Week Fifteen: Alumni Panel

Maria Sequeira, MFA 2012

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Maria is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has been honored by numerous film festivals & the Student Academy Awards.  She is a Motion Graphics artist specializing in mixed-media techniques including stop-motion and live-action integration. She has freelanced at 72 & Sunny, Transmission Inc, Coyote Post, and has directed some animations on a freelance basis. Born in Nicaragua, Maria built a foundation in fine art & animation at UC Berkeley & USC, and now  lives & works in downtown Los Angeles. www.mformaria.com

Kendra Ryan, MFA 2010

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Kendra Ryan animates things.  Before earning her MFA in Animation and Digital Art at USC, she studied painting at Miami University.  That school is in Ohio — please do not think she spent any time at the beach.  In fact, the only time she has ever gone to Florida was when she was 7 years old, on a family trip to Disneyworld, where she first encountered her enduring love for Space Mountain.  Ms. Ryan currently works for a lovely company called Buck, in downtown Los Angeles, California.  She eagerly awaits the remodel of Clifton’s, which is only a few blocks away from Buck’s office.  And even now, so far from Ohio, Kendra Ryan does not spend nearly enough time at the beach.

Louis Morton, MFA 2013

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Louis graduated from the MFA program in 2013. His thesis film Passer Passer has been selected to Sundance, Annecy and many other festivals. He is currently working as a freelance animator and designer while directing his next short film, a recipient of the USC Sloan Grant. He has worked for yU+co, Buck, Picture Mill, Stardust, and Laundry.

Miguel Jiron, MFA 2013

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Miguel is an animator + director based in Los Angeles, CA. Currently, he works as a storyboard artist for Illumination Entertainment. His work has screened at film festivals around the world, such as SXSWOttawa International Animation Film Festival, New York International Children’s FestivalTIFFand has been profiled by NPRRadiolabAndrew Sullivan’s The Dish, and Vimeo.Previously,  Miguel was a painting assistant for Takashi Murakami in his New York and Tokyo based studios. His illustrations have been published in National Geographic Adventure, World Policy Journal, Resource Magazine, Inside Counsel Magazine, and The Atlantic (online), among others.

Lisa Anderson, BA 2011

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Lisa graduated from USC’s undergraduate animation program in 2011.  Shortly after graduation, she began working for Nickelodeon on the show Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Over the course of her time at Nickelodeon, she worked her way up from intern to Lead Character Technical Director.  She recently transitioned to DreamWorks, where she works as a Lead Character Technical Director for Dreamworks’ new TV division.

Daisy Church, MFA 2004

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Daisy Church works and lives in San Francisco as an artist and illustrator.

She has worked extensively as a flash broadcast animator for both television and mobile games. Her work has been seen on Cartoon Network, HBO, MTV, Adult Swim, Nick Jr, Disney Interactive Games and Disney Playhouse, amongst others.

She loves to paint and work on her personal fine art, and actively exhibits her work in galleries worldwide. She actively curates and organizes art shows featuring low-brow and entertainment industry artists in San Francisco.

In her free time, Daisy loves to travel with her husband and artist partner in crime, Damon O’Keefe.

Laura Yilmaz, MFA 2010

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Laura Yilmaz is an animator and animation director with an oddly scattershot professional history.  She has worked as a 2D traditional animator for commercial studios (Buck, Mirada, Royale, Stardust, Duck Soup), a senior VFX/compositing artist on the upcoming stop motion feature “Hell & Back” (ShadowMachine), as well as directing commissioned PSA, TV, and music video projects.  Most recently she designed & directed three animated shorts for the show “Triptank” (ShadowMachine), currently airing on Comedy Central. Her short films have traveled to festivals around the world, including the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Toronto Animation Arts Festival International, Animafest Zagreb, and Animation Block Party. Her USC thesis film “Places Other People Have Lived” toured the US as the Best Animated Film of the 2012 Black Maria Film Festival, and was a semi-finalist in the 2012 Vimeo Festival + Awards.

