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Jan 26, 2014

A New Dawn...

Los Angeles circa 2004
In the summer of 2004, I took a "course" at the Art Institute of Atlanta that was basically designed around allowing students to attend SIGGRAPH, the annual conference on computer animation and techniques.  From August 8-12, I got to fly out to Los Angeles for the first time and attend SIGGRAPH at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  Over the four day span, I attended many presentations, visited several booths, and even left behind a business card or two (many of which were--and this is no joke--on the tops of trash can bins and lunch tables, as I thought someone important might see them and be curious...and then give me a job) (would've been a great story if it had worked!).  When we got back, and to pass the "class", we had to do a presentation on one of the events we had seen and/or one of the people we had met.
SIGGRAPH 2004
In May 2004, Shrek 2 had come out and was still raking in the Ogre Bucks.  On one of the mornings of the conference, I attended a special presentation about Shrek 2 lead by the creators of the film.  Co-director Kelly Asbury was the one who talked about the Story part of development, and seeing as how I was focusing on storyboarding at school, he was the one I did my presentation on when we got back to Atlanta.  I researched his history (something that was very hard to do back in the day, with the invention of the Internet) and even bought some of the books he had illustrated to use as visuals for my presentation (also very hard to get a hold of back in the day, with the invention of Amazon.com).
Kelly Asbury books
"Did you go up to him afterwards and talk to him?" my instructor, Tom Baker, asked me immediately. "N-no," I replied after a brief, taken-aback pause.  I was far too shy and wouldn't even have known what to say.  I was just some kid in a crowd of thousands.  What did I have to offer this man??



Flash forward nine years and three months later: I'm living in Los Angeles, have obtained an MFA from the Academy of Art, and have been asked by Sony Pictures Animation to present my work to their recruiter, Jana Day, as part of the Raising the Bar Recruiting effort at the CTN Animation Expo.  The meeting went well on that November day, but I was told that they didn't have any openings at that time.  A standard thing to hear at these events.  November begets December, December begets January...and I get an email from Jana asking me if I'd be interested/available to interview for a story position starting very soon on The Smurfs 3.  Of course, I was more than interested, but wasn't expecting more than a pleasant interview and the endearing knowledge that, by getting on the radar of these animation companies, I was that much closer to my dream job.
So on January 13, 2014 at 4:00pm, I walk into a room (wearing my Smurfiest blue plaid shirt, of course), and who should be sitting there at the table with my website pulled up on the screen but Kelly Asbury.  I was floored.  Here, finally, was my chance to talk to the man!  I was asked to tell them a little bit about myself, so I got into Interview Mode and gave the usual speech about my schooling, where I live now, and what I've done that's storyboard artist-related, all the while wondering if telling him my story of days-gone-by is heartwarming or simply creepy.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I didn't have time to decide. Because the next words out of Mr. Asbury's mouth were "We'd like to have you onboard."  And I swear, the world slowed down for a moment as those words sank in.  And then the biggest smile came across my face.  Partially because I realized I didn't have to do a traditional interview, I suppose, but mostly because in that moment...my dream had come true.  After the years of hard work and sacrifice, I was finally going to be a Professional Story Artist.  And at Sony Pictures Animation, nonetheless.  Working on The Smurfs 3.

Wow.

It turns out that that one kid in a crowd of thousands would eventually have something to offer this man.  And yes, Mr. Baker, I can now say that I've talked to Kelly Asbury.  Thank you for encouraging me to do so.

And thank you all, as always, for your continued support and encouragement on my journey.
And be sure to see The Smurfs 3 when it releases in the summer of 2015!


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