Drawn to ‘all things animation’ as a kid, Lindsey Uslan, Woodbury University Animation alumna (’19), paved a path to making her dream a reality. Currently serving as a production coordinator at Nickelodeon working on the series, Butterbean’s Café, Lindsey graciously took the time to share her career trajectory with other aspiring animators.
There were a couple of different things that led me to animation. Most notably, it was when I watched the first “How to Train Your Dragon” movie. The story in general just really blew me away. As a kid watching it, I felt like animation was really calling me, and all I could think after watching the film was how great it would be to help create something like that.
When I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t aware of the colleges that offered Animation programs. I happened to attend a college fair, where I spoke to a couple of representatives from Woodbury. They talked about how much they loved the campus and what the Animation program had to offer. After more research, I decided Woodbury was the right fit and the program would allow me to learn the basics to grow and really understand what Animation was all about. I also really liked that Woodbury required having an internship in order to graduate and that its location in Burbank, surrounded by studios, would really help secure one.
There are a lot of amazing things about animation, but what speaks the most to me is the storytelling aspect. Storyboard artists are such a great part of the development process. They are able to take the scripts and transform written words into creative, imaginary visual worlds.
My senior thesis was based on a short story I pitched to a friend my junior year. Originally it was just going to be part of my portfolio, but after getting great feedback, I thought it would be fun to turn it into a film. I created a world that used music rather than words to tell the story of two characters with contrasting personalities. They engage in a fight, but in the end, realize one needs the other to exist.
I had an internship during my last semester of my senior year. It was at a small studio called Splash Entertainment, where I worked on a 3D movie. I had a lot of responsibilities because it was a smaller studio and really got the chance to try different things, such as reading the script and creating asset breakdowns, attending storyboard and post reviews, creating texture templates, and learning new software programs, such as Blender Animation. I even have the opportunity to create a couple of storyboard revisions for a sequence, which was really fun and exciting.
The purpose of the Animation Club was to connect students with studio professionals and create fun events on campus that supported professional growth. Some responsibilities included leading animation meetings, attending student government meetings, creating events, and emailing and connecting students to industry professionals.
I landed this role after working my way through a few positions at Nickelodeon. Right after graduation, I started as an intern in special events, which led to a position on the recruitment team. Shortly after, I was hired on my first production, and only after spending six months with this team, I was promoted to my current role as production coordinator. It has been a crazy journey in such a short amount of time, but each job has taught me so much and allowed me to meet a bunch of incredible people at the studio.
As for my responsibilities as a production coordinator, there are a lot of different roles that come into play. When you are on the production side of a show you really get to be involved in all aspects because you are in charge of helping the show get through the Animation pipeline.
Right now, the show is in the animation and post stages so my job requires a lot of organization. On any given day I might manage due dates and track shipments that come in from our overseas studio; send those shipments to our leads (the people in charge of animation and compositing -which is post-production), enter notes from our leads into various programs, such as Shotgun or Portal, and update tracks sheets to ensure we are on schedule for each step of production. I am also in charge of a production assistant who helps me with all of the steps along the way.
I am not sure if I had a mentor per se, but I did have a lot of great professors who helped me in different ways. For example, I took a painting class in my sophomore year that really helped me grow in terms of understanding not only Photoshop as a program but light and how it affects everything we are looking at.
There are a couple of storyboard artists I really look up to for their style as well as their creative use of camera shots such as Madeline Sharafian, Dana Terrace, Dean Kelly, and Kevin Ortiz.
As I mentioned earlier, I really love ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’ It’s what launched this incredible journey, and I think the story, characters, and music are really well done. It’s such a good coming of age movie with a well-balanced mix of action and humor.
My long term goal is to become a storyboard artist. I really love the aspect of telling a story through drawings, as well as being involved in the initial creative process of developing the episode/arc. As a short-term goal, I would love to work on another show before making the transition to the artist side, since the one I’m on now is my first production. Every show is run differently, and you can learn so much from each production. You really get the opportunity to learn all the different aspects of animation because you are involved in everything. So, it’s very beneficial.
Work hard, never give up, and if an opportunity comes around and it isn’t exactly what you want, don’t just say no, because you will never know where it might lead. I started as an intern for special events at Nickelodeon and now I am a production coordinator. Every opportunity is a new door that leads to another, so take what you can get and work hard for what you want.