February 15, 2012

Where am I?

By Andrew at 9:10 AM

So much has happened since I last posted!  For those of you who are not aware, I will start at graduation.  Last May I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Huntington University in Indiana with two majors: Digital Media Arts-Animation and Computer Science.  My senior animation team released a short film called “What Remains,” which I produced and wrangled renders for (important later on!) and which can be seen at  I worked with a great team on this project, and really enjoyed the experience!  I also worked on another fun team developing a ticket-sales system for fine arts events.Anyhow, I graduated, moved back home to Ohio with my family, and began the job-search process.  Through several leads, I interviewed at a studio in Indiana, but the programming position did not seem to fit me at the moment so I declined the offer.  Less than an hour after declining, I had an offer for short-term freelance work from Jellyfish Labs, the studio that I had an internship at the previous summer!  I was very excited about this opportunity, especially since I would be around many of the same talented people I had worked with the previous summer.  But before moving temporarily up to Chicago, I spent a week in Tennessee with my family in early June, vacationing and skiing (also important for later!).

In Chicago, I assisted with the creation of motion graphics and render management for a DVD Christmas special, “Buck Denver Asks: Why Do We Call it Christmas?,” and spent time with several friends from school and others that I had met within the past year.  Summer also included a quick trip from Chicago to Pennsylvania via Huntington, Indiana for a wedding, making it a road trip with several friends and seeing even more in Pennsylvania.  When I got back to Chicago, however, we realized that we had worked too fast on the DVD and ended up finishing several weeks early, so I headed back to Ohio on August 1st.

Remember when I mentioned that I skied for a week with my family in Tennessee last June?  Well, when I returned early to Ohio, my family was training for the Barefoot Waterski National Competition.  So I started training as well since I did not have a job yet, and planned to travel with them to Waco, Texas to the Barefoot Ski Ranch to compete in the National Tournament.  Long story short, I ended up placing first in my age division in all three events, winning the national title for my age division for my fourth time!  Needless to say, I was very excited and thankful for that opportunity!

Meanwhile, I was working on my resume and demo reel, submitting applications and watching various job sites.  While I was in Waco, I received an e-mail from a professor at Huntington, letting me know that she had mentioned my name to a really neat studio in Canton, Ohio called In the Round.  After a phone interview and further talks, their owner invited me to travel up there one day to meet the employees and learn more about the company.  Unfortunately, this too did not seem to be the position that I needed to be in right now, so, once again, I had to turn down an offer.  However, I am still very interested in the work that this studio does (mainly websites and interactive touch panels), and I am definitely keeping my eye on where they end up in the future.

What happened next is now kind of a fog to me.  After returning home from Waco, I had helped move my sister back to school for her senior year at Huntington, and while there, I happened to see a former professor of mine.  Through talking, he realized that he knew someone at one of the studios that I had applied to for a render management position, and he offered to forward my resume and a recommendation out there again so that it could perhaps gain me more visibility.  Beyond that, however, I did not think much of it.  In the meantime, the “In the Round” interview came up and I was working on some other projects at home.  One day though, if I remember correctly, about two hours after I got off the phone from talking with the owner of “In the Round,” I received an e-mail from the studio my former professor had sent the recommendation to.  And the name of the studio?  DreamWorks Animation in Redwood City, California!  I scheduled an interview for the following week, which went fairly well, but at that point I was still talking with the Canton studio, trying to decide about that position.

After a follow-up video interview with DreamWorks, I did not hear much for quite some time, aside from when I would occasionally check in to see if there were any news.  It still was a long shot for a mid-west animation/computer science major, but I did have a great connection along with actual experience in the specific position.  That was when I first realized that God was trying to tell me to be patient and wait, a theme which has been repeated over and over in the past year.  I was blessed with some odd-jobs in the meantime, most notably painting for a couple of weeks for a husband and wife who are family friends and former neighbors.  However, as time went on, I became more and more unsure of the DreamWorks lead, and just kept looking for jobs.

Finally, I a call from DreamWorks offering me the job!  I would be starting on the night shift as a render wrangler (a position I will write a post about soon to explain what that is exactly), and they wanted me to start in about two-and-a-half weeks’ time.  So after a quick trip to Huntington for Homecoming Weekend, and to visit many friends while there, I packed up my truck and started the four-day drive to California.  I had already started planning for relocating a month or so before, but it was still hectic preparing for such a long drive.  I ended up taking a northern route through Iowa and Wyoming, camping one night in Nebraska and finding hotels the other two nights.  Once I arrived in the Redwood City area, I stayed in a hotel for about a month while I was looking for an apartment.

I will write more later about my position, but for now, I will just say that I really enjoy the job, and it fits me very well.  I have been blessed to move up in wrangler seniority very quickly, due mainly to others moving elsewhere in the company and new people being hired.  I started out on the swing shift, but ended up moving to the night shift, temporarily, I hope, because of us being short staffed.  We are hard at work on the next film, “Madagascar 3,” which is looking visually amazing, by the way, and other projects that will be out anywhere within the next five or so years.

So I found a nice apartment a couple of miles from work, and I hope to eventually get a bike so that I can ride back and forth to work if the shift works out for that, especially in the summer.  I am still waiting on a couple of details of the whole new experience to be worked out, but I have met some talented people and I am enjoying getting to know more about the area.  I have found a church to attend nearby called Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, and I hope to volunteer with their tech team soon.  And, to top it all off, I am collaborating on an exciting new iPad app, and I know I will talk about that on here eventually.

Alright, that’s enough for now!  In school, writing 1,500 words was never this easy!  Thank-you for your interest in my life and for reading this far.  I have always struggled with “broadcasting” the happenings in my life, definitely preferring one-on-one interaction, but I just recently realized how much certain people can enjoy this type of update.  I am going to try to keep up with this blog as a way to stay in contact with those back east, but do not feel that you need to be restricted to hearing about my life from my blog.  Please call, Skype, e-mail, Facebook message, visit, and so on outside of this blog.  I highly value interactions with friends and family that go both ways even though I have geographically moved away, and especially now since I know relatively few people out here (and cannot currently function at “normal” waking hours).  It is the relationships that make my day, such as a close friend from college visiting Silicon Valley, just down the road from me, and spending an afternoon with him.  Or the calls from friends randomly asking about why their computer is not working.  Regardless, I am very excited about this new stage in my life, and I look forward to sharing it with everyone who has contributed to me being who I am today.

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