Meet our awesome Lighting Supervisor Barbara Meyers! She’s got over 20 years of industry experience under her belt and she’s currently in LA, flying the Brown Bag flag at the upcoming SIGGRAPH conference! We managed to catch her for a few minutes to chat about her role, her extensive experience and why she loves animation.
How did you get into animation?
I attended Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena. I studied Illustration and Photography.
Even before graduating, I was working in a traditional Rick-Baker like, live-action VFX Studio in Burbank (old school VFX, pre-computers). The studio was called “Chiodo Brother’s Production”. In that studio we designed and built stop-motion puppets, hand-held puppets, created set miniatures, we did facial and full body prosthetics for sci-fi and horror features and live-action TV series.
We were puppeteers and stop-motion animators. I worked there for about 4 and a half years. Greatest experience ever for what was to come later on.
What was it that first drew you to animation?
Then, Terminator 2 was released and I LOVED the liquid metal. I knew from that moment computer graphics was the future for the film industry.
Unfortunately, the Chiodo Bros felt that CG was just a fad. So, I quit and got a job in the video game industry, which was, at the time, the best and really only way to get CG experience.
Eventually, Electronic Arts hired me and brought me up to the Bay Area. Within 2 years, I was working at PDI/DreamWorks on “ANTZ”.
I remained with PDI/DW for a total of 9 and a half years, with a break inbetween “Shrek” and “Shrek 2” to work on the first “Lord of the Rings” feature in New Zealand.
How long have you worked in the animation industry?
Um… about 24-25 years now.
What’s your current role in Brown Bag Films and what does it involve?
I'm the head of the Lighting department. I was asked to help build a workflow and pipeline that would support several projects running concurrently and to continue elevating the look of projects that would help Brown Bag Films attract even more amazing artists and blow its competition away.
What are your biggest influences/inspirations?
My influences actually comes from traditional live-action film (directors of photography and film directors across several genres, spanning 110+ years, so it's a pretty long list).
And of course, Walt Disney.
What’s your favourite tool to use and why?
Photoshop and traditional pen and paper… This is where everything should be planned out BEFORE the CG begins.
What advice would you give someone considering getting into animation?
Study filmmaking, and pay attention to the basics. Don't skip the steps.
And, if they can draw… draw as much as possible. Study painting and photography or make it a serious hobby.
Live and breathe 'Art & Motion'. As this would give them an edge over their competition. It would help their work stand out.
What do you love about working in animation?
Being part of a creative team, taking something from an idea through to completion, seeing it come to life.
What have been some of your highlights?
Wow, I have to say I've been pretty lucky in my career. Mostly, I feel, the best experiences or best growth came after I left PDI (ANTZ, Shrek and Shrek2, Madagascar, Over The Hedge). Having the chance to work my way around the world. It's been fabulous.
I've worked on some pretty nice features with: Ilion, Starz, MPC-London, Sony, nWave, Animal Logic and Weta (twice).
I've lived in 9 countries and held master classes in 3 more. I love working with people from all over the planet.
I think I have an even larger and stronger network than some senior recruiters might, as I really got to know people, not just what their CV says they can do.
What’s the most challenging thing about working in animation?
1). I've noticed the majority of the international studios I've worked in, are comprised of people who haven't had experience outside (at other studios) and/or they haven't studied traditional film-making processes. This isn't a reproach - at all. I admire them. Unfortunately, I see crucial steps being skipped, mostly because schedules are so tight and budgets are small.
I feel it's super important to get out and learn the processes of other studios. Or, if you can't get out into the world, bring the world experience inhouse, because that knowledge can help everything flow more smoothly, even within a small budget and short schedule.
2). The animation industry is migratory, so people wanting to plant roots find it's nearly impossible.
It's rare to find studios these days who will offer long-term or staff positions. But, again, I feel a little bit of moving around is good, see #1 above :-)
Outside of animation what are you most passionate about?
Traveling is #1, museums, photography, kayaking, hiking.
You're attending SIGGRAPH this month, what are you most excited about?
1). Seeing new technology.
2). Reconnecting/catching-up with industry friends and former colleagues.
3). Meeting NEW people.