Originally Posted by Alrighty Roo
Sommers has used ILM a lot and from their book I can see he really follows through with that saying. There were shots in the mummy that had a giant model enhanced with 3D work and a matte background with live actors. If you take away ILM's work you don't even come close to having a film!
TLDR Warning- personal stuff not really related to this project.
Pixar is obviously far and away my number one choice. Although I'd take almost anything I'd actually prefer to work in the story department so FX houses are fairly low down my list. Lasseter, Docter and Stanton can all animate though, the first two ridiculously well so I want to learn how to do this stuff properly. That said, my list is elite and I'd love to work for anyone on it.
My list is indeed more than just a figure of speech (Warning, TLDR):
1) Pixar- they have the highest budgets, the consistently best attitude to filmmaking (none of the key players there care about money more than they have to) and I think the highest quality, which they've sustained over 17+ years.
2) Dreamworks- the obvious second choice. They consistently make 'best employer' lists and, although I find their films somewhat hit and miss, they're still at the upper end in terms of quality.
3) It's difficult to put Disney too far behind Pixar now that Catmull and Lasseter are playing such pivotal roles there.
4) Sony- Relatively new and with lower budgets than the other two but one look at one of their Art books shows how much they care (seriously, they're the best art books I've seen, so many pop ups, pull outs, the Surf's Up one even comes with a DVD) and straight-to-DVD sequels notwithstanding they're generally pretty original. Surf's Up in particular stands out to me.
5) ILM- The FX house to work for. Also, Rango. Rango was great and really original, there's not another 3D film like it and I hope they continue working with 3D features. Clearly a lot of talented people, but a bit more technically focused than I would like.
6) Blue Sky- They often outsource their actual 3D work and I think it's clear they're concerned a bit too much with money and not enough with filmmaking. That said, their films aren't bad (generally I'd say that they have moments of inspiration with core story problems that really hold them back. For example I loved the beginning of Ice Age 3 with Scrat and indeed all of Scrat's scene were great, as was some of the dinosaur animation but it wasn't working for me on a more basic level (who the hell thought that Rudy character was a good idea?!)) and I'd still like to work there.
7) Illumination- Very new but their films have been well received.
Most of all I just want to get out of the UK and into California and into the industry. Pixar is my endgame, but for now I'm just eager to get there.
I've now got a rough build of Larry. I'll upload photos later and hopefully refine him tomorrow.
This whole thing is going to be TLDR back...lol.
Very interesting list, actually. I'll go down the list, and give any specific knowledge I have.
1. I have a contact at Pixar. When you get closer, maybe I can ask her who the best person for you to try to contact is. When you're in a position to move, I'd just want you to write something up that describes exactly how you'd like to start in that company (if given the chance), and then I'd forward it on to her to see if she can help get you into the right hands. I think it's important to always shoot for working where you want to work, even if it's not getting to do exactly what you want to do. I'm sure the competition is extremely fierce, but if you don't try, you won't know. For sound, people always try to break in with Skywalker, if given the opportunity, but that stuff almost never happens. I never tried, because I lived in L.A.
2. Keep in mind when you're working for someone like Dreamworks, you are probably generally working for a studio that provides work to them. In the case of the people behind Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and Madagascar, that company was bought by Dreamworks, so I'm not sure what the studio system is like there. The name of that company was Pacific Data Images. I did a lot of behind the scenes work on Madagascar 2, they look like they have a lot of fun making the stuff they do, and they really care about what they do, as well. My personal opinion of Dreamworks, as a studio, is that they're pretty wildly inefficient, and tend to make the post production process far more complicated than necessary.
3. Disney isn't known for being a very fun company to work for, and they don't tend to pay their employees as well as some of their counterparts. Maybe some of that has changed with the buying of Pixar, but you can look at the handling of the first foray of Pixar into live action, John Carter, and see that there are definitely some lingering political issues between the two studios (Disney and Pixar). If you work for Pixar, Disney is likely writing the checks, but I have no idea how much day to day input they have over them. My guess is that Pixar is still largely autonomous on the animation side, as long as their movies continue to have outstanding grosses, and Oscar consideration.
