March 1st, 2009 by Ben Sanders
|Years as a Professional:||5|
|Current Studio:||Blue Sky Studios|
|Current Project:||Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaur|
|Current Project Release Date:||July 2009|
|Education:||The Art Institute of Portland|
|Home Town:||Kailua-Kona, HI|
STRUT: Hi Patrik and Amila, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with the StrutYourReel Community. Before we get started, can you share with our readers a little bit about who you are and what you are currently working on?
Patrik & Amila: Hello! Thank you so much for setting this up Ben! We’re excited to be here. We’re an animation couple who have had the great fortune to work together professionally for the past 5+ years. We both started animation with no knowledge of what we were getting into. We took the same classes in college and learned the craft of animation together. We had our first start in the industry at a small commercial house called Happy Hour in Portland while we were still students. After graduating, we got the opportunity to work on the last season of Jimmy Neutron down at DNA Productions in Texas. The job started as a 3 month contract on a TV show and ended up turning into a full time position on our first feature film, The Ant Bully. As soon as the feature wrapped up, unfortunately, so did the studio. During this time Pixar was looking for people to come and help them animate the Finding Nemo Submarine Adventure for Disneyland and so we packed up our bags and headed out to California. At the end of that production, Blue Sky Studios was just starting to ramp into production on Horton Hears a Who and we jumped at the opportunity to help them out. This temp position turned into a fulltime gig and we are presently working on Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaur.
Amila: This is a tough one. The decision to pursue an education in animation didn’t occur until a bit later in life…After high school graduation, I decided instead of following the traditional path of college, I would first narrow down my career options by working a great many terrible, horrible, awful jobs and check them off of my list of possible careers. The beauty of this methodology is that I didn’t care much about my work and it afforded me a lot of social time to meet, hang out with, and eventually marry Patrik.
Once married, we realized all too clearly that waiting tables was not a viable career option for us and we sat down together to figure out the best course of action. As it just so happened, we were both interested in art and thought that computer animation might be a fun thing to try. At the time, we didn’t know anything about computers…so this was a pretty big gamble. I do, however, think that this may have been a great asset. It forced us to work that much harder in each of our classes and to continue our education outside of the classroom…
We also had the benefit of a few amazing teachers, many of whom came from Vinton Studios (now Laika) with a stop motion background who really took us under their wings and not only taught us, but also introduced us to the right people.
Patrik: I grew up taking a lot of painting and drawing classes, after high school I passed up a full scholarship for art because I wanted to stay close to family in Hawaii. I always questioned whether I missed a big opportunity to do something I loved. I remember trying to decide what we wanted to go to school for and Amila suggested animation, it was my second chance. I was open to the idea, I just wanted to do something creative and art related. I had no idea how much I would get hooked.
Patrik: & Amila: It was an amazing feeling! I remember getting our first paychecks and thinking to myself “really? someone will pay me to do what I love?! AWESOME!” Sadly, just as quickly as that feeling came, came the scary feeling of “oh boy…the job is done…now what?” sunk in.
Patrik: & Amila: Other than each other, I would have to say the inspiration and support of the amazing people in this industry. We would be nowhere today if it weren’t for our instructors and co-workers whose referrals and encouragement gave us the opportunities we were fortunate enough to have. Furthermore, we are forever indebted to the artists in this industry who constantly inspire us.
Patrik & Amila: Man, this is a tough one! It seems like all of our career has been spend hoping that we made the right choice. It’s hard to know if it’s worth the risk of spending all of your money on an education for a career you know nothing about…or if its worth the gamble to pack up all of your belongings and stuff them into a storage unit so that you can go and work on a short 3 month contract…It seems like we agonized over every accepted offer and every decision. But in the end, we knew that if we didn’t give it a try, we’d always wonder what could have been. Even the smallest contract can lead to a full-time position. Sometimes you just have to believe that small doors can lead to big rooms and not be afraid to give them a try.
Amila: I know it may sound cliche…but I love being able to bring characters to life and to tell a story through them. I also love love love the people we work with. They are a daily inspiration and motivation. They make the studio the great place it is.
