Chris: Yeah, exactly. Tons of Starbucks, tons of fish tacos. Okay, so take us to Nickelodeon. How did that happen?
Sarah: So I was wrapping up Book of Life and Reel FX was a wonderful opportunity but I was definitely looking to grow. I really wanted to see what else was out there for me and see if I could learn from another group of people or another life experience. I mean I really wanted to move to California, especially after going to CTN. It’s like holy crap, why am I not out here all the time? So after CTN, I actually did do some interviews at CTN. I got really good feedback from some different companies and I was like okay, maybe my work’s ready for kind of the next step, even though I can’t show work from Book of Life, my personal work had been improving, and maybe there was something out there. So upon my normal social media rounds, I logged into LinkedIn…
Chris: I didn’t know that.
Sarah: Yeah, there’s a feature on LinkedIn that based on your experience we think you’d be interested in this…and a character design position for Shimmer and Shine and Nickelodeon was available. So I Googled it and there was one article, I think now there’s a second one but at the time there was one article about how the show Shimmer and Shine created by my show creator Farnaz, was picked up by Nick Jr. and featured two genies and their human friend and all the shenanigans and the magical stuff that they get involved in. And there’s one concept art piece and I was like wow, this is really cute and it looks like something I would be interested in and something I could totally do because Jorge as we know worked at Nickelodeon and has a really cool 2D sensibility about his work. So even though I worked in CG, I have been working really closely with Jorge and kind of like his 2D vision.
Chris: Which as a side note comes across in the animation and The Book of Life, I mean it’s incredible the hybridization of 2D and 3D and in fact, we will…I’ll embed the trailer in the blog post associated with this podcast episode.
Sarah: Awesome. Yeah, we were doing crazy, crazy research and trial and error on how to make Jorge’s (inaudible) people designs (inaudible) the 3D which is not easy might I add. There’s a whole set of issues trying to make that work, but we did and it looks amazing.
Chris: Yeah, it does look amazing.
Sarah: But yeah, so I had like a kind of 2D sensibility with the show I worked on over the film. And so I was reading an article and then I stumbled across and see the name Andy (inaudible). He freelanced on Book of Life and he came into the studio for a couple weeks as a freelancer.
Chris: Oh wow, I didn’t know that!
Sarah: Yeah, yeah.
Chris: That’s amazing!
Sarah: So I was Facebook friends with him and we’d hung out when he was in town. I knew Andy and I was like oh that’s crazy, it says he’s attached as Art Director. I haven’t heard him say anything, because at the time he was working at Disney on the Mickey Mouse shorts. So I sent him a Facebook message and I was like, “Hey Andy, I just applied for this job and I saw from an article like a couple of months ago you were attached as Art Director and I was just wondering if you knew anyone I could send my portfolio to in production or any in charge.” He replied to me and he said, “Well you can send it to me because I’m art director.”
Chris: Sounds good!
Sarah: Yeah, and it kind of snowballed from there where I took a character test and they liked that so much but they liked my other work and they’re like oh well maybe we want her to do prop color styling too. Do you mind if we test you in that?
Sarah: And I’m like sure, I’ll test in that. Holy crap, I don’t know what’s happening. And then they were like, “Sarah, we love your other stuff too, can you do a background test?” I’m like, is this normal?! So I had a month of testing and that’s not necessarily normal because sometimes you’re only applying for one job…
Sarah: But I knew the art director and he knew my work and he worked with me on Book of Life and he knew I could do a lot of different things. So he was almost more torn on where to place me and it’s not just his decision, it’s also the show creator’s and the teams. So he just wanted to see where I would fit best and I actually got the call…Shane and I were driving…he was driving me to the airport because I was going home on Christmas break, and we parked in the parking lot at DFW and I got a phone call from an LA number and I picked up and I was offered the job at Nickelodeon.
Chris: Wow, that’s awesome.
Sarah: So it was like the best Christmas give ever.
Chris: Yeah, right.
Sarah: So I mean I didn’t accept right away on the phone but I did email them the next day and I was like, “Hey, I’m totally doing this.” And don’t be afraid to ask for time with your decision because this is your life and they’re going to understand that. If they’re a good place to work, they’re going to be really respectful of your decision. I got back to Reel FX and gave my notice, worked for two weeks, then I flew out the next day after my last day at Reel FX to Burbank to find an apartment and then I flew back and then all my stuff was packed into a Upack and then I shipped my car and then two days later I flew back to Burbank for real. And it was a crazy whirlwind, my shipment didn’t get there before I had to go to work so I was living out of a suitcase.
