Here is our interview with Melissa, one of our Animation students who, after completing the 3 month academy at MPC, now works there!
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Melissa Coarezza, a nerdy and enthusiast creative from Italy. After getting my Master’s degree in Cinema and Media Engineering at the Polytechnic of Turin, I moved to London at the beginning of 2018 to specialize in 3D animation at Escape Studios, and soon after graduation I landed my first job at MPC, where I am working now.
How did you get into animation? What made you choose this career?
I’ve always been obsessed by Final Fantasy’s cinematics, video games in general and films. During middle school with my best friend we used to watch tons of movies and we used to create plays of those movies with costumes and swords, to give our beloved fallen heroes another destiny. Basically we’ve written a screenplay for a potential sequel of 2004’s King Arthur because of our crushes on Lancelot and Tristan, and we used to act every weekend until we got separated at high school. But that was the main reason I decided to study cinema, which brings me to my degree in engineering. At the beginning of my Master’s I followed a couple of Computer Graphics & Virtual Reality classes and then a Computer Animation class and that’s the moment I realized. I thought: ok, I have studied cinema foundation and techniques and I am madly in love with videogames CGI cutscenes such as the ones in Uncharted saga and Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts, it seems much clearer what I want to do! And from there on I started an intensive path studying animation and motion capture and in less than two years, I started working for a major VFX company like MPC! It was like an enlightment, it felt so obvious and yet it took me so long to find my way and purpose. But everything now has come together and I couldn't be happier.
What does an animator do?
The role of the animator is to bring characters to life, to give them believability and express their emotions. In VFX we also have to make sure that the characters are realistic enough in order to let the public believe they can be part of the reality we’re showing. It’s a very long and detailed process but it’s so much rewarding especially when it seems so real that people can’t actually distinguish from the real ones, it’s not so different from doing magic and you can tell you made the trick when you can read the surprise in their eyes. Personally I’m intrigued by the interaction between traditional keyframed animation and motion capture, and I’m trying to learn more of it as it’s also a bridge between animation and live action and I believe is going to be more and more important in the industry.
What skills does an animator need? And do you need to be a good artist?
A good eye for detail, and a lot of patience! You’re going to spend hours looking for the right reference to give your character that exact movement in that tiny little frame range. It’s a matter of research and processing. Everybody can learn how to use a software, but it’s essential to be able to master the technique because animation is in another words ‘problem solving’. When you find yourself dealing with a rig with dozens of controllers, it’s crucial to keep calm and establish a workflow that fits you and that can bring you to tangible results. In the meantime you will be fighting with the software crashing and trying to make you lose your work, so you can see how easy it can become frustrating at the time. But at the end of the road, you crafted something special and unique which will make you smile, and that’s your reward. The rest of the 15-20% is made of creativity which will give your signature to the project. Being a good artist is obviously helpful, but not a mandatory requirement... I am so bad at drawing and yet I have got this far! I am more of a technical artist as proven from my background but I have always been in contact with arts, especially photography, so I developed my own way to process art and animation. There are different ways in the digital era that let you draw a storyboard or shapes in motion so don’t be afraid if you can’t hold a pencil the proper. But challenge yourself everyday to improve your skills, that’s extremely important (yes, I started attending life drawing classes and this is helping a lot). Be greedy when it comes to knowledge and experience!
What's the thing that surprised you the most when you first started in the industry?
The environment. I couldn’t wait to see how things worked behind the screen and I’m still living the excitement and enthusiasm it’s like the first day of school or the day you go on your first trip overseas. It’s cool, and I also find that the supervisors and the leads are quite nice and willing to help guide you along the way. The industry wants you to grow and it does the best to provide you with the necessary tools to learn the job and progress in your career. There hasn’t been a day I’m not learning something new and I can’t wait to wake up the next day to discover more and more of it.
What advice would you give someone looking to start a career in animation?
I may sound repetitive but keep studying hard, you won’t stop studying. Never. And that’s the secret to be successful. It’s good to have dreams and please do follow them no matter what but don’t take anything for granted, you have to earn it. Be respectful with your colleagues and team mates, they are the first source from where you can learn and improve. Be humble in accepting criticism, it’s nothing personal if not for your own good. Discover what you like the most and what you’re passionate about, but be prepared to be surprised because you might change your mind, there’s nothing wrong with it. I know great animators that before this used to work as surgeons or civil engineers, so the sentence it’s too late is not allowed, it’s just an excuse.