ONE ON ONE WITH A USC STUDENT
How has the School of Cinematic Arts changed your view of your discipline in animation?
It definitely opened my eyes! I’ve always been dead set on doing character animation or storytelling for big studios like Dreamworks or Sony, so I came here pretty dead set on doing animated movies or TV. But I soon realized that films and TV shows aren’t the only things that have stories: commercial animation, visual effects, even motion graphics can all tell stories as well! It really opened up my eyes (And opened up a lot of doors!) and I’ve gained a lot more appreciation for animation in every form!
What advice do you have for prospective students looking at applying to your program?
GO FOR IT!!! In EVERYTHING that you do! Don’t be afraid to apply. Applying to USC was probably the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, but you’ve got nothing to lose! By not applying, you’re ensuring that you won’t get in, so why not take the chance and go for it?
Don’t be afraid of ambitious projects!
Starting something new can be daunting, but you won’t know what you’re capable of until you really go for it. My greatest is that, before coming to USC, I didn’t try to do anything. I was always waiting for someone to tell me to do it, and it set me back. Don’t be like preUSC me! If you want to make something, go for it! Most importantly, Don’t be afraid to fail!
Worst case scenario, you make something you’re not proud of. But you’re still making stuff, still learning, still improving and developing your style. This is how we learn—not by studying, but by pushing ourselves, falling down, getting back up, learning from what we’ve done.
We’re animators—for us, anything is possible. So don’t let fear stop you!
How has the School of Cinematic Arts prepared you so far for a career in your discipline?
We’re offered courses in pretty much every specialty of animation, from VFX to visual music, and we have all the tools we could ever need! We’re provided with incredible resources: we’ve got equipment and software for digital, traditional, and stop-motion animation!
And of course, there’s the stellar faculty! They’re what really makes this program so amazing. All of our professors are INSANELY talented, supportive, and knowledgeable. One of USC’s big proud points is its professionally employed faculty, and it’s absolutely invaluable to the animation program. The professors both give us the tools we need to succeed and prepare us for what to expect in the professional world. But it’s not just the professors—there are SO MANY dedicated people working around the clock to make sure we’re on the track to succeed! We’re provided with loads of opportunities to help with outside projects and gain real-world experience, all because of their hard work.
What have been the biggest challenges for you at USC?
One of the hardest pills to swallow is that not everything is going to be a success. I’ve gotten grades, completed class assignments, and finished projects that I’m really not proud of. Whether it was because I ran out of time, didn’t understand something, or just didn’t have any good ideas, I learned that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes.
It’s also important not to push yourself to try new things—new styles, new techniques, maybe using a different animation program or an entirely different medium! I spent my second semester freshman year basically using the same style for every assignment. I looked back in horror at the end of the year, realizing that everything I’d done looked exactly the same. I’d gotten too comfortable with doing the same thing, and hadn’t taken any time to learn how to do anything else. Take the risk, do things that scare you, and remember that just because one thing went wrong doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world! It can be tough, facing possible rejection and failure, but I’ve realized it’s a lot more important to explore what you can do than create something that you know will look okay because you’ve done it a billion times before.
What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to USC?
Absolutely my parents. They are amazing, supportive, and are the greatest cheerleaders I’ve ever had.
My parents grew up independent and imaginative—they had to be! My dad was raised in rural Florida, where there was nothing better to do than run around (and carelessly hurt himself) in the untamed, swampy wilds, and my mother spent her childhood with her friends, roaming the neighborhood like feral cats. They were both taught to entertain themselves, create and appreciate fantasy worlds—so, of course, that’s how they raised my sister and me.
My mother, the daughter of a librarian, taught me to love literature. She didn’t allow us to watch TV, so I grew up on a steady diet of her favorite books. These fantasy worlds were my life, and it wasn’t long before I started building my own. My dad instilled in me a love of adventure—he has always been a great outdoorsman, and his love of exploration gave me this kind of restlessness, the need to never settle for something when I know that there might be something better around the corner.
What personal projects have you worked on and/or are currently working on?
Oh gosh, there are so many! That’s my favorite thing about SCA—the people here always want to make something, and there’s never a dull moment. I’ve done loads of work for other people, mainly animations for the Advanced Games Project class or Trojan Visions. Most of my individual projects stem from inside jokes: I’ve created a few goofy cartoons about them. I also try to keep a visual dream diary, a collection of dramatic images or sequences from my dreams. I’m working on translating some of my favorite ones into animated sequences!
I’m also working on a webcomic about a deadly app game with my best friend in the whole world! I’m currently taking classes in programming apps, so we’re working on adapting it so it might be an interactive adventure!
By Katie Hood