But yeah, it was a really amazing experience but it’s what they say though – 80% of getting the job is networking, whether that comes from previous jobs, from CTN, from Twitter. I mean all the people that you meet, you don’t know where they’re going to end up and then subsequently where you might end up. Because if Andy was an art director, I mean who’s to say the art director would have gotten their hands on my portfolio. Yeah, like if I hadn’t worked on Book of Life with the freelance team there, I would not have gotten to know Andy who is an art director. The industry is a lot smaller than you’d think and being a nice person and having good work, as you say have good work and be great to work with, are the two big things and I completely agree because Andy would have not wanted me to join him on his team if he didn’t like my work or didn’t like working with me in the past. That also subsequently led him to bringing Shane on the team who’s also now at Nickelodeon.
Chris: As it should be.
Sarah: Or kind of a package deal I guess, so I ended up starting doing character design stuff on Shimmer & Shine and now I’m full time doing background painting which has been awesome because a feature is really, really cool but no one sees your art unless they buy the (inaudible) book or go to your website which is a small number of people but in television, especially in 2D, your background paintings are the background. I’m putting my art on the screen for everyone to see which is really, really cool. My show doesn’t air until next year 2015, but definitely look out for Shimmer and Shine, it has a My Little Pony kind of crossover appeal, it’s definitely not just for kids.
Chris: And there will probably be some pre-awareness stuff going out.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Chris: We’ll keep everyone posted if there’s any Sarah stuff visible.
Sarah: It’s actually been really cool, the response to my work on the show has ben awesome. One of my first paintings I did is now hanging in the CEO of Nickelodeon’s office.
Sarah: So that was pretty awesome to hear, and also a few other paintings are hanging around Nickelodeon which is so weird! But it’s a really good weird, it’s really cool to work with Andy who is so supportive of the team. He’s been really great in kind of pushing us with a really fun style and it’s a magical girl show, so I’m living out my Sailor Moon dreams at work every day with Elsa.
Chris: Yeah, that’s crazy. That is craziness!
Sarah: We have a really great team.
Chris: Yeah, no kidding. What do you think is the question that artists who are in school or considering school, what do you think is the question that they should be asking themselves that they aren’t likely asking themselves?
Sarah: I wasn’t asking myself…I’m trying to think of from my experience. I wasn’t asking myself a few things. I wasn’t asking what really motivated me and that I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. That was huge, I was very much influenced by the kind of traditional structure of my school. And then I guess the other thing would be after figuring out okay, I want to work in animation, what is it exactly that I want to do in animation? Because time and time again, I review portfolios and one of the first things I ask even before I look, I love asking, “What is your dream job?” I do this when I ask high school students on National Portfolio Day, I do it at CTN when I’m interviewing, I do it when I’m interviewing at my job. I’m like, “What is it that you want to do?” And I think asking yourself that question, you don’t always have the answer right away and that’s okay. I didn’t, for me I do enjoy character design, but I love color. I love painting with color, I love thinking about color, I like critiquing it, I like dissecting it. I get more fulfillment from more than black and white. I think having that realization is really important for moving forward with your work because I learned pretty quickly that I didn’t want to do storyboarding. I personally don’t think I’m the best storyboarder because I spend a lot more time on a drawing than I should.
Chris: Me too. And I don’t love drawing that much.
Sarah: I love painting.
Chris: Yeah, me too.
Sarah: Yeah, so for me it’s asking those essential questions. It’s what do I want to do and then even further than that, what is it I want to do with my work. So it’s just figuring out what really makes you tick. When you’re like well, I want to be this DEV artist, great, well there’s definitely…
Sarah: Well having this specialization isn’t a bad thing and that’s one thing I feel like school tries to push you away from.
Chris: Right yeah, drives me insane.
Sarah: But if you’re really really passionate and really really good at something, be good at it and really pursue it. I’m definitely better at painting and that’s where I ended up at my job because even now the initial job posting was for character design and I did well at that in my test, I actually took it an extra level and they didn’t ask me to do it, but I actually painted the character.
Sarah: Because I love painting…
Chris: And you’d already done so much of that on Book of Life even.
Sarah: Yeah, I was character painting for like six months, so I did that and they were like oh man, she can paint too, let’s have her do this or try this. And so, I was totally going to be happy doing character design but I also made the opportunity for myself by showing them look, I can also do this and it’s also what really, really drives me. I take the decisions in color picking really seriously to the point where on that test, the main character was that they gave me to match was primary colors. And they told me only to draw only variations of a female friend of this Sky character. And I did that, but then I wanted to paint it and because he was primary, I’m like I’m going to make this character secondary and I’m going to sneak it in and they’re not even going to realize why it’s so appealing because I made her have red hair, a green shirt, and purple pants or whatever. And I love making those decisions because that’s the stuff that really excites me is telling stories with color. So I was able to communicate that she was a friend simply because they were complimentary and that’s the stuff that really excites me.