Raava’s Little Helpers, aka the Korra Crew, hard at work on our Halloween decorations. (Wan drawing at the bottom by Ryu Ki Hyun)
KORRA CREW PROFILE: SYLVIA FILCAK-BLACKWOLF
Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf has been the lone color stylist on Korra since Book 1, so she has colored all of the character and prop models for the entire series (aside from what I’ve done or tweaked as the art director)––a massive undertaking. She has a wealth of varied experience in both TV and feature animation in a variety of job positions, and is an absolute joy to work with, so I wanted to interview her for this blog to share her insights with anyone aspiring to work in this industry. I also wanted to highlight the position of color stylist: you often hear of the drawing positions and the background painters, but the artists who choose and adjust the colors for the characters and props are also incredibly important to the look and feel of an animated project. Above you can see some of Sylvia’s work from the upcoming special Avatar Wan origin episodes.
BK: You are originally from Los Angeles, right? How early on did you know you wanted to work in animation? Did having the industry around you while growing up influence that desire?
SFB: Yes, but I grew up mainly in Studio City/North Hollywood area. Growing up here I was around industry people all the time but I really did not think about it. Parents and friends were musicians/actors/producers/editors/animators. I guess I thought that this was the norm and it was like this everywhere… I really was fortunate in the fact that I fell into animation. I always loved it but never really thought about it. I wanted to be an anthropologist! Ha Ha
BK: Did you have any formal art education after high school?
SFB: No, but not too long after high school I started working in the animation industry.
BK: How did you get your foot in the door in the animation industry? What was your first job?
SFB: My friend’s mother worked in animation as an ink & paint supervisor and did quite a bit at home on various productions. She asked if I could help and that was the beginning! I think my first job was doing mark-up for The Chipmunks.
BK: You’ve worked at a variety of studios. What are some of your favorite productions throughout your career?
SFB: Hmmm, Well I would have to say that Iron Giant was a lot of fun. Great Crew. Great Directors. Great Movie! In the afternoon they would cart around chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne/beer/wine. Crazy times. Spongebob Movie was fun. In general I think the crew is really important and if what you are working on happens to be fantastic then all the better. Legend of Korra is another great project that I am fortunate enough to work on. Great Crew. Great Directors. Great story!
BK: Can you describe your job as a color stylist for people who don’t know what that entails? Have you had any other positions in animation?
SFB: A color stylist generally keys all characters, props, and FX. You read the script, look at the animatics and image boards. Paint up all the models, and get them approved. Then the fun begins: you take each model that belongs in that specific scene/sequence and style them according to their surroundings. It could be day/night, fire FX, explosions, etc… which in turn then goes back to the art director/director to approve, give notes, or change. Generally most of my jobs have been color compositing which is the same as a color stylist but you get to composite the scene as well. I have also been a inker/painter and a color composite supervisor.
BK: What are your hobbies and interests outside of animation?
SFB: I build furniture, and do architectural woodcarving and sculpting. I love growing too. My husband and I took a break before the last SpongeBob Movie and went to Portland, Oregon where I had an apprenticeship under a fantastic master carver (Lee Johnson). An amazing person/experience that has taught me so much.
BK: Any advice for people looking to get into animation, either young people still in school or adults who are trying to land that first gig?
SFB: I would say that animation has its highs and its lows. You will work on great projects and some not so great projects––it’s all part of the world. Stay focused, talk to as many people that you can. Build up your reel/portfolio. Network. For every person that you encounter that is not so helpful you will find great people that will help you. Basically, don’t be discouraged. Try out different projects––perhaps ones that you may think that you are not qualified to do or maybe it’s just not your style. You can learn so much from every project that you come across. It’s all about experience. Good Luck!
Congratulations to Jeremy Zuckerman on yesterday’s release of his soundtrack The Legend of Korra: Original Music From Book One. After the years-long battle to get Jeremy’s music released, it is incredibly vindicating to see this album climb and top the charts (currently sitting at #1 in Soundtracks and #5 in Pop on Amazon).
This is a photo I took last week of Jeremy, the composer, in his studio with Hong Wang, the multi-instrumentalist behind the nuanced performances of many of the traditional Chinese instruments featured in the Korra score. Mike and I are indebted to the talents and hard work of these two brilliant men.
P.S. If you will be at San Diego Comic-Con and would like to meet Jeremy, come to the Korra soundtrack signing at the Nickelodeon Booth this Saturday, from 3:00–4:00. Mike DiMartino, Benjamin Wynn, the sound designer on Korra and Jeremy’s partner in the The Track Team, and I will be there too signing CDs (which were printed too dark and dull…).
Congratulations to Shannon Reed who won a well-deserved Emmy last night for casting on Korra! Thanks for all of your great, hard work.
