What's your name and what do you do?
Why did you decided to pursue animation?
That's a long story. I've spent the majority of my life trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. First it was science, then engineering, then graphic design, then web design, then live action filmmaking, and then finally I fell permanently in love with animation. I had always enjoyed making movies since I was a kid, but it turned from a hobby to a career path during my last years of undergrad, when I realized that making films was the only hobby of mine that would never get boring. I decided it was the one thing I could see myself doing for the rest of my life, and from there pursued it with extreme prejudice.
Where did you do your schooling?
I studied Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University for my undergrad and then went to Savannah College of Art and Design for a Masters. My first year at SCAD was spent in the Film and Television Program, but then I transferred to Animation.
What's it like out in the real world doing animation?
Pretty much what I expected. I always had an internship every summer in college, so by the time I graduated I already knew full well what "the real world" felt like. It was actually key to realizing what industries I did NOT want to work in, because I had already worked at those companies and seen what the jobs were like. Three months is a surprisingly sufficient amount of time to try out a career path, and see how well it fits you.
The best thing about working in professional animation, of course, is making content that people all over the world get to see, enjoy, and be inspired by. Film is one of the most emotional art forms that humans have invented, and having the opportunity to work in that medium is an immense and exciting opportunity. It's also nice just knowing I can make a living doing what I love. I get the impression not a lot of people can legitimately claim that privilege.
Is Disney the Happiest Place on Earth?
Anywhere I can make amazing movies is the happiest place on Earth.
What's your experience been like working at Disney? What was the talent development program like?
Disney, like any high-end animation studio, is tough but fair. I started with the talent development program, which accepts newly-graduated young professionals, and trains them in the field of their specialty. So for three months I was mentored by Terry Moews, one of the lead layout artists at WDAS.
Our program consisted of working through numerous activities that simulated real layout assignments. We were given storyboards from "Wreck-It Ralph" and expected to translate the boards into CG layout without looking at the final version of the film. On each assignment we would show our progress to Terry, he would give us feedback, and we would make revisions. It was a great way to learn and set us up for a quick launch onto "Frozen" in February 2013. Overall the program only lasted three months but I feel like I learned a year's worth of schooling in that time.
Since starting on "Frozen" it's been a surreal experience. Having spent my whole life watching Disney films and admired them so, it's hard to imagine that I'm part of that timeline now. I get to make my impression on this film, and for years and years people will be watching and connecting to something I affected. That's a very rewarding thought. It's also extremely inspiring and humbling to be working alongside some of the most talented artist in the industry. I'm still hoping some of that talent will eventually rub off on me!
Tell me more about your personal work. What shorts have you been a part of?
I have contributed to a number of independent short films over the past few years, but the three I most closely associate myself with are "Duck Heart Teslacoil," "The Girl and the Fox" and "Rain Dance." The first two I wrote and directed, and the final film I served as producer. All three were sponsored and distributed by my production company, Base14.
Have they gone to festivals?
Yes, the first two both had marvelous festival runs and I'm proud to say "Rain Dance" just announced its world premiere, which will be in New York City this summer. We look forward to bringing it to many of my favorite festivals over the next year. One good thing about being a repeat short filmmaker is you build close relationships with certain festivals, and its a joy to revisit those communities and share with them your latest work.
What's the festival experience like? Do you have any tips in traversing them?
My time spent attending film festivals has been some of my most favorite memories over the past few years. It gives you an excuse to visit new cities, meet new people and see other films you otherwise would have never come across. And when you're a featured director, you get to be the center of attention (in my opinion it's the best way to experience a film fest).
My best tip is to know your film well. There are hundreds and hundreds of festivals all around the world and you can't enter all of them. It's important to be smart and know what kind of niche audiences your film will most appeal to, and find festivals that cater to those audiences. Almost every festival has some kind of theme or tone it sets for itself, even if that's just the genereal tastes of the city in which it takes place. And like I referenced before, if you plan on being a repeat filmmaker, build relationships with your favorite festivals. It helps them find better films and it helps you continue to get your work to admiring audiences.
Which medium do you prefer to animate in? 2D or 3D
I personally prefer to animate in 2D. That's where the vast amount of my experience lies. I also think there's a level of immediacy that drawing had that you can't get back with CG animation. It's probably why I prefer being a layout artist in the CG world. You get to move at a faster pace and focus more on storytelling, compared to CG animation.
If you were stranded in the desert what three items would you have with you?
Is this a question of practicality? Because obviously the answer would be water, food and a satellite telephone.
Marvel or DC?
I suppose since Disney owns Marvel, I'm supposed to like them. But I really don't care.
If you could be any superhero made up or real who would it be?
If you had to cast yourself in an animated movie what would it be and who would you be?
Already done. I voiced the titular character in "Duck Heart Teslacoil" and channeled a lot of raw emotion into that performance. Clarence Nash would be proud.
If you could travel in time and meet anyone in the world or space who would it be? Or what would it be?
I would meet myself as an old man, and ask if I had any regrets.