Tell us about yourself!
I’m Sonali Dutta, and I’m a Visual Effects alumni (Spring 2019) from SCAD! I’m a CG artist passionate about look development and grooming. I’m currently a Junior Materials Artist at Blue Sky Studios in Greenwich, Connecticut. I’m working on textures for characters in the upcoming film Nimona! Before I started full-time, I was a Character Intern at Blue Sky, working on both fur and materials for Nimona as well.
Did you have this job when you graduated? If not, how long did it take you