Nicole Ridgwell and Spectra Sani
This summer, the amazing and talented Nicole Ridgewell and Spectra Sani were two of the privileged Pixar Animation Interns! As Tea Time alum, they humbly agreed to drop by club to share their experiences, and tips on how to structure your reel to be what Pixar is looking for.
Just what does it take to catch the eye of the Pixar Internship Coordinators? Nicole and Spectra tell us it's not just about sitting alone in front of a computer plowing through your animation day in and day out. Our heroines urge students to get out of their rooms and over to the labs! It's important to be able to socialize with others, and it helps to maintain your sanity when you are inspired by talented friends. Getting into classes with Industry Teachers helps a lot (If you're an AAU student, the Pixar Classes should be your top priority!) Having someone up-to-date with information about the workplaces you are striving for is great leap towards your goals. If you feel that you're not getting the attention or the teaching that you need, try taking a class over at the Animation Collaborative. It's good to supplement your animation classes with drawing, acting, and story classes to get those creative juices flowing. It's also possible to find all the inspiration you need at your local coffee shop! Make sure you take time to observe (and live) life and it will always add to your work.
When you think you're ready to apply, take a good look at your reel. Make sure you only have your best shots -- it's fine if your reel is short and simple; 2 shots can be enough to do it. Remember: You are always judged by the worst piece in your reel. Create believable characters and only add sound if it adds to the shot. You don't need to have fancy final rendered shots - your pieces can even be work in progress with nothing but some well thought out blocking! Just make sure that your idea is clear and your animation is clean. Use a simple title card to introduce yourself, and always make sure you tailor your reel for the company you are applying to. Pixar probably doesn't want to see something super violent with zombies ripping of people's heads while blood is spurting everywhere. That being said, don't just animate a shot for the purpose of applying to the studio. Instead, work on something you care about; Make it personal and relatable, emote yourself through the character, and people will respond to it.
Your reel showcases your work, but your resume and cover letter are effectively the face of your application. Your business papers should be concise and to the point (no one has time to read through the novel of your life), but make sure you have a voice! We should be able to feel your personality through your words, while still maintaining your professionalism. Trust me, they know you're a fanboy or girl, it is not appealing to emphasize this. It is vital to have good spelling and grammar. Always. If you have references, despite how redundant this may seem, make sure that they like you. More importantly, make sure that they know they are going to be a reference! Surprises are only good for parties and gifts, my friends. Always communicate effectively with your network.
So, with all this work, what can you expect from the Internship? On top of many group activities, and and an inevitable plethora of silly outfits, each intern will be assigned a personal mentor to work with for the duration of the summer. The Animation Internship, itself, is a lot like the Pixar classes! You will be doing assignments animating things such as a Lifesaver, the Luxo Lamp, posing exercises, walkcycles, pantomime, and 3 dialogues. Through these assignments you'll learn how to have a clean workflow, create appealing poses, owning confident ideas, making clear choices, and have clear blocking.
Even if you weren't chosen, don't be discouraged and remember to keep in touch. Just because you weren't selected this time around, doesn't mean there isn't a place for you in the future. Without being obnoxious, feel free to reach out every few months and at the end of projects, as it will showcase your continual interest, and (hopefully) your own, personal growth as an artist.
Finally, Pixar is great but it shouldn't be your only goal. There are tons of awesome opportunities out there so go and explore the world. Don't let your ego limit your choices. Don't get discouraged. Don't compare yourself to others. Be awesome, be yourself, and own it.
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