Laura teaches animation whenever she can, including courses at USC’s summer session in Los Angeles CA, SACI International Art Center in Florence Italy, California State Summer School for the Arts in Valencia CA, and Sitka Summer Arts Camp in Sitka AK.  She has also run workshops for ImMEDIAte Justice, a media arts program for urban teenage girls, in both Los Angeles, CA and Kampala, Uganda. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her loving husband and two ungrateful cats.

Eric Law Anderson, MFA 2001

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Eric is an independent filmmaker. He started his professional career at Columbia/Sony Pictures, writing a sci-fi feature film titled GIANTS based on his original story. He has also worked as an animator and visual effects artist for both TV and film. He continues writing screenplays, working as a CG artist, and writing/producing/directing independent films through Giant Dolphin Pictures, a film production company co-founded with filmmaker and AFI grad Thom Southerland. Eric’s latest independent short film “The Looking Planet” premieres later this month at the Newport Beach Film Festival. His MFA film “Horses on Mars” played at festivals all over the world, including Sundance Film Festival, and won a College Emmy, an Audience Award for best short film at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and qualified for Academy Award consideration. 

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48 Responses to Week Fifteen: Alumni Panel

  1. The Alumni Panel is always a great Seminar. I enjoyed this one a lot as Lisa brought folks who were doing interesting things and were really honest about their experiences. It seems like a lot of us are curious about how to transition into a career after USC and while it was kind of scary to hear that it can take a few years for a lot of people to get their footing, it was really reassuring to see that everyone is doing very great work they (presumably) enjoy.

    Hearing from such talented alums also made me want to help organize more of a Hench DADA alumni get-together or some kind of online networking thing . . .

  2. Tristan says:

    This was a good crew. It was nice how honest they were without being bummers. It seems like for this group working too much is more of a concern rather than finding work. Which is reassuring although you have to factor in that they were probably the rockstar students while they were here, which I know is the case with Lou and Miguel. Either way their work was really great and they had important things to say. I hope to see them around town next year.

    • elisabethmann says:

      They were “rock stars” in the sense that each of them put 110% into their 3 years at Hench-DADA and they all completed 2-3 films. I would characterize them all as being extremely focused and motivated. None of them needed prodding to finish their projects and they all had a sense of purpose. Honestly, it’s exactly how I would describe you Tristan!

  3. Ruthie Williams says:

    This year’s panel was so open and had some great advice. That was my last alumni panel before becoming one myself, and as anxious as I am about how everything will play out after graduation, I do feel a lot less terrified than when I heard the first alumni panel in 2012 and they were all doing stuff I had no idea how to do! Seeing how far the people around me have come during my time here and how much the alumni have accomplished helps me remember that as long as I keep working and pushing myself, three years from now I will have come so much farther than where I am in 2014, and obviously that goes for all of us.

    I’m really glad the panelists went into some of the practical details about freelancing in Los Angeles, it would be really cool if an alum who freelances or anyone with that knowledge would be willing to come in and give a talk in the business of animation class, because those stop-gap jobs seem to be very important for new animators who aren’t hired into a studio right away or are between jobs.

  4. LinHui Wang says:

    There were so many possibilities happening here everyday, you will not know what would happen next. I was really glad to see so many alumni went back in the seminar to share us with their wonderful career experiences. And the advises helped a lot too. As one of them said, everything is possible. We just have to keep an eye open on the things going on.

  5. Caress says:

    I loved this seminar! It’s always great to see successful people who used to be in our program. More importantly, it’s great to know that they were just as afraid as we are of finding jobs after graduation. All of the practical advice about freelancing, taxes, and managing work were incredibly helpful. It was also inspirational to see their beautiful personal and commercial work.

  6. Ryan Gillis says:

    It was great to see so many familiar faces. Like Tristan said, all of the speakers had really pragmatic advice without coming off jaded. And they all had such different experiences in the working world, it made surviving after graduation feel much more attainable. That being said, seminars like these remind me how much hard work it’s going to take to do well, and it fires me up.
    Overall- a very helpful, relaxed seminar. It was a lot of fun to hang out and talk with everyone afterwards.