4. I haven't worked on any of Sony's animated stuff, but it's always good to get with an up and comer, and they appear to have more control over their budgets (much lower budgets, with apparently still high production value). Try not to look at budgets as a guide for how much production value there is, look at the screen. If you like what's on the screen, it doesn't matter what the budget is. If it looks great on screen, and the budget is lower than normal, that company is likely a winner. A lot of times, a super high budget means that there were problems, or there are efficiency issues inside the studio. Think about what happened on the movie Tangled. The only thing that saves them there is that they invented a new process they will hopefully use on future movies that will get them their cost back ($260 million budget is unheard of for animation, but the movie did well enough overseas that it has probably still made money overall, even though it lost a lot of money domestically).
5. I actually did a set of behind the scenes stuff on Rango, well before the movie came out, and I can tell you for certain that the production process on that movie was well off the norm. My understanding was that it was Gore Verbinski's first foray into animation, and his goal was to direct it like a live action movie. It looks like it, at least in the scenes I saw, but doing stuff like that generally costs a TON of money, and if your director is inefficient, you're dead (based on the movie only having a $135 million budget, it looks as if he definitely was relatively efficient, as he originally came from low budget live action movies). Most studios aren't going to openly allow that kind of style, unless there is a proven track record of success. Still, if you're going to be up north, you should obviously put in a resume to ILM, unless you land the job at Pixar right away.
6. Yeah, I don't know too much about Blue Sky, but the budgets for those Ice Age movies are downright economical. I haven't seen any of those straight through, so you'd be a much better judge of production value. It looks like Rhythm and Hues tends to do every other live/animation combo for FOX. If you don't think it looks like they are properly placing production value on screen, you should probably look elsewhere. The only benefit (if you had to start there) is that you'd learn how to make movies on the cheap. If you work at Pixar (where they have astronomical budgets), the crash down moving to one of these places could be quite severe.
7. I would definitely put Illumination Entertainment much higher on this list. I loved Despicable Me, and I thought their animation style was really interesting. Universal also tends to be a relatively easy company to work with, who is who distributes their films, from what I can tell. The budget for Despicable Me was also extremely low, so you'd have to judge the production value. It's more important to me for the movie to get the feel right than the animation. Like, I love the bizarro animation of the 60s Tom and Jerry cartoons, where they almost look like stop animation.
Just as an FYI, I really don't know much about animation, but I have worked on tons of material for the DVDs of Looney Tunes, Popeye, Wacky Races, Penelope Pitstop, Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Superman: The Animated Series, Hong Kong Phooey, The Smurfs TV show, and The Academy Award Shorts Collection. So, I have a true appreciation of animation, even if I don't understand it, and I have learned a ton in the course of the stuff I have worked on for all this classic animation. I also loved cartoons growing up, so getting to work on this kind of stuff has been really fun for me.
Also, you might want to look into Warner Bros. Animation. I love Warner Bros., and think it would probably be a great place to work. The other place you didn't mention that's high profile is Digital Domain. Fascinatingly, Digital Domain is the company James Cameron founded. Yet, they did none of the work for Avatar, from what I can tell. I can't imagine working for Digital Domain would be fun, but you never know.
Originally Posted by Alrighty Roo
nunnehi, can I ask how you got into sound and what made you want to get into it? I don't know a lot of people who are interested in sound, indeed my university's sound technician is always going on about how no one wants to do sound and he's right, there's only a few in my year and to be frank none of them are particularly talented. It makes me wonder where people like Ben Burt and Gary Rydstrom appear from. After working at a radio station for 3 years I think I can say I don't want to get into sound but when I see the work Burt and Rydstrom do for Pixar (especially Wall-E), it makes me wonder.
Here's another really TLDR, but since you asked...
When I went to college, I intended my career to be in radio (had a radio show from early 1992-late 1993 on a very prominent college radio station). The degree to get that was Mass Communication-Audio Production. So, that meant I had to learn more than just talking into a microphone and selecting/playing music. The College Work Study job I got supplied all of the technical equipment, audio rooms, and edit rooms for the TV, Journalism, and Audio programs. So, I began to learn other things there, such as shooting video, and ultimately video editing (3/4" videotape style). By the end of my first semester, I was convinced that I wanted to become a film editor (a guy who worked there with me was an EMMY Winning Editor/Director of Malcolm in the Middle, and I think is some kind of Supervising Editor on New Girl).
