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iAnimate Games Alumni Spotlight - Emily Harrenstein

iA: Why did you decide to enroll into iAnimate?
Back in 2010 I was out of work and struggling to break into the animation industry. I attended CTN-X thinking that I might somehow land a job. It turned out everyone who reviewed my reel thought I needed more training. I was pretty disheartened after hearing that, as I had already spent a year going to a school in Vancouver, BC, had worked a 3D job for almost 3 years, and I didn’t have the time or money to attend a brick and mortar school again. That’s when I stumbled across iAnimate’s booth, and met Jason Ryan in person. He told me about the school and the fact that I could take a break between workshops if I needed, and he seemed so genuine that I was sold. I first started out with the feature programs, then after a year’s break decided to pursue gaming animation. I completed the gaming program in August, 2014.

iA: How are the workshops?
I loved all of the workshops, including the three feature workshops I took several years ago. The best line that stuck with me that my first instructor, Chris Kirshbaum, taught me was “it’s not about what’s happening, it’s about how your character feels about what’s happening”. I think about that every time I animate, even if it’s just an action gameplay piece. I think the class sizes of the workshops are perfect - there are enough students to learn from each other but not so many that you don’t get enough one-on-one time with the instructors.

iA: Did you enjoy your time at iAnimate?
Absolutely. I was always looking forward to what a different teacher would bring to the table. There would be some new insights but also very important overlapping information. It was also fun to sometimes continue on to the next class with a students I’d been with before and see us all evolving.

iA: Did it help you to evolve as an animator?
I am miles above the animator I was several years ago, thanks to iAnimate and a lot of hard work and passion. I definitely would not have gotten my current job without going through the games program as it really helped me to understand weight and motion better than I did in the feature classes. However, I also feel that having acting pieces on my reel makes me a more well-rounded animator, and I’ll be working on an acting piece of a Republique cinematic that needs to be key framed.

iA: Who were your instructors? A word about them?
I had six different instructors throughout my time at iAnimate, but my games instructors were Darryl Purdy, Ric Arroyo, and Brett Pascal. They were all excellent, and each brought different perspectives to the table. They’ve all held pretty high titles at big gaming studios so it was a real pleasure learning from the cream of the crop and knowing what they were telling me is how things are presently in the game industry.

iA: How do you feel about online education?
I was skeptical at first thinking that maybe there would be a disconnect with instructors, students and peers with the online training. In some ways there were, like I couldn’t go out for a bite after class with my mates, and I was afraid of not being able to know if I was on the right track. But every instructor was very encouraging and made him or herself available throughout the week if we had any questions between classes. It was also fun being able to upload my videos onto the website and give/receive feedback from fellow students.

iA: Anything else you want to add?
The two pieces of advice that resounded among all of my instructors, were the importance of networking and relocation. In my case, both of these went hand in hand. Up until this point I had always made excuses to not relocate to a city that was thriving in the industry, from financial reasons to mental ones. It wasn’t until I almost had a job working for EA in Redwood City but they went with the other guy because he was local, that I decided I was never going to let THAT be the reason I didn’t get a job again. So, I hit up a friend I’d met through online gaming who was living in Seattle and asked him if I could pay to live in his second bedroom while I got my feet on the ground. Once I moved out here, I got a part-time bicycle delivery job to keep me stable, and in my free time I went out and found places to network. I went to weekly and monthly events, getting to know people and learning as much about the industry as I could. Now I have a web of connections, and finding my next job will be loads easier than the first one.

It took a LOT of guts for me to pursue my dream. I basically gave up my whole life in Nebraska, leaving behind family and friends that were important to me, but career wise it wasn’t the place for me to be and I was never going to be happy there. I had no idea whether or not I’d be successful by moving out here, and it took longer than I thought to land a job but I persisted and I won. In the mean time, I love my job and I’m getting to know some great people in the industry, and I’m really falling in love with Seattle itself. Don’t give up until you achieve what you want!

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