Day & Night director Teddy Newton at Siggraph 2010.
In the summer of 2010, I attended the annual Siggraph Conference that was being held in Los Angeles. My goal was to attend the conference, visit CalArts, and see Hollywood in the span of a week. This would be my first trip out to California, step one of my five year plan of positioning myself for a career in animation.
Just as a recap, in the summer of 2004, I had a conversation with my wife about reentry into the world of animation and going back to school to get my degree for it. This decision came shortly after viewing the Disney/Pixar film the Incredibles. It was something very magical about what I was witnessing as director Brad Bird weaved a narrative of dealing with choices. In the film the question of, does one have to sacrifice ones own aspersions in order to fulfill ones responsibilities to their family. A narrative I had been dealing with since meeting my wife and starting my own family.
Fast forward back to that summer of 2010, I had decided to attend the SIGGRAPH conference as a way to meet people in the industry. I had read in the book The Pixar Touch, that John Lasseter was hired on the spot after reconnecting with Ed Catmul while attend the conference on the Queen Mary back in 1983. I figured I could at least make some connections, while attending the panels being given.
It was a Wednesday and I had planned on skipping out of the after the morning panels, to head up to CalArts. Unfortunately, I had poorly planned the excursion and was forced to scrap the trip and settled for the afternoon panels. What I didn't know was that with that change of plan, my world would be changed by an unexpected meeting.
I was attending the Stereoscopic panel on the Making of Day and Night. Afterwards, I approached supervising TD Michael Fu to thank him for the lecture and to have him sign my Art of Pixar Shorts book. After a brief dialogue on the films impact on me, he asked if I would like to meet the director. After waiting for a couple minutes it was my turn to shake hands with Teddy Newton. He was very friendly in introducing himself, and asking of my opinion on the film. He asked what I was doing at the conference and I explained that I was there to see what the conference was about, since I had read about it in The Pixar Touch. I informed him that I was a student and spoke with him about my aspirations of working for Disney as an animator and showed him a number of my drawings on my iPad.
The conversation led to me explaining that I had planned on checking out CalArts legendary character animation program. at that moment he paused and informed me that "there's a small school in the Northern California neighborhood of Rockridge. A school which for the past two years had been training animators in the same manner that CalArts was. This school is the California College of the Arts, and with what I see here you might have a great chance of being accepted." We shook hands and he handed me his business card and said "you've made a contact".
I immediately picked up my iPhone and scheduled a meeting/campus tour for that following Friday. If it had not been for that chance meeting I doubt that I would be entering into the opportunity that lies before me.