus, but I still wanted to put something out there for all the apple haters. Because no one hates Pixar. Period.

Steve Jobs is awe inspiring. My favorite thing about what he did was add the idea of simplicity to something as complex as technology. He often disregarded old ways of doing things and really hammered in the idea of design and simplicity into all of his products and endeavors. A smart man, and I think we can all be thankful for his achievements.

His biography is available on Amazon, go ahead and give it a read. It’s not only interesting but you can learn a lot from him.


My Experince in L.A.

From ages 3-6, I lived off-base in Aviano, Italy. At the time, my father worked for the Air Force as an Electrical Technician for their television and radio shows. This is one of the first memories I can recall.

I was sitting on a swing, swinging slowly, as my father droned on and on to a lady he worked with. Of course, in reality it was only five minutes, but I was still pretty bored, and kept my head down as I watched my feet flop lifelessly above the ground I still could not reach.

I was so far away from them that I could not hear exactly what they were talking about, but I could tell that the lady was cooing at me from a distance. She thought me adorable. She actually thought me so adorable, that she asked my father for permission to put me into a commercial.

And the commercial was exactly that. Not any big production or anything, just a camera recording me swinging sadly on a swing by myself. This was my first experience in the entertainment business.

Now, granted, we left Italy before the commercial ever aired so I never got to see it, and apparently it ended up being one of those PSA’s that said something along the lines of “…Do you know a child that is suffering from neglect or abuse? Call this number.” However, it fascinated me, and getting into the film industry has interested me ever since then.

Now I’m a Senior in college at The University of Texas at Austin as a dual major in Radio, Television & Film and Advertisement. Since I have moved from Italy to
Texas, and now that my father is retired military, I haven’t had too much more exposure to the film world. I decided early in my college career that I would spend one summer with the UTLA program, a semi “Study Abroad” session that sent us to mecha of all filmmaking itself: Los Angeles.

When the time finally arrived to go, I was trembling with excitement. Did the drive
through West Texas douse my anticipation immensely, with it’s nine hours of
nothingness? Considerably. But it was well worth it: I was able to take some excellent classes filled with great lectures and guest speakers, I had the opportunity to get firsthand experience in the industry through various outings and trips, and I learned a great deal from the two internships I was able to grab a hold of upon arrival.

Allow me to begin on the reflections of my experiences there by first giving a small
description of the LA lifestyle that stood out to me and ultimately effects how Hollywood works: For one, traffic ruins my life; two, parking ruins my life; and three, trying to park in traffic ruins my life. The lesson learned from this should be quite obvious: It’s time to get a motorcycle. Also, if a car must be taken, god forbid, to leave an entire 2 hours before you have to be anywhere. I jest, but the traffic here is something to be wary of, especially if you’re meeting some important people.

Taking the UTLA classes here was a much more delightful experience. I took two
classes, “How Hollywood Works” and “Introduction to New Media and Gaming,” while also auditing a third, “Inside the Music Industry.” The instructors were not only knowledgeable in the subjects, but lived it as their primary career.

From the “How Hollywood Works” class, I received a wealth of information about titles, positions, and the current news in Entertainment. I also gained a thorough
understanding of pitching a project to someone. Things such as making approximate budgets and how it will translate later into profits, how to pick the cast by their current box-office holdings, and how the most important thing about selling a pitch is to 1) Have a great story and 2) Have endless amounts of passion for your project.

The speakers the instructor brought in, which were people ranging from all types of professions within the industry, were among some of my favorite classes. A particular favorite of mine was Rick Parks, who was a lively writer that had been apart of some of my favorite movies (Such as It Takes Two and Ever After) and was a joy to listen to. What was most exceptional about him was his sense of morality, and how he wasn’t willing to stand down on certain issues just to get the job.

The “Introduction to New Media and Gaming” class was an extremely good supplement to a class I had taken the prior semester, “New Media Planning.” It reiterated all the different types of new media platforms available to us but in a way that was relevant to video games and film. Through the lectures I learned about how the endless depth and interactivity of stories can really contribute to a franchise, some of the most successful examples being Harry Potter and Star Wars.

The speakers were, once again, absolutely delightful. For every themed lesson the
instructor had for the class, he brought in a well-accomplished professional that worked in that niche field (who, by nature of ‘new media,’ were often the originators). The one speaker who stood out among the others was Natasha de Soleil, who taught us about mobile applications in-depth with enthusiasm and great instruction. She’ll be the one that I hope to stay in contact with until my return to Los Angeles.

Auditing “Inside the Music Industry” was a move on my part to get all the information but not have to pay the tuition, otherwise I would have been honored to be a student. It was a fun class with many memorable moments and instructors that really had a passion about what they were doing. They were honest about their own limitations and forever humble about what they had accomplished so far. From them, I gained a wealth of courage and inspiration to go out and just start doing whatever I had wanted to do, and just learn what I could on the way.

One of the instructors, Michael Clark, will become a big help to me later on. While he and the other instructor were outside of the class, all of the rambunctious students decided to draw on the white board, myself included. After returning to the class and laughing about it, Michael pointed to my drawings and asked if I did any animation. Of course I do! So now I’m doing a short animation for his documentary, and he was adamant about my keeping in touch with him, because he has so many great connections in the animation industry. All-in-all, auditing that class might have been a good decision turned great.