Then, the next semester I took my first Audio Production class. We did things like editing music on tape, editing voice on tape, and various other little projects that were introductions to audio. I remember that our music editorial project was a remake of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. We were given like 8 or 10 sections of the song on tape, and we had to put it together. We were given bonus points if we rearranged the sections so that it still worked musically, though not in the order it was intended. I did that, and got an A. We made it to our final project, and there was only one other student in the class who was doing quality that was near mine (I think he's a voiceover guy now). I did my final project, which I think was supposed to be using audio to describe a color. After the class was over, my teacher handed us slips giving us our grades for the overall class. Mine was an A-, and he wrote that he wanted to talk to me about my grade. He asked me if I understood why he gave me an A-, and I told him I didn't, because all my stuff was consistently best in the class. He agreed, but then told me something that has guided my career ever since. He said that all of my work was A caliber. However, he felt I wasn't even remotely tapping the potential he saw in me. He encouraged me, going forward into Audio 2, to "push the envelope".
As lack of money was always a driving force behind my college education, I thought I was going to have to drop out every semester until my last one (lol). So, my goal was to get all of my audio classes out of the way, so that I could move into a real world job, if the time came for me to drop out.
Sophomore year, the guy I said is an Editor on New Girl, trained me to do online editing. He was awesome to watch, and I tried to emulate his style as best I could (looking good at the controls is what I mean). So, I became an Online Editor for the school, eventually becoming the Lead Online Editor, once that guy graduated. That same year, I took Audio 2, with another audio teacher who was instrumental in my formation. In that class, we started off the back of the Audio 1 stuff, and I did well. We were then asked to do a short project of some sort, which was done using a 4 track audio machine (yuck). My roommate wrote really disturbing horror stories, and I decided to produce one called "Slim Jims in the Dark" (told using the very disturbing Full Metal Jacket music). He was a Performing Arts major, and he had a pretty good voice. No one could interpret the copy like he could, so we got to work together (he actually voiced all of my audio projects, until he transferred at the end of Sophomore year). Remember what I said about pushing the envelope? Well, part of the copy involved a bunch of cuss words. I left them in, and made a really effective piece. The expressions on the class's faces were priceless. My teacher said I was a sick man, and gave me an A on the project. The next spoken word audio projects from the rest of the class were filled with cussing (lol).
During the class (which the teacher said was the best class he ever had), there were several guys in it who were in the Live Mix Workshop. The prominent college radio station I spoke of frequently had live performances, and was well known for it. In fact, a big fundraising week was called Live Music Week, and bands basically performed about 20 hours a day. The guys who were in that workshop liked my work, and thought I would do well in the Live Mix Workshop. I wasn't really interested in music, at the time, and resisted a little bit at first. After that prodding, I started going, and it again made me want to change directions, and move into music (I'm not a musician, which I felt would hurt me, though some teachers felt that was a positive).
In the second semester of Sophomore year, I had to secretly, and quickly register for my last Audio technical requirement class of Radio Practicum. It was a Senior level class, and Sophomores weren't allowed. However, I was one of the first to approach the teacher, and he didn't ask me what year I was. My other former roommate tried to get in the class, as well, and was denied. I think there were 10 people in the class. The job of the class was to make one 20+ minute audio project on whatever you wanted. As I had said, my roommate wrote horror stories. I decided to make my project an anthology. We produced 4 of the short stories, and I cleaned them up, so that the cussing was removed (just in case we wanted to get the stuff published). We had some creative differences, but we got through it.
At the end of the year, the school had an Awards program kind of like the EMMYs, where they made a huge TV show, and then presented awards for various categories. That year, they introduced a new category called Best Audio Production Spoken Word, and I submitted my final Audio 2 project. For our final Audio 2 project, we had to re-write the ending of "A Christmas Carol", however we wanted to. I wrote mine, and it won for Best Audio Production Spoken Word. The award was presented by Joel Stillerman, who is now Senior Vice President at AMC (at the time, I thought it was pretty cool that he was the production executive on Beavis and Butt-head...lol, as he was some kind of executive at MTV, and graduated the same school I attended). The following year, I submitted my Radio Practicum project, and it was only nominated.
