SVA in San Francisco: Spring Break with Yoda, Pixar, Google and More
March 21, 2017
by Emma Drew
Spring Break meant more than a chance to sleep in and enjoy a few days off from classes for the group of 15 students and staff members that traveled to San Francisco this month to visit leading animation, film, visual effects and tech studios. A course offered by SVA Destinations, the trip was led by director of Career Development Angie Wojak and MFA Computer Art director of operations and faculty member Hsiang Chin Moe and comprised a full schedule of tours and talks with industry artists and professionals, including several SVA alumni.
"This class offers students a unique opportunity to engage with both recruiters and successful alumni and ask them about their career paths and advice," said Wojak. "I think a great value of this experience is the chance for students to have face time with the people who scout talent for these highly sought-after companies."
One such highlight was a stop across the Bay to Pixar’s Emeryville campus. Recruiters took students on an extensive behind-the-scenes tour, which included exploring the maze-like animator studio workspace, where each designer is given free rein to build their own creative work environment. Maria Lee (BFA 1988 Media Arts) spoke about her career and work as a character shader on films like Finding Dory; set modeler Christina Faraj (BFA 2016 Computer Art) and lighting technical directors JD Gardner (BFA 2015 Computer Art) and Ye Won Cho (MFA 2002 Computer Art) also joined the tour. The recruiting team hosted a lunch and information session for students to learn more about the Pixar internship program and job opportunities. “It was a special experience to have the alumni pop in to greet students and join our lunch meeting,” said Wojak. “It's very encouraging for SVA students to hear from recent graduates how they found their positions and to hear about a day in the life of an animator.”
Other stops on the six-day trip included a visit to Google's downtown San Francisco offices, where students received a hands-on Tilt Brush Virtual Reality demo, met the app's founders, and learned about the company's Artists in Residence Program. Recruiters from Industrial Light and Magic shared the studio's storied history with students and showed their latest VFX reels and premiers of upcoming TV and film trailers. ILM associate pipeline technical director Tom Szenher (BFA 2013 Computer Art) discussed his career path and gave advice to students on how to get a head start on their own.
At Steel Wool Studios, the group was shown around by co-founder Andrew Dayton (BFA 1998 Computer Art) and character rigger and modeler Rodney Brett (BFA 1994 Fine Arts); the gaming studio recently released its first VR physics puzzle. Students toured Tippett Studio, founded by the specialist known for creating characters and effects in the original Star Wars films. Brad Fox (BFA 1985 Illustration), lead technical director, spoke to students about his career and showed them original models used in Jurassic Park, Hellboy, Starship Troopers and the Twilight films.
Jane Nuzzo, director of Alumni Affairs and Development, also took part in the west coast excursion, hosting an alumni reception/bowling night as well as two intimate dinners, giving former and current students the chance to more closely connect. "Having the chance to meet an alumnus one-on-one, an artist or designer who once stood in their shoes and really understands what it's like, can help students begin to see their future as they prepare to navigate a career in the arts," she said. "SVA is a powerful network and we want students to understand that when they graduate, they are not alone."
As this was Spring Break, San Francisco sightseeing made it into the itinerary, too: the famous fog parted long enough for the group to enjoy an afternoon at the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Walt Disney Family Museum in the city’s Presidio.
For more information about SVA Destinations, click here.