Brown Bag Films Toronto is flooded with interns for the summer and we LOVE IT! Working in various positions in the studio, we caught up with a few of them to learn more about who they are and how their internships have been going so far.
Meet Zack Zand (Scene Planning Intern), Cameron Johnson (Animation Intern), Liza Desyatkova (Rigging Intern), Alyn Woolsey-Tracey (Animation Intern), and Catherine Hannaford (Scene Planning Intern). Here’s what they had to say:
Tell us about your background (education, job experience, etc.).
Zack: I’m heading into my senior year as a Film and Animation major concentrating on 2D animation at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the States.
Cameron: I am an animation student currently entering my 4th year at Sheridan College. Born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, I came to Canada in 2016 for the first time for my program. Prior to this, I earned an Associates of Arts at the University of the Bahamas. Interning here at Brown Bag Films is my first studio experience in the industry; most of my previous work experience has been at the Atlantis Resort and Casino.
Liza: I’ve been studying animation at Sheridan College for two years now.
Alyn: I am currently studying at Sheridan College and will be entering my final year next term.
Catherine: Currently I am a Sheridan Animation student going into my fourth year. Before Sheridan, I attended York University for Film Production for a couple of years. Brown Bag is my first time having a job in the animation industry.
Why did you apply for an internship with us?
Zack: I love working in Toon Boom and love the technical process behind TV animation and the efficiency behind it. Brown Bag was always the studio I wanted to work for because of how it’s able to create diverse projects efficiently, all without sacrificing quality, and their projects look fantastic!
Cameron: I was taught 2D rigged animation by Jason Lin, Technical Director at Brown Bag Films Toronto, during my 2nd year at Sheridan College, and it was one of the most informative learning experiences I had in the program. Additionally, we were given a tour of the studio and I recognized the range of cool shows in production. I knew it would be a great learning environment and would provide me with a taste of what the industry is like.
Liza: BBF has been on my map since I’ve met some of the incredibly talented people that work here, like Jason Lin (Technical Director) and Inna Testolini (Rigging Supervisor). The guidance that they’ve given me made me pursue a deeper learning experience through an internship at Brown Bag.
Alyn: Being the oldest from a large family, we watch a lot of kids cartoons at home. My two youngest brothers really enjoyed cartoons made here at Brown Bag, specifically Wild Kratts and Octonauts, which now hold a special place in my heart and remind me of them. When I saw the listing for Brown Bag, I sprung on it immediately. I’m passionate about children’s programming because I know how impactful it was on me as a kid. The opportunity to work at a studio that produces quality kids cartoons was something I didn’t want to miss out on!
Catherine: It’s cool to work somewhere that’s working on the same shows I used to watch as a kid, and I definitely wanted to work at a larger studio to get a better sense of how the industry runs.
What sparked your interest in animation as a career?
Zack: I knew I wanted to get into filmmaking, but at the same time I also fell in love with drawing. For the longest time it felt like I was juggling between these two passions until I realized animation was really both of them slammed together. It was a perfect match!
Cameron: I've always had an interest in drawing stories and exploring worlds; initially I wanted to do comics. But going into my last year of high school, I came to realize that single images weren't enough to communicate the ideas I had in mind. I saw stories in motion, and going into the animation program, I realized how much I enjoyed learning more about the process.
Liza: I became interested in animation because of the wide range of disciplines that are a part of it. I wanted to learn about storytelling, concept art, layout, and everything involved in the process. I knew that I’d never stop learning if I pursued animation!
Alyn: I have been drawing forever. I couldn’t tell you how many sketchbooks I have sitting in storage back home; it was always an outlet for me. It all started when we got our first home computer. I would animate using Paint and Windows Movie Maker, and doing it all with my mouse. When I turned 11, I got my first taste of Toon Boom with their kids animation program and my very own tablet; that's when the game changed. In grade 7, my teacher told me about Sheridan’s Animation program and I spent my whole high school career working towards it. I was fortunate to have a professor who taught animation in my senior years, specifically Toon Boom/Basic rigging… and the rest is history!
Catherine: I’ve always been interested in telling stories and bringing characters to life very early on. I originally went to film school for that same reason under the pretense that my art skills weren’t up to snuff for animation. When I realized that was bogus and saw how fast I could improve if I really set my mind to it and practice, I switched into animation on a dime. It’s a lot more fulfilling this way.
Describe your first day experiences and feelings.
Zack: I was definitely nervous, really shy for sure. I’m usually a chatty person, so it felt super strange that I was being really silent. It’s like I had all this energy inside and couldn’t really let it out. But I think I already felt more confident the second day and went right to work!
Cameron: I was more excited than nervous surprisingly enough. While I still had to get past the awkward feeling of being somewhere unfamiliar, it felt very similar to the work areas in the college which I enjoy. I've found everyone I introduced myself to very friendly, and was excited to be introduced to the Wild Kratts team.
Liza: It was incredibly exciting to meet other interns, see my workstation, and learn about the tasks that I’d be given. There was so much information at first, so I was pretty overwhelmed on the first day, a feeling that quickly subsided once I got comfortable with the environment.
Alyn: Nervous! I am definitely a person who worries about things like this, but I have never felt so comfortable so quickly, and I settled in fast. Everyone is super friendly and I feel very lucky to be around such awesome people.