  7. Evan Harbuck says:

    This group was really candid which I appreciated and overall they all shared pretty positive attitudes about the industry and the work they’ve been able to do. It’s great to see alumni work from all different amounts of time out of the program. Having freelanced myself before coming to USC I can say they all had great advice about how to wade the waters after getting out of school. I agree with what a few other people have said that a workshop in some freelance business practices could really help a lot of students land on the feet after graduation. I always enjoy the alumni panel at seminar.

  8. Maggie Harbaugh says:

    I feel this seminar was an extremely inspiring and useful. Don’t get me wrong, the other’s have been useful as well, but this one is obviously the most relatable since they’ve all sat in the the same seats we were sitting in that night. Everyone was very honest about their struggles, but it still remained positive and informative. I thought the panel itself was diverse as far as time since graduation, fields of interest and studio vs. freelance/independent. I was impressed with everyone’s work and I hope someday I can be a returning alum sharing words of wisdom. Great seminar!

  9. Dustin Reno says:

    It was really fun getting to see so many new and returning faces. The diversity in the types of work the panel brought was exciting, and it’s cool to see how, despite being on a staff or freelance gig, everyone was still so determined and enthusiastic about doing their personal films. There was truly some very useful information discussed at seminar, and the advice for freelancing was great. Really enjoyed everyone that came to the panel!

  10. Yizhou Li says:

    I feel all of the people were really inspiring and great. There were so many interesting reels shown that makes me excited. The Buck piece was really good, and I liked how so many people mention getting work from knowing people there. Even though they were all different ages and classes, it was nice seeing how USC graduates keep helping each other. I hope I can keep making my own films like Eric when I work as a professional.

  11. Ivan Sayon says:

    What really puts things into perspective is how varied the alumnus are by year with Eric being the oldest and Lou/Miguel being the newest. I like how they all are able to have a discussion with one another about how life after grad school was like and the sort of obstacles they all encountered in the field. Even though their method of animation is diverse, they seemed to each have practical advice on how to manage hours, figure out a good freelance rate, and how to deal with working in a studio or working independently with clients. This type of panel discussion is definitely a mandatory one to have every year as the guests offer pretty much the closest idea to what jumping into a career after school would be like besides jumping into it yourself.

  12. Jiexi Wang says:

    It is very nice to hear the experience and advice from our alumnus from different position in animation field. It is definitely one of my favorite seminar this semester. I feel very close to them and can see my self being in their position some time in the future.

  13. Joanna Barondess says:

    Unfortunately, I was incredibly sick during this seminar and could not attend, but from what I read from the comments, it sounded like a great seminar. It must have been nice to be reassured about some fears we all have about what happens post-graduation. I still occasionally see Miguel from time to time and I know that he loves working at Illumination. I also know he worked really hard to get there.

    I hope we’re all happy when we graduate from this amazing program, whether we’re freelancers, studio fledgelings, or still figuring things out. Maybe we’ll come back for an alumni panel and give some frightened graduate students great advice!

  14. Josh Weisbrod says:

    I always enjoy hearing from the alumni, as it is always reassuring to hear from people who have gone out into the world that things can work out with a little perseverance. However, part of it is still pretty nerve-wracking. I often worry about how it will be riding down the hill during the time that I am spending climbing up it, to use a rollercoaster type of metaphor. But I guess it really is more about the journey.

  15. Yifu Zhou says:

    It was fun to see Miguel and Luis became an alumni in our seminar. Kind of strange feeling that time runs so fast. Always wanted to know the stories of our alumni since I am always thinking about what I am going to do in the future.

  16. Tim says:

    Very interesting to hear others’ experiences of freelancing after graduation – i went through this myself in London many years ago and probably will again here in 2016.

  17. Joseph yeh says:

    I am super thankful to have alumni visit us and show us their new and fresh insights! I so glad to hear about their successes. All the work was very impressive and I am proud to be a part of the same school they were part of!

  18. emily says:

    It was cool to see everybody and share all their story with us. I personally like the part when they talk about the TAX! Really interested! I wish we can have more this kind of seminar, and meet and know more our Alumni.

