The following is an interview with Cogswell College alumnus, Pat Gillette (2006), who earned a BA in Digital Art & Animation and is currently an Animator for 343 Industries (a division of Microsoft)
Q. Company name, your job title, a brief description of your job responsibilities and how long you have worked there.
A. I started at 343 Industries in March, 2011 as a gameplay animator. I’m responsible for creating in-game character animations and vignette’s utilizing key frame and motion capture pipelines. In other words, make stuff look good any way I can.
Q. Can you give an example of what you might do on a ‘typical’ day?
A. During production on Halo 4, I’d start my day between 8 and 9, do the usual email checking and try to remember what I was working on the day before. Then I’d get to start animating any number of characters doing any number of things, although most of those things are violent. I was also the ‘character owner’ for a number of characters and so I’d usually spend some part of the day reviewing other people’s work and giving feedback. The goal was to improve the overall animation but also to maintain a consistent look and feel for the characters across multiple animators. Throw in a lunch/workout break, some bug fixing, problem solving, goofing off, writing tutorials, playtesting, occasional meetings and more animating and you have a ‘typical’ day that ends somewhere between 5 and midnight.
Q. Can you give an example of something that surprised you about your job when you first started?
You mean besides the fact that people pay me to do this job? I think it’s surprising how much you learn day to day on the job – and that’s also one of the most exciting parts!
Q. What projects have you worked on in the past?
A. The list starts pretty sad, but it gets better so hang in there. Drumroll Please!
Leapfrog’s ClickStart Educational Software
Leapfrog’s My First PC
Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo: Sea of Keys
Create and Learn
Disney Pixar’s Toy Story
Godzilla Unleashed Double Smash (Nintendo DS)
Spiderman Vs. the Masked Menace (TV Plug and Play)
Tomb Raider: Underworld (Nintendo DS)
Red Faction: Beast (Wii, Cancelled)
Tales of Monkey Island: Chapters 1,2,3. (Wii, PC)
Halo: Reach (XBox 360}
Penguins of Madagascar: Dr. Blowhole Returns Again (Wii, PS3, XBox 360 Kinect)
Halo 4 (XBox 360)
Q. What do you find most rewarding about your job?
A. Seeing people get excited about the work you’re doing is pretty great. We often get to display our work on a big screen in front of the whole company and when you get a studio-wide reaction to an animation you’ve worked on it’s a pretty wonderful feeling. Combine that with the millions of people who willingly pay money to play something you helped create is amazing.
Q. What advice would you give students preparing for a career like yours?
A. Work really, really hard. Ask lots of questions and REALLY listen to the answers. Teachers tend to know some stuff that might be good to pick up. Be nice to people. College is equal parts learning and networking, so take advantage of both while you are there.
Q. What qualities does someone need to have to be successful in this field?
A. You need to be intrinsically motivated to keep getting better. It’s not that hard to get too comfortable with your abilities or your job and soon you’ll find yourself at the same quality level you were when you left college, and guess what, other people are working harder than you to get better, and they’ll succeed if you don’t do something about it. Unfortunately, most jobs would like you to get better but they don’t really help you do it, so it’s up to you to do it on your own time.
It also helps to be a people person, or at least be nice. You want people to like you, so that when job opportunities come up, your old co-workers remember you fondly, would want to work with you again and recommend you for positions at their company. I can proudly say I have never started a job where I didn’t know someone there before me who gave me a strong recommendation. This ‘learning and networking’ thing is a recurring theme.
Q. How did Cogswell helped prepare you for this career?
A. Cogswell gave me the opportunity to develop the foundational skills and the connections to start my career in animation.