As I had blown through my major requirements in 2 years, I had almost no fun classes left the rest of my time there. I continued with my radio show, working for the school signing out equipment, training people how to use equipment, and doing Online Editorial. I also got head long into the live mix stuff, and continued on a path toward pursuing music. Toward the end of the first semester of my senior year, my roommate (not the one from other years, but the guy who was basically my best friend in college), who shared the same tastes in music as me, at the time, used to always play his guitar in our apartment, just jamming out. At this time, I approached him and asked him if he wanted to go in and try to record something with me (the only other music project I had recorded was with a friend of mine, and it was on 8 track). He was eager, and we set out on a terrible disaster. He had only trained himself by ear, and knew how to play what he heard, but timing was not something we understood. So, we went in and recorded him playing a bunch of guitars and bass. Then, a friend of his was a drummer, and we brought him in (needless to say, in retrospect, I felt bad for him...lol). It didn't take us long to realize that we needed to record with a click track, for our next project. He was a film major, but he ended up in film music supervising/editing. He is now the Music Editor on Glee, American Horror Story, and Game of Thrones. He also has a side band that has a decent amount of fans, and we are supposed to be doing another project this summer. We did one last year, as well, but I was so out of practice that I was really unhappy with the results, even though it was received well.
The last semester of my Senior year was spent at our school's L.A. program. There, you do an internship, and continue on with classes. I did my internship at a recording studio in Hollywood, and worked 40 hours a week for free, in addition to going to school full time, and working a college work study job. I started my weeks on a Saturday, and worked 7 days a week the entire semester. My goal was to prove to them that I was a hard worker, and they could imagine how hard I would work when I got paid to do so. Needless to say, the whole experience left me with an extremely sour taste in my mouth, as the only technical thing I got to do the entire time I was there was make a cassette...lol. When I was offered a job for minimum wage, after I graduated, I turned it down (my original goal was to eventually mix hip hop and jazz). I was done with music, and now only had interest in pursuing it on the side.
The first job I applied for was at a mid-major Post Production house, that had a good relationship for internships with my school, and the guy I interviewed with asked me what I wanted to do. I told him Audio Post, and he said, "Oooooh, is there something else you want to do? We just promoted someone up to Assistant Engineer, and it will probably be a long time before that happens again." I told him that was what I wanted to do, and he wished me luck. Within a few weeks, as there were no jobs materializing, another mid-major Post Production company posted a job in The Hollywood Reporter looking for Apprentices in a variety of disciplines. By this time, I had given up on the Audio dream, and was looking to get into the video side, based on my other experiences I had had. I sent my resume in, and I heard they got about 700 resumes for the positions. I was called for an interview, and I went there wearing a flannel shirt, T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. We were called into a group interview (20 were in the room), and I listened intently as the hiring guy told us about the company. Mid way through, I started thinking in my head that there is no way I'm getting this job, because how can he sort out who is who among 20 people? So, as the spiel ended, I figured that was that. As the guy doing the hiring was walking out, he pointed to a guy, and then pointed at me and said, "Come with me." I guess I had hit the lottery somehow. He took me into his office, got my resume, and explained why he picked me. He said it looked like I was really paying attention, and that I was dressed for the type of job I would be doing. There wasn't much other talking, and he said that if his father (who owned the company) approved my hire, I would be hired. I ended up having to go out to lunch with the owner, and we talked about what I wanted to do, etc. The "interview" went well, and I was told that I had gotten the job. Of course, I then waited for a month to get a start date. I literally had said in my head that I was going to contact E! (another place I wanted to work at the time), if I didn't hear from the guy by 10am the next morning. At 8am, he called me and asked when I could start. I asked for a job description, which he said he didn't have ready, so we agreed to start me the following Monday. I signed a 3 year contract, with graded pay increases based on performance.
The entire time I was going in there, I was expecting to be going in as a Video Apprentice. Everyone I kept getting introduced to kept calling me "the audio guy", and I was like, uhh, okay. My other job was starting out in the tape vault, and on my first day, they took me down to the audio room. They were working on an infomercial. I sat in and watched the Mixer record voiceover, add sound effects, edit dialog and music, and then watched her mix the show. I was in awe. From that exact moment, I knew I wanted to be doing that, as it was a perfect melding of spoken word, music, and video. And that was just by working on an infomercial...lol. I asked her what the job was called and she said "Re-Recording Mixer".
