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Drawing up to Disney and DreamWorks

See the article in Washington Square News

Louis Rodriguez, Contributing Writer
April 3, 2017

Animation was born from doodlers filling the margins of their composition books. Scribbles become stories and amateurs become animators, limited only by the scope of their imaginations. But the wizards behind your favorite childhood films are hard workers who put countless hours into mere seconds of animation. Animators’  works often require navigating an industry that’s difficult, competitive and always evolving.

This past Wednesday, the Student Animation League hosted two Tisch alums who are now professional animators. Isabelle Gedigk, a story artist at Disney Television, and Garrett Lewis, a 3D animator at DreamWorks Animation, spoke to aspiring animators about their journeys to where they are now. Professors Dean Lennert and John Canemaker moderated the event.

Gedigk spoke first and illustrated the small steps she took before arriving at Disney Television. Titmouse, an animation studio in New York, gave her an internship and a job after graduation, where she worked as a clean-up artist. After a year, Gedigk moved to Los Angeles to pursue storyboarding. She first found a job in character design and later worked as a storyboard artist for a stop-motion company before Disney picked her up.

“It was a lot of patience and hard work and taking a lot of jobs that I knew was going to get me a little bit closer, even if it wasn’t quite there,” Gedigk said.

For Lewis, the move to Los Angeles wasn’t easy. He applied to 10 studios a day but would only get about two responses out of 100 job applications. When he got an interview at DreamWorks, he learned that they had contacted every studio he worked at to confirm his solid reputation. Big studios like those take no chances.

Gedigk and Lewis also advised the audience to reach out to professionals who can be open to giving advice, answering questions and critiquing their work.

“Everybody loves to give advice, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask,” Canemaker said. “It’s very flattering.”

While at Tisch, Lewis reached out to an NYU graduate to ask him questions and ended up visiting Blue Sky Studios, where the animator worked. He showed Lewis some of his work and even critiqued Lewis’ portfolio.

“Don’t show your stuff and expect that you’re going to get praise,” Lennert said. “Be ready for frank advice and also be ready to act on that.”

Theirs was to start building connections now. Both animators kept emphasizing that to all students preparing their career. They said that the people students collaborated with now would become friends who could recommend them for a job later. By drawing from their ties to former NYU students, Gedigk and Lewis were able to find jobs many students dreamed of.

After years of feedback and working on her portfolio, Gedigk said what ultimately helped get her job at Disney Television was a referral by an NYU graduate. Gedigk is currently working for the animated show “Lion Guard” at Disney Television.

“One thing I realized after graduating was that — way more so than any professional connections you may make — your friends are going to get you to your job,” Gedigk said.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 3 print edition. 

Email Louis Rodriguez at film@nyunews.com.