Outside of taking college classes, I was also able to manage enough time for two
internships. The first one, Generate, is an experience I’ll hold dearly. The second, 23D Films, wasn’t half as good to me as the other, but was still a great internship.

My supervisor at Generate was an UTLA alumni and took great joy in introducing me to people at the office as another Longhorn associate. The replies givens were often those of camaraderie, for they were too UT alumni, or huge sighs, for the company was overrun by UT graduates. That being said, it was a great place to work! I always looked forward to going in the mornings, despite the hour-long traffic, to help out with whatever they needed that day. What I found to be especially notable was the care they took in making sure that I learned something new everyday I was there, whether it be about the business or book-keeping or production or post-production.

While at 23D Films, I worked upstairs with the “Kaiju Empire.” We were busy building a new social networking game that’s top-secret, so I can’t elaborate on it more than that. I was really hoping to do some stuff in concept, or art direction, or even flash or maya, but none of that ever happened. This internship was based mostly off of doing research for all of those people, but I never got the reward of actual learning the trade. It was still a good experience for me however, and I’m glad for it in some ways.

So how does all that I’ve learned, through classes and internships, explain my
understanding of “How Hollywood Works” in relation to my future career in
entertainment? To put it simply, the biggest lesson I took away from my stay here is that I need contacts to help get me jobs, places, gigs, etc. This whole industry is an exclusive community in which I need to elbow my way into and start to grow from there.

Movie Make Up

Make up and hair? Always needed on set.

Make up in this world is hardly ever used to just look pretty. It’s used for cuts, for lighting, for age, etc. Check out this video below showing how a girl get turned into an old woman.

Make up, in its own way, is it’s very own special effect. What does this have to do with design? Well, make up artists ARE designers. Think of the face as the paper, and the make up as the paint. Although almost none of the same technique carries over, make up takes a lot of skill and patience.

And it is not half as easy as it looks. I personally battle with liquid eyeliner all the time. I’m a fair artist but I just can’t do liquid liner. It’s a skill all on it’s own.

What is great about doing makeup is the various work one gets to do. One day you may be working on an alien -changing their skin color and whatnot, and another day you might be working on some sort of camouflaged skin.

Makeup is hardly a skill you can learn on your own, movie makeup, that is. There are plenty of schools for it and whatnot. If it is something you are really interested in pursuing, go for it! It might be hard to find the cool jobs at first but maybe one day you’ll be inches of Johnny Depp’s face, covering him in white make-up for whatever Tim Burton role he is up for next.

See what I mean?

Visual Effects Design

This is a great little montage of how far we have come in special effects. Not only explosions and rendering backgrounds, but for digital inserting and taking away things in the scene, or even getting rid of wrinkles in an actor.

The best special effects are so subtle you never even knew they were special. My favorite example is the Black Swan. Natalie Portman did a lot of work to look the part of the Ballerina, absolutely, but there is simply no substitutes for 20 years of learning the profession of Ballet. There just isn’t. Now, the video below makes it out to look like a huge conspiracy, but it’s not, so ignore that. The fact is that they replaced the head with Natalie Portman’s. Amazing. And you would never know otherwise.

Visual Effects is always something I’ve wanted to venture into. I had some bad experiences with modeling in High School, however, and have been dissuaded since then. The art of visual effects is… complicated, to say the least. How do you make something look real that was never there? How do you even begin to imagine such things to such a level to convince people that it is, in fact, very real?

It’s probably the best and most fun part of movie magic. The career can be very lucrative, but in the worst case scenario, you will always have a job.

If you are willing to put in the long hours of not only work but learning the tools, check out designing visual effects for the big screen for sure.

Money Making Tip

One of my RTF teachers did this for a while when he lived in California, and I thought it extremely clever.

First, learn After Effects. It’s actually not too terribly hard to learn (especially if you are somewhat used to adobe software in the first place) and it’s a great skill to have. For those that do not know, this is a good program to do special effects you always see in those fancy blockbuster movies.

CG is another conversation, however. Right now I’m talking about credits. Yes, credits. It’s something every movie needs that is often overlooked.

Spend a summer learning how to execute credits really well in After Effects. It’s simple, not too frustrating, and niche. My teacher made six figures just doing credits alone. The best part is that it leaves a good deal of time for you to continue on with other projects.

Not only that, but you start a dialogue with companies and movie studios. Not a bad way to edge your way into the filming arena.

Happy crediting!

How to Present Your Work

Presentation is extremely important!

I’d say the only instance where presentation was ignored and successful are the illustrators for the Lord of the Rings books. The two brothers (names whom currently escape me) came into the interview with -get this- trash bags full of sketches and art.

Best part? They just dumped the bag onto the desk. The interviewers were stunned, no doubt, but once they caught glimpses of their wonderful work, there was no contest. They got the job.

That’s not how you’re getting the job. In fact, in a lot of cases, you will never meet the person in person. If you do however, have a nice large portfolio (I’d say about 11x17in) to showcase your work. Always have one handy, and if they wish to look at the work longer, offer to come and pick it up later. Sometimes it will give you an upper hand in the decision-making process.I know some people who are showing off their stuff with Ipads now. It’s fine, but you wouldn’t really want to leave your ipad with anyone.

Have a website though. Really. It’s too important nowadays to not. And have your own space, not some portfolio page on deviantArt. It’s really not that expensive to maintain your online presence, and a lot of websites make making websites easy.

Be professional.

Happy creating!