  19. Fernando Rabelo says:

    The alumni Panel present in this seminar was just incredible. It was a very good chance for us current students to see how the alumni, who were once sitting in the same seats we are nowadays, are doing out there. The guest were amazing and each one showed us that are different ways to make your work to be seen out there. The big lesson for this seminar is that connections are still a very important way to get to a place someone wants to work at. I believe it’s not only about the connection, but by using this, your work can be seen by the big names much easier than if we had to send it only through a regular job opportunity. It was also great to meet some of the alumni. This is a must have seminar.

  20. Andrew Malek says:

    Its always great to see the success of your peers and to be reminded that the future can indeed be a hopeful place after graduating. While I think this years guests did not sugar coat how challenging the real world can be they did make it seem as is if it is possible to work on fun and exciting projects and maybe even carve out some time for personal work.
    Overall, appreciated Lou’s comment about online distribution and how positively it has affected his career as well as the focus on how important it is to be excellent to one another.

  21. jrronzani says:

    Life after school is a scary thing to think about. Seeing how these alumni have succeeded is very reassuring. It’s also great seeing the wide range of career avenues that lie ahead. Animation is really a tool for communication and there is a big need for it in the business world, not just in big Hollywood studios. I think the biggest takeaway for me from this seminar was that it is important to help each other out.

  22. I am sorry to miss this weeks presentation by DADA alum but I was scheduled to attend the conference held around MoogFest in Asheville, North Carolina. My blog post this week will be about “The Exquisite Forest” animation project, which I learned about when I attended the a talk on “The Future of Music Visuals.”
    The panel was moderated by Julia Kaganskiy http://about.me/juliakaganskiy
    And it consisted of:
    David Wexler http://www.strangelooptv.com/
    Alex Lieu http://www.42entertainment.com/team/alex
    Aramique http://aramique.com/
    and Aaron Koblin http://www.aaronkoblin.com/
    This Exquisite Forest is an online collaborative art project that lets users create short animations that build and branch off one another as they explore a specific theme. The result is a collection of animated narratives visualized as trees which anyone on the web can explore. Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin and Google’s Creative Lab produced the project with Tate.

  23. A great sampling of life after school. This is the first seminar where I´ve known who most of the speakers are, so the perspective of who they were as student and their success outside of school is more connected in my mind. There are no miracles or magic formula, I feel that if you are a hard worker (which is today´s world means more than just showing up) you will be doing what you enjoy and hopefully be compensated for it. I am also very happy that I have access to most of these talented individuals for further advice.

  24. Sijia Huang says:

    Lisa is awesome, I asked a question about how to manage time if a animator want to improve his/her technique skill like rigging skill in MAYA. She inspired me a lot. Since we have our personal shorts like P1 P2 and thesis. It is really important to learned how to manage time effectively.

  25. Zheng Kang says:

    It is very lucky to hear the experience and advice from our alumnus from different position in animation field. Their works were awesome and inspired me a lot. They showed us different ways to make your work to be seen out there. I really like the works of Laura Yilmaz, Kendra Ryan and Lisa Anderson. I learned about that connection is a very important way to get your ideal job and work. It’s really helpful.

  26. Jake Zhang says:

    As usual, Alumni Presentation probably is the most practical and useful section of seminar class. It gave us senses of how to work in the industry after graduation. Most important thing is it gave us chance to know some of the featured alumni and their recent works, and also It’s great for us to contact them afterward.

  27. Amelia says:

    A friend and mentor of mine is a director at a studio in town and she constantly compares my work, especially my technique, to her friend “Kendra.” So, when I saw the panelist list I was super excited to realize that this “Kendra” was a graduate of our program. I loved seeing the work of all the alumni and it made me feel good about my own work. However, I have to admit I’m a little bit terrified of the freelance business. I came from freelancing, and although Austin and LA are very different, trying to find job after job with no real security and a ton more student loans is a bit scary. All in all, the panel was very insightful.