Catherine: I was very relaxed, especially since I had a few fellow classmates starting out here on the same day too. I was more worried about my morning commute. After the group presentation, they finally divided us all to our stations, and I was honestly shocked to get my own desk. It’s kind of silly, but I think part of it was that I’ve never had a desk job before.
How are things going so far? What are a few things that you’ve learned?
Zack: Things couldn’t have been better! I’m learning a lot of tricks in Toon Boom that I wouldn’t have used otherwise and I really think it’ll help me work fast as I’m working on my thesis film. I’m also learning when it’s okay to group assets a certain way and when it isn’t, and how to adjust transform parameters at the speed of light!
Cameron: It's been quite challenging, but fun working on Wild Kratts. I have more experience with hand drawn animation compared to the 2D puppets, so much of my time has been adjusting to the software. However, I'm much more comfortable than I was, now. So far, I’m learning to avoid the urge to overanimate, simplify, and focus on what I can accomplish day to day.
Liza: My understanding of how rigging is done for production has deepened. Skills like being aware of small details, how to work with a team, and organization have all improved for me since I started. I nearly can’t describe my learning experience in words because I have a completely new perspective on how I do my work.
Alyn: Things are going great! I think that it’s a good thing I’m finding it hard to answer the second half of this question. I could go on and on about how much I have learned in just over a month of being here. I’m applying lots of skills learned in school, but I’d go so far as to say I’m learning even more skills simply by doing. Above all, I’m learning what it takes to be a good member to an animation team and how a professional pipeline really works.
Catherine: Things are going great so far. It’s also surprisingly a lot like school, except they pay me to do the work. My supervisor and fellow coworkers are all an absolute pleasure to work with, and I have a lot of fun getting the work done. Scene planning, at least on Xavier, has me thinking about composition a lot more and I think it’s helped me develop a better eye for it. It’s also the first time all the different parts from the pipeline really come together, so it’s a good way to learn quickly in terms of what is or isn’t working.
Describe your typical day to day activities.
Zack: After a few housekeeping things, I get right to work. I start setting up scene after scene after scene. Typically, it involves importing the animatic then throwing in the characters, props background assets that an animator will need for a scene. Then I position the camera and scale the characters/props so that the scene overall looks nearly identical to the animatic. And as straightforward as that might sound, it really does require a lot of critical thinking. For instance, I’ll usually discover at least a couple technical issues daily and have to fix them ASAP, or I might notice something is really wrong with a character rig and I’ll end up flagging it. Sometimes if I’m reusing a prop like a canoe and paddle, for example, I’ll modify the node hierarchy so that it’s easier to animate and manage. Ultimately, my goal is to make sure the animators can animate a scene without any troubles. In fact, sometimes I’ll occasionally get asked by an animator on how to fix certain problems.
Cameron: The day to day activities so far have been reaching my desk and first checking what scenes I've been assigned to animate on or revise. Afterwards, I begin working and focus on animating for the rest of the day. The biggest part of the process has been adjusting to 2D rigged animating in Toon Boom, while still producing quality animation.
Liza: All day, I’m essentially living inside of the node view. Working on plenty of background characters, doing edits, and analyzing existing rigs to follow their practices.
Alyn: Coffee first, always, and multiple times a day. Beyond that, I spend my days posing, animating, and revising my work as directed. I like listening to music as I work, and I look forward to seeing my cat and working on personal projects at the end of each day.
Catherine: I come in. I sit down at my desk. I make a tea. I work on the scenes that have been assigned to me. I make a tea and have lunch. I work on some more scenes. Sometimes there’s a third tea. And then suddenly it’s home time and my day is gone. That’s the bare bones of it.
What would be your dream job/role in animation and why?
Zack: I dream of being a technical director on a 2D TV show. Words can’t describe how much I love the technical process behind how TV animation is created, especially in Toon Boom. I’ve always enjoyed helping people do their work efficiently, even going as far as to solve technical hurdles that might make the team struggle. For me, it's almost a perfect fit!
Cameron: A major ambition of mine is bringing animation back home to the Bahamas in some form, whether it be making culturally significant films or building a team based there. I'm a big fan of folklore, so a dream job would be to direct or animate on something that revolves around it.
Liza: I’d love to be a Technical Director for 2D productions. I currently enjoy making small scripts to make my workflow easier, and I'd like to expand to making tools for many artists. I’m all about giving more freedom and creative options for artists!
Alyn: I think I’d like to be an animation lead/director someday. I enjoy working in active roles in a team and delegating tasks and assisting others, along with animating itself. In my third year at Sheridan, I was an Animation lead in our group film and had a smaller scale taste at what it would be like. I enjoyed coming up with spreadsheets that were both efficient and detailed so everyone knew what needed to be done along with the status on shots. Another smaller dream opportunity for me would be to work in stop motion as an animator at least once in my life. It’s one of my favorite animation mediums and I’ve fabricated/animated a puppet before.
Catherine: My goal is to be a storyboard artist. Being able to direct the story visually and have a key role in how the story gets told, is what appeals to me the most. When I feel well established enough, I would eventually want to try my hand at directing and show running.