Which films inspired you to study filmmaking?
The film that really pushed me over the edge was a documentary about the history of Pixar Studios called The Pixar Story. There was a line in the film where John Lasseter states "I had the sudden realization: people get paid to do this." This was at a time when I was an aerospace engineering major who would stay up all night learning visual effects and how to make movies. But in terms of my favorite films I'd have to give credit to Wall-E, Pulp Fiction, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Why did you choose to study Animation and Digital Arts at Florida State University?
My biggest quandary was that I wanted to go to film school, but I also had a great passion for learning 3D design and visual effects. I was fighting with myself to pick one or the other when I happened to learn about the Animation and Digital Arts program, which was both film school and visual effects training. It was really a dream come true for me.
How is the Animation and Digital Arts program preparing you for the filmmaking industry?
When I move into a professional effects house I won't need any time to adjust to the professional climate because my education has reflected every aspect of it. The school's stress on professionalism, and education on industry culture is what I am confident will help me get and keep a job in every aspect of the entertainment industry.
What is your favorite part of the program?
One of the most thrilling experiences has been watching a movie, pausing the credits and saying "I ate lunch with that guy!" or "That guy told me 'good job' once!" It's a very strange experience to see a film such as Brother Bear, have a question about it, and then go straight to the producer of it and ask what he thinks. I am so excited about absolutely everything we do in this program, from on-set gripping to professional pitches, that my parents constantly tell me it sounds more like I am at summer camp than preparing for a career.
What advice do you have for prospective students who are thinking about applying?
Never be afraid to follow your dreams. That sounds like the most cliché thing ever, but it is really true. Believe me, it wasn't easy to switch from an engineering path to an artistic one, but once I did it was the most exhilarating experience of my life. If you are really passionate about what you want, and you're willing to stand up for it, then you should not have any worries about applying to this program.
What has been the biggest surprise while studying Animation and Digital Arts at FSU?
I approached this school with the mindset that I would meet a bunch of other students who were just like me, geeks who spend their time building computers and learning After Effects instead of going out into the sun. But after meeting my classmates, I quickly found that there is such a dynamic range of filmmakers out there. No two people in this program are alike, and that is one of the greatest things ever.
What are your professors like?
The student-professor relationship here is the best I have ever encountered. At no other school have I happened to run into a teacher at 9pm and then ended up having almost a three-hour conversation ranging from cool YouTube videos, to the future of politics, to working in a nuclear power plant. The professors here are actual professionals in their field, and they are all eager to share their knowledge and experiences with the students. But in every encounter it is as peer-to-peer as any conversation you would have with your friends.
Anything else you would like share?
Everything is about storytelling here. So when you apply, and you should apply, share your story. Because, in the end, it is really more about who you are and what you want than what you have done. If you write your essay and just brag about your award winning films, then the kid who has never touched a camera but really has a story will beat you every time. Also, never be afraid of a lack of experience. You don't need to have ever touched a camera to be a filmmaker here. You just need to have passion.