  28. Eric Cheng says:

    This is one of my favorite seminar in this semester. Also, the most useful one. As student, I always have some nervous and timidity on getting into society. While, these cool alumni inspire and encourage me a lot. It kind of give me a feel that what is the industry and the world looks like.
    Also, so happy to see some persons and animation projects I know on the stage of seminar:)

  29. Reggie says:

    The alumni panel was amazing. It was great catching up with friends and meet other alumni. Lou’s, Lisa’s, Maria’s, Kendra’s, Eric’s, Miguel’s, Laura’s, and Daisy’s tips for my graduating class and current grads were helpful. Some of the tips range from understanding freelancing lingo, applying for grants, and finding time to work on personal projects. I also appreciated the diversity of the panel.

    I’m glad this seminar panel is a tradition, it helps reassure and inspire us to graduate and find our own career paths.

  30. I always love hearing from past alumni, especially from folks as far back as Eric. It’s also great to see recent alumni that have already been able to get it and make an impact like Lou and Miguel. Their advice was very encouraging but it stay pragmatic with realistic standards. Even practical details like how to handle your taxes was a definite help since, being in school for so long (at least for myself), you sometimes worry about the more basic stuff like whether you should save receipts or look for an accountant that works for you.

  31. Yawen Zheng says:

    I’m very thankful to these alumni who are sharing experience to us. As the first year international student, it’s very hard to us to get adapt the environment here and get know about the industry or working experience. I leaned a lot from this seminar and have more confidence in the further study.

  32. Lanzhu Jian says:

    from other students comment it seems the coolest panel ever. But I have to meet my composer that night for my thesis so I unfortunately missed out. Good work!!!!!

  33. Simo Liu says:

    I believe alumni is one of the most helpful and suggestive seminars of this semester. For us, we always try to find out the balance between what we want to do in school and what the industry need. Alumni gave us a present about their experiences and showed their reels, which directly gave us a better idea of what the industry need. It helps me clear about something and let me have a better idea about the future direction I want to focus. It’s also a good chance to recognize them and keep in touch with them.

  34. Ning Xu says:

    The alumni will be great resource to reach out when we graduate, I appreciate their great advice and share their life experience.

  35. Sophie Xing says:

    I love this presentation. I got so much very useful information, so many advices and ideas. Our alumnus are great. I felt proud for their success. They gave me drive and showed me many ways in animation industry.

  36. Catalina Matamoros says:

    It was very good to hear this talk. Sometimes it is very frightening to think about after school life but after hearing what they it gives me a lot of hope and positive attitude. I also like their work and the variety of it.

  37. Frank Gu says:

    what a cool crew! It was great to see them and thank you for sharing your stories with us. It is good to know they are doing great outside of the school. It’s a good news for me because I am going to graduate in one week. I need this kind good news now!

  38. Christina Brous says:

    Such a great presentation! It was great to hear from recent (ish) grads and get their take on things. It was probably one of the more helpful presentations of the semester and none of them seemed bitter about their career choices at all. A lot of their advice was new to me and something I’d not heard before, especially about the special “lingo” that comes with freelancing, haha.

  39. Chaoqi Zhang says:

    During the graduation time, Listening to aiumna’ experiences of after school career and advises is such helpful, looking forward for my future.

  40. Fan Feng says:

    This seminar was a great chance for us students to finally see some of the work that had been done here before. I was surprised how great their work was. It was very good to see that we as students can also make a good work and put our names out there as they are doing. What I learned is that if we keep up with hard work we can also succeed one day.

  41. It is really refreshing to see the USC graduates working on some great projects out there. they were all giving very good and helpful tips and I find it fascinating how every career follows its own path and it is hard to predict what our path will look like -cause there are no two paths alike. I would be very excited to come to USC in like 5 years time and share what I did – but we’ll see how it goes 🙂 I am very grateful to them that they took their time out and came to give us such a good energy

  42. earnason says:

    A very fun seminar, I really enjoyed seeing the variety of the work of the alumni as well as their success. Very good advice as well especially regarding taxes from Daisy Church.

  43. Brian Rhodes says:

    Definitely a dose of reality from those that have paved the way. I appreciate having multiple guest from different backgrounds to give a cornucopia of perspectives. Also, seeing our recent grads such as Lou Morton and Miguel Jiron doing well was very inspiring!

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