Firstly, I'd like to talk about my experiences at CTNx this year. For my birthday, I flew over to Los Angeles, and head over to Burbank, where the annual conference and expo is held. I don't regret it one bit--quite the contrary. The experience assured me that there is no school or community more wonderful than AnimationMentor, and there is no industry cooler, exciting, and awesome than animation!!
I had planned to go early on with Rusty Gray, a classmate in Class 1 (mentor Tim Crawfurd). We've got different mentors, but have been "hanging out" (on skype, ventrilo, and other internet mediums). Its crazy how quickly you befriend people from AM. We all have the same passions, and that's probably a big factor.
So, originally, we had decided it was best to concentrate on our studies and go to events next year...but after seeing the attendance list and the speakers, we couldn't resist!! I've always dreamed of seeing L.A., and this was a great opportunity. Long story short, we ended up being 5 class 1 students in the same hotel room, and we all left as close friends.
Meeting each other was funny. Its like there was no transition, we just already knew each other, but had never seen each other in physical space. In essence, there was no awkwardness, and it was like "sup!".
It was such a great idea for the five of us to share a hotel room. We had this feeling of companionship given the fact that we were only 8 weeks into the program--simple class 1 babies! That brought us so much closer, and it made Bobby really happy to see another example of what he dreamed his school would achieve: bringing animators closer and building incredible friendships and networking. (He was also super happy to see so many class 1's go out of their way to come see the AM community).
So here we were: Rusty Gray, Ellen Michelson, Belen Gil-Palacios, Jamie Ryan, and myself, at the Burbank Airport Marriot Hotel, ready for an amazing weekend.
We really didn't know what to expect, and we thought that as Class 1 students, we would possibly feel left out. Boy were we wrong---oh so wrong! If anything this helped us! Where a lot of people had attended as individuals, we were "The group". Everyone was truly amazing. We got to hang out with Victor Navone, meet Carlos Baena, talk with Bobby Beck, and the whole crew! We had amazing talks with Cheryl Hoke, the student administrator, and an incredibly inspiring person. The people at animation mentor care so much about student life and education.
There is such an amazing sense of belonging when you're part of the AM clique. I would pass by "random" people wearing the Spike logo on their t-shirts, and when we would spot each other's shirts, we'd have this understanding, nod, and smile. Their was no awkwardness with anyone. Everyone seems to have this love for what the school represents: following our dreams, and achieving them. We met so many alumni and co-students!
The parties and AM events were great! It was a chance for people to meet and greet with students and alumni. It's funny how many times you'd run into someone, see their demo reels (normally on an iPad, go figure!) and be like "oh, YOU did this! I loved this shot!" . At the party at Lucy's 51, Bobby talked with us for what seemed to be ages, and he was just such a cool person. This guy cares so much about animation and teaching it!
During the hotel party, we met so many great people. Among them were Jude Brownbill, who was, and still is a "Spotlight Alumni". She was a total sweetheart, and incredibly humble. We also got to meet Danny Gonzales and Cat Hicks, who work at Pixar with Jude, and they were sooo cool! I spoke to Nelson Brown for a bit, and we talked about what it was like to start work at Dreamworks, and animate on Megamind. What awesome people. Here we were, surrounded by happy people living their dreams.
We all went to eat at the grill attached to the hotel and spoke about all things animation! What an experience.
I'm also forgetting Dana, who is a class 1 student, and also an intern at AnimationMentor, working as part of the video team. She's a funny and energetic person, and it was great to meet her too.
from left-right: Michelle, Belen, Jude, Myself, Rusty, Jamie
The group with Carlos Baena
An absolute legend, Disney master-animator Andreas Deja, giving some insight to Rusty and Belen
The gang, with Cheryl Hoke
us with Andreas Deja
Bobby Beck, AnimationMentor founder and former Pixar animator
Myself, Cat Hicks, Belen, and Danny Gonzales
AM students, always working...
Eric Goldberg. THE Eric Goldberg, doing an animation demo. He's the guy behind the Genie in Aladdin.