Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chris Belcher - Nickelodeon Production Assistant Intern

Chris Belcher, MAA June 2009 graduate, talks about how he got his new job as a Production Assistant Intern on "Penguins of Madagascar" for Nickelodeon. He also talks about his future goals and offers advice to graduates and students about pursuing a career in Media Arts & Animation.

Your Name: Chris Belcher
Job Title: Production Assistant Intern on "Penguins of Madagascar"
Employer: Nickelodeon Animation Studio

What was the application and interview process like at Nickelodeon?
I applied for the internship online. A couple of days later, I received a call from Nickelodeon's Human Resources department. I did a brief interview with H.R. over the phone, then he told me he would send my resume and portfolio to one of the animation departments for review. The next day I received a call from Vladimir, the Sr. Production Coordinator on Penguins of Madagascar. We set up a date and time for my phone interview which he and two other crew members were part of. A couple of days after the interview, I received a call from Vladimir telling me that I had been selected to intern on the Penguins crew. I jumped at the chance to go to Burbank, CA to work at the studio. What makes the icing on the cake is that Nickelodeon's internship program has recently been awarded one of the top 10 internships in the country. Once in California, I started at Nickelodeon and have loved my experience.
What does a day-in-the-life look like at Nickelodeon?
Very busy. Nickelodeon gives it's employees and artists the best. There is breakfast provided, and a wide range of amenities, including: a basketball court, ping pong tables, foosball, and the studio offers other activities to relieve the stress from the job. They provide interns with a class every week, taught by artists in the studio. Interns are from all over the country and from many art schools, so networking is a must. As an intern, I do not have the work load that full time positions have, but I am expected to finish any work I receive in a timely matter. Nickelodeon is a television studio, and deadlines are extremely important, so every person on the crew is expected to give 110%.

What are your favorite job duties?
One of the most important jobs I have been given, so far, is I receive a stack of storyboards and have to rename them into correct scene # and sequence #. There can be hundreds of storyboard panels, and each one has to be organized and numbered correctly to be shipped overseas, or to go to the next department. We also have an organized system of jpegs for all of the props and character models that are in the series. We go through these, placing key words for each model, so if needed, they can be pulled up quickly. Mostly, the job is day to day. Something I did today is not necessarily what I will do tomorrow, so learning and accepting challenges is part of the job.

What are the most difficult aspects of your job?
One of the more difficult jobs is creating DVD animatic presentations, that are not only viewed by directing animators at Nickelodeon, but also viewed by Dreamworks Animation Chairman, Jeffery Katzenberg. Penguins of Madagascar is a partnership between Nickelodeon and Dreamworks. These animatic presentations are created for storyboards, layout and blocking animation, and for final animation. We have a certain DVD menu that is used, parameters that are used, and even a certain way that every DVD is labeled. We check each presentation very carefully and make multiple copies. This ensures that, when in meetings, there are no mistakes or costly time taking issues.

What are your future goals?
My future goal is to be an animator for a major studio. Being here at Nickelodeon is giving me the opportunity of networking with artists, animators, producers, and other important people in the animation industry. Being in Burbank also gives me the opportunity of networking with other studios such as Dreamworks, Disney Animation Studios,and Warner Bros. There are many other animation companies that reside here, and many other opportunities, other than animation, in the entertainment industry. With any luck, perhaps too I will have the opportunity of working, as an animator, in a major animation studio.

What is your advice to other new grads and students pursuing careers in Animation?
Work extremely hard, and never give up. For recent grads, apply everywhere and for every position that you are qualified for. For current students, listen to the faculty and ask them as many questions as you can. They have great experience, and they all know what they are talking about. Animation is about networking, and you want to start in school. Work as a member of a team, NOT an individual. There is not one studio where you do not work as part of a team. Learn everything you can about the animation pipeline. Concentrate on one area and specialize in it, but be a hybrid. Be able to do other jobs. You may want to be an animator, but so does everyone else in the studio. Jobs are scarce, so if you can get in as a storyboard artist, modeler, or texture artist, then you got your foot in the door. If and when a position does open up where you want to work, then you can apply and test for that position. If you want to be an artist in the industry, draw, draw, and draw more. These studios don't necessarily care how many software applications you know, though it does help. They want to see that you know how to design, and that you can do the job efficently. Never fall in love with your work. It can always be better. Every part of an animated production goes through numerous changes, so get used to it. It will receive notes and will be changed over and over again. When it works, it works great. Animation is tedious work, but the magic that it creates puts the biggest smile on your face, and you realize that all the hard work was worth it.

What Nickelodeon character can you most identify with and why?
Good question. There are many great characters that Nick has created over the years, but I will go with one from "Penguins", Maurice the Lemur. He is not in charge, but is loyal, hardworking, and believes in his cause. He is also short and rounded, like me. LOL.

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