The next day, I got to explore the video side. That day they had me go sit in the machine room with an Assistant Editor, who I also went to college with (who went on to be nominated for two Daytime EMMYs for multi-camera editing). Every once in awhile, an Editor would scream that he needed something over a loudspeaker, and the guy would jump up and do it. Other than that, we just sat there talking, and he would peel the sticky stuff off the back of the white console tape, and stick it on the rack next to the tape machines. It was also insanely loud in that room, so it was a really easy choice to move into the audio side. At the time, we were working on The Real World San Francisco (season 3), and I would usually get to be involved once a week assisting the mixer when she was doing the audio assembly. I also would get to help her any time she needed to do a 24 track layback (we used to do all the audio laybacks for Rocko's Modern Life), as the machine was in another room, and she needed someone to monitor it.
I worked my butt off, working in the vault, and then going down to the audio room when I got off work, and stayed there until she left every night, assisting her, as I wanted her to feel I was part of the team. Within 9 months of entering the industry, I was given the title of Night-Time Re-Recording Mixer, but really didn't do much mixing, except on music videos. Dwight Yoakam really liked working with me, for whatever reason, and I mixed a couple of pretty complicated music videos for him. We opened a second room, and we brought in another Mixer, who became my second mentor. The Mixer (she had won 2 EMMYs by the time I met her, and she has since moved on to NFL Films where she has probably been nominated for an EMMY every year since moving there) I worked under was my methodology mentor, because she was super organized and efficient when it came to setting up projects and how she approached a mix (something that even today many people have serious issues with, trust me). The new Mixer became my creative mentor (he was also a multiple EMMY Award winning Mixer), and he really helped build my confidence. The job didn't work out for him there, because he wasn't accustomed to dealing with the bottom feeder type clients we had, and walked after the client complained about something that wasn't our fault (the show was being written while we were recording voiceover), when we had completely killed ourselves on the show. I think I worked something like 84.75 hours in 4 days on that show. On his way out, he encouraged them to put me in the position he was leaving, as he felt I was ready for it. The powers that be were excited about this, but the other Mixer didn't think I was ready.
I nearly followed the Mixer who left, when he tried to get me in at his new company. However, the company I was going to leave matched the offer (mostly because the Mixer who left and I had gotten friendly with a really grumpy seeming financial higher up, who ended up not being a grumpy guy at all). He told them to match it, when it was brought to him. The next January, the first wave of big layoffs happened in the industry, and the company I almost went to (they wanted me because I had worked on The Real World, and they were doing Road Rules) had a mass layoff. I felt I had dodged the bullet there. Then, in February, it was my company's turn. I still continued to freelance for them, while looking for a new job (I was too experienced as a Mixer to get Assistant jobs, and to inexperienced as a Mixer to get Mixer jobs). I even designed their company's demo reel, while not being on staff, as a nice piece of irony. The guy who produced the demo reel felt I had been jobbed, and that I was the perfect example of a person who works their way up from the bottom into being successful, and that I should have been celebrated, not laid off. So, that was nice to hear.
As I was near running out of money, I got a lead on a job from the company who supplied our editing DAW (Fairlight). It was a tiny low budget post house, and I was told there wasn't anything there now, but that it might be a good idea to contact them. I went in, and there was no job, but they enjoyed meeting me, and wanted me to freelance for them, if I was up to it. I agreed, and within about a month, the main Mixer left, and they asked me if I wanted the job. I obviously said yes, and I had my first full time job as a Mixer, and I was by myself handling everything the company did. They had a habit of working me 14 hour days 3 days a week, and then clearing out the schedule so I wouldn't get overtime (they had me on call, when I wasn't booked). I asked them to adjust my overtime, the owner freaked out, and we had a conversation with him and the VP (I was insanely busy at that time and would not be getting fired). We agreed on a compromise raise/how my OT was handled, and moved on. After all my shows had wrapped, they cleared the schedule and informed me that I would have to be laid off, but that they would still use me freelance if I wanted. I didn't give an answer, at least not one I remember...lol. I needed to get my wisdom teeth taken out, so it ended up being good timing. They asked me to come in and freelance a couple of times, which I turned down. On the second try, the guy asked me if I really just didn't want to come in because I didn't like him. I told him that's what it was, and he understood (he had been an azz to me). A few days later, he called begging me to come in because one of their clients really wanted me. Ironically, that client was the same one that caused my 2nd mentor to walk from the other company. They loved how efficient I was, and wanted to have me be their guy. I told him that I just couldn't do it (plus I was having my wisdom teeth out). I probably blew my relationship with that client, but sometimes you just have to stand your ground.