Summer day with a giant Fin-dog.
Awesome illustration by Korra background painter, Emily Tetri.
This is one of my favorite Bolin drawings from the cabinets in the Korra production area, by Eugene Lee, in a style reminiscent of Koji Morimoto. Apparently Eugene drew it here so Bolin would stare into Colin’s office.
Sensual Bolin by Eugene Lee (storyboard artist) and turdish Mako by Owen Sullivan (assistant director) on the Korra cabinets.
Christine Bian, our incredibly talented prop designer, has started a Tumblr blog to showcase her exquisite animal drawings. I love this Naga piece, but do yourself a favor and check out her other work too.
So spring is almost upon us and Nick decided to wipe the Whiteboard cabinets clean and have us start anew. The Following photo set is the result of The Korra Crew’s wacky imagination… Enjoy!
Some of the Korra crew at the Korra fan art show last night. What a great event! I really enjoyed all of the art and costumes, and meeting lots of nice, talented folks. Thanks to PixelDrip Gallery for organizing this, and to everyone who sent in their artwork! Very awesome and overwhelming! Love, Bryan
P.S. The event is still going on today, if you can make it. I won’t be able to attend today, as I have a lot of non-fan Korra art to do, but they are still raffling off my Naga print, so I will be there in spirit.
RYU CARICATURES OF KORRA BOOK 3 CREW
KORRA BOOK 3 CREW CARICATURES OF RYU
We have a much bigger in-house crew these days, with full design and storyboard departments like we used to have on Avatar. Ryu couldn’t help himself with all of these new faces to parody and skewer, so he surprised us a few weeks back with a motherload crew caricature (top). Bill Rinaldi and a few folks had the idea to band together and get Ryu back with our own compilation of caricatures of him (bottom).
KORRA CREW PROFILE: OWEN SULLIVAN
Owen Sullivan joined the crew a while ago as a storyboard revisionist. He worked really hard, quickly adapted to our storyboarding style, and learned our production system so well that we promoted him to assistant director. You can see some of his great storyboard drawings from
Book 2 Book 3 above, and you can see him in a fantastic Mako costume here and here. I asked him a few questions to give you guys some insight into one of the many talented people we are lucky to have working on Korra, and how he got here.
BK: What is your art education background, formal and/or informal? Are you currently taking any classes outside of work?
OS: I originally intended to be a civil engineer, which I went to school for. I never went to any formal art school, but took a lot of classes around Los Angeles, mainly at the Animation Guild and at the Concept Design Academy. I am currently taking a class at CDA and one with the very talented April Connors, who teaches out of Glendale.
BK: How long have you been working in the animation industry? Did it take you a while to get your foot in the door?
OS: I’ve been working in the industry for about 3 years. After deciding engineering was not for me and moving to Los Angeles, it took about a year and a half of very concentrated work for me to find a job.
BK: Describe your position on Korra and what work it entails.
OS: As an Assistant director on Korra, I help implement the changes that the Director and Producers want. Additionally I help Director Mel prep the final storyboard to be sent over to Korea. If there’s time I like to take a
section of the script to board as well.
BK: What other productions have you worked on?
OS: Before coming to Nickelodeon, I worked at Warner Bros Animation, on Young Justice and a number of their direct-to-video movies. I’ve also done some freelance boards on Ben 10 and Ultimate Spiderman.
BK: What is the most common thing people on the outside of the animation industry don’t know about your job?
OS: Probably that we do not actually animate the episodes here in the States. My friends outside of the industry usually just call me an animator.
BK: Do you have any interests or hobbies outside of animation? Do they feed back into your work in any way?
OS: I love to draw, I sketch constantly, all the time. I hope this helps my work… I watch a lot of films and play a lot of video games. I enjoy hiking, snowboarding, surfing, running, etc. It’s good to balance sitting at a desk with some outdoor activity. Also we’ve been playing a lot of ping pong here at Nick.
BK: Any advice you’d like to offer for aspiring artists?
OS: Get around other artists, draw as much as you can. Take some classes. A good teacher or talented friends can help you learn a lot faster than you will on your own. Try not to get discouraged and keep at it!
Jeremy Zuckerman, music composer on Korra and Avatar, 1/2 of The Track Team, and my personal guitar hero, playing his glorious Strat in his home studio this Saturday.
Supervising producer, Lauren Montgomery, in her office on Friday. Only about half of her office toy collection is visible in this shot. And this is only her *office* collection. Along with our other supervising producer, Ryu Ki Hyun, and under co-executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos, Lauren oversees the episode directors and storyboard department, which (at least on our show) is a gargantuan task. On top of all that, she is a commander in our war against retakes, a battle we always seem to be losing. For all of her efforts, we pay her in toys. Don’t tell the union.