Gwendolyn “Wynne” Gettelfinger, a senior animation student who does it all! President of the Animation Organization and 3D Character Animator; Wynne takes us through her experiences at SCAD while she prepares for graduation.
How has the experience with your senior film been?
It’s been a lot of fun so far. I really like the new system, with a smaller number of films you have the main people you need for each role. I started working with a crew of seven female artists on Wander. But now we’ve branch out collaboratively and are working with over sixteen students from various majors such as VFX, animation, and sound design. I’ve enjoyed experiencing the process with everyone and working together with new students.
What do you really enjoy about animation?
I’m a character animator and I’m always excited to learn as much as I can about it. I’ve taken all of Professor Crossley’s character animation classes, which I gears a bit more to feature and tv style of animation. I like that side, because I was actually a theater kid in high school. It lets me get into the mindset of the character. But I’ve also taken Professor Rutland’s creature animation class, which is more about the locomotion of the character and how they move instead of what they are thinking. This quarter I’m also taking Professor Warman’s game animation class. How you approach this style of animation is completely different; it’s all about tailoring the animation to the player. It’s not so much about a performance (even though he’s constantly tell us to make it really cool!), it’s about getting the character to do what the player wants. The animation has to transition quickly, an example is taking the character from an idle cycle to a walk or run as quickly as possible.
What type of studio would you like to work in?
Well there are the big ones, the feature animation that everyone mentions; Blue Sky, Sony, DreamWorks, Pixar, Disney. But honestly, I’d love to work at a smaller studio too, doing stuff like short films and commercials. I also really like the work created at Visual Effects studios. They are making really cool stuff, like the work Framestore is doing. When I volunteered for Career Fair during sophomore year, I got to work with them. It was a really cool experience where I got to know their recruiters and I have continued to see them at subsequent fairs.
How did you get involved with the Animation Organization?
I actually attended the Jacksonville Zoo Trip as a freshman and rode in the car of the vice president, David Brink (he was president the next year). David was talking about how they needed spots filled for secretary and treasurer. I thought it would be fun and came in as the new treasurer, went up the hierarchy, and now I’m the president of the club.
It’s been a lot of fun and this year the club underwent some changes. We changed the name from Contemporary Animation Society, which kept getting confused with Career and Alumni Services (both groups went by CAS), to Animation Organization. We’ve been really active this year; getting new members, putting up posters, and having a creative place for students to learn and grow. We also do demos, lectures from professors and professionals, like the talk from Kate Kirby O’Connell last quarter, and skype calls from industry professionals around the world.
What plans do you have for the Animation Organization?
I want to keep the collaboration opportunities open. One way we are doing this is by teaming up with the Rigging Union and Professor Crossley again. We’re also hosting the Jacksonville Zoo trip again. This year is also our anniversary! To celebrate the club’s 20th anniversary we have something special planned. We’re doing a professor panel; Professors Crossley, Troy, and Webber are going to do a presentation on their experience working on Mulan (it’s also Mulan’s 20th anniversary!). Stay tuned on the Facebook page to see when we post the details for that.
“I want to keep the collaboration opportunities open.”
We also have new officers in training who will be taking over next year. Michael Castellon, our current secretary, will be taking my place as president after I graduate. Mike Kachur will take Valerie Kagehiro’s place as vice president, Stephanie Rimmer will be taking Erin O’Neal’s place as treasurer, and Julia Schoel will be taking Michael’s place as secretary. We’re still on the hunt for a new poster creator, since our current designer, Max Johnson, will also be graduating. It’s a lot of new faces, but they’ve all been super enthusiastic about joining club leadership and working to make AO bigger and better in the following quarters.
What classes have you enjoyed?
Besides my character animation classes, I took Character Design and Storyboarding for Animation while I was in Lacoste. It was a lot of fun; you spend most of the time creating projects for one story. I designed the characters, layouts, and storyboards for an original story inspired by the south of France, set in the past. All the research was right in front of me which was very inspiring.
What other experiences have stood out to you?
Studying abroad in Hong Kong was amazing. Lacoste and Hong Kong were both such different, but wonderful experiences. I think overall Hong Kong was my favorite. The public transportation there is awesome, it was really easy to travel around. A friend of mine, who’s a photography major, was there too and she kept finding cool, undiscovered places for us to explore.
Why did you choose SCAD?
The study abroad opportunities were a big aspect I hoped to find in a university, but seeing the alumni success from SCAD was really the most impressive aspect. I also really enjoyed the city of Savannah. I came to visit and fell in love. I feel like the college experience here was unique. And being in a new city was exciting!
What inspires you?
I like to take everything around me as inspiration. When I was younger, some big films like Tangled and How to Train Your Dragon really inspired me to pursue animation. I cried watching those movies and I knew I wanted to create moments like that for other people; make them react emotionally to a story.
“I like to take everything around me as inspiration.”
What’s a challenge have you overcome?
When I started the Character I class with Professor Crossley, I couldn’t “see” all the things wrong with my projects. I couldn’t make them better, because I couldn’t “see” where the mistakes were. The more that I pay attention how things move and the more I learn, the better I can animate because I can analyze my own work better. Looking harder at reference and being able to analyze my choices is so important in animation.
This ability really just comes with experience. For example, I’ve been lighting some shots for Wander since we’re in crunch time. Lighting is outside my specialization, so I’m constantly trying to speed up the process of being able to analyze my own work. In the beginning, I would receive a shot with some lights already in it and I would have to add to it to finish it; but it already looked done to me. I couldn’t “see” or analyze the lighting to make it better. But as a crew we’ve worked to help get everyone comfortable on areas outside their specialization. Even though I know I’m still not the best lighter, with the help of my crewmates, I am able to creatively analyze my work and help finish shots for rendering.
What advice would you give to yourself as a freshman?
I’m not sure. I wouldn’t necessarily change anything in what I did because it got me to where I am now. I’ve enjoyed my experiences and tried everything I could. Although I think I could have always tried to push myself more. As I’ve gained more experience in animation, I’ve realized that I can do more at a faster pace; I animated 15 shots in a little over one quarter for Wander, but never would’ve expected that of myself before.
I also think that it’s important to not stress as much. When I first came here I didn’t know the programs; I never touched Maya before and barely knew Photoshop. But that’s why you come to college, to learn all you can and get as many collaborative experiences as possible. So I think there’s always ways I could have improved, but overall I try to take my experiences and struggles to work harder in the present and never stop striving to learn more in the future.
Huge thank you to Wynne for giving us this interview! It was wonderful hearing about her experience here. If you want to see more of her work, please visit her website:
Also be sure to check her out on social media!