Shortly after, I had secured an interview at the first company I interviewed with out of college (no jobs apparently available), that told me that there weren't going to be any audio promotions for awhile. The guy who had interviewed me had moved on to become VP of Operations at their new westside facility. After I interviewed with the Chief Audio Engineer, I found out that a person I worked with at my first company (the Chief Engineer) was the Chief Engineer at the westside facility. I contacted him, and he told me they were looking for a night Mixer (I knew the Fairlight, and that's what they had). He got me in contact with the guy I originally interviewed with right out of college, and he wanted to hire me, pretty much sight unseen. After a few phone calls, I told him that I had already interviewed with the guy at the main facility, and that I was scheduled for training the next week. He told me he would deal with him, and I didn't hear back from him for about 4 or 5 days. On the day before my training, I just called the guy I was supposed to be trained by to confirm. He told me was going to have to be mixing that night, and that he would have to re-schedule, and then mid-stream switched and told me that the guy on the westside really wanted to hire me, and asked if I could get down there right away to have a final in person interview. I said absolutely, and everything was closed when I got there. The guy remembered me from my interview right out of college, and was stunned that I had already become a Mixer so quickly. He told me he wasn't going to let me get away again. Normally they had a 90 day probationary period where they make you a freelancer. However, there was another show going on at the westside, while we were doing a high volume re-packaging of TV shows project. So, once a week we would have to do our work at the Hollywood facility. The Hollywood facility noticed that I worked at night, and delivered a significant number of shows in my first two weeks there (while asking for almost no help), and acted like they wanted to steal me from the westside facility. The guy who brought me in to the westside facility immediately hired me on his staff so that couldn't happen. After about 5 months, I was promoted to the only day shift Mixer, after the other guy was let go. When I was hired, I was, by far, the youngest Mixer there, and the youngest Mixer they had ever hired (25), and I was even younger than my Assistant...lol. It was a really cool experience, and set me down the path I am on today.
I could say the rest was history, but there's a lot more to the story. I think that's plenty for now, though.
That really should have been TLDR, and sorry for derailing your thread. I tried to keep it all in one post. If you have more questions you can PM me.
Burt was robbed of an Oscar for Wall-E. As much as I wasn't surprised, it's still a big snub for a man who created a lead character and a whole host of supporting characters with sound.
As for the Ben Burtt stuff, don't feel too bad for him. He had already won 4 Oscars by the time Wall-E rolled around, so he was plenty decorated. Those guys are among the highest paid in the industry, and have budgets that the vast majority of sound houses can't touch. Therefore, it's expected that they do the best work. The Academy can't ignore great work, they can just choose to not have it win. Often times, they really like to have something win that had an especially low budget, but ended up greatly exceeding expectations. That's why I was kind of hoping Drive would win for sound editing this year. I didn't see the movie, but I heard the sound experience was intense and great.
Something else to note is that there are couple of different personalities in audio, just like there is in making movies. For making movies, there are two types of personalities. One is the production personality, and the other is the post production personality. I have done both, and I can easily say that I am a post production personality. I could not have been more bored on a film set, if I tried. For the audio side of TV/movies, there are also two types of personalities. You either are a dialog person, or a sound effects person. Dialog people tend to be laid back and meticulous about their work. Sound effects people tend to have huge egos, and act like they're rock stars. I'm a dialog personality. Everything I do is driven by the sound of the human voice. I am always trying to make it sound as good as possible, within my own limitations (which there are many). Hopefully that gave you a little extra to think about.