Patrik: I love being a part of the creative process of film making. Being able to collaborate with fellow animators, brainstorm ideas and troubleshoot solutions to constraints within your shot. I guess it’s the feeling of contribution I get when I see the film on the screen and recall moments that I helped influence and all the people that helped contribute to my own work.
Patrik: & Amila: Not at the moment..but there’s no telling what the future may bring. I really enjoy animation right now and can’t imagine doing anything else.
Patrik: Never stop learning. Always strive to improve and always be open to new ideas….and always love what you are doing.
Amila: I totally agree with Patrik. There’s always room for improvement. Keep learning, observing, and collaborating with others and enjoy what you are doing.
Oh, and always be good to others. I know this sounds so basic, but it will take you much further than you might think. All of the jobs we’ve landed has been thanks to people vouching for who we were…if people don’t like you, you are going to have quite a battle landing a job. This is an amazingly small industry and people talk.
Patrik & Amila: It was significantly different! While Pixar still maintained their standard for animation, the nature of the ride asked us to pace the shot completely differently than one would for film. Even though a shot might be really long, the people cruising by it in the submarine will only get a chance to see maybe a second or two of it, depending on what seat they were sitting in. Because of this, we had to make sure that there was always something interesting and active happening.
Another really unique bit about this project is the fact that this is all taking place in a physical environment through which the viewers are traveling, and each viewer has a different perspective on the action. So we had to make sure that the characters were not only active, but active in an area that would not be obscured from anyone in the audience for any length of time…and since the subs are manually driven, there is no precise way of knowing exactly who would be where when. Fortunately, they had really smart people who worked all of that stuff out for us and simply told us what areas to stay in and when. The project was very well budgeted and the deadlines were reasonable. This was completely different from film! It was the only project I’ve worked on where I didn’t need to work overtime…and it was both strange and amazing!
Patrik: & Amila: The work system is similar to other studios we’ve worked at. We get assigned a shot(s) and we immediately pull up the story and layout reels and take a look at the context of the sequence and what purpose the shot serves. Then, we try to think of any pertinent questions or awesome ideas we might have so that we can run them by the director when he kicks us off.
Next, the director kicks off the sequence and tells us what he has in mind for each shot. Sometimes this is really specific, other times it is a general idea. From there, we brainstorm further, shoot reference, and block our shots. Then we show to the animation supervisor and then the director for approval. As a general rule, we have to show blocking within 24 hours of starting the shot. This can be anything from thumbnails to reference footage, to sketched timing to actual in-scene blocking. This helps to ensure that you are not going too far in the wrong direction. If there are notes, we address them and show our blocking again. Repeat as necessary. Once the blocking is approved, we spline away, showing when needed, until the shot is declared “final” by the director and we hand it off to the next department.
Patrik: & Amila: Luck. Pure and simple luck. We were fortunate enough to know people who put in a good word for us, and we were certainly lucky to have good timing (a studio has to have 2 openings for it to work)…and then we were totally lucky that when they looked at our reels they somehow thought both of us were worth giving a chance. When we were first starting out, we agreed that we would move wherever the best offer was…no matter who got it. But as luck would have it, we both got the offer…and we continued to do so at every studio we’ve worked. Now, we simply can’t imagine working apart…
Patrik: & Amila: It really doesn’t feel like it… but over 10 years now. Crazy! We hung out with the same group of people and were friends long before we ever dated…We just get along well together and sincerely enjoy each other’s company. Yay!
Amila: Hmmm… I can’t think of any challenges… It’s seriously awesome.
Patrik: Working the same hours rocks, crunch is a little easier for us than for those that have families they haven’t seen all day. Challenges? Bringing work home with you. It can be easy to keep talking about work sometimes, you know, working out things in your head about your current shot. Actually, never mind , that rocks. I constantly work out ideas for my shots just talking about them at home with Amila.
Patrik: Amila, but 10 bucks says that she’s going to say I am. But she’s just trying to be nice, thanks for that Amila.
Amila: No question about it… Patrik is.
Patrik: Where’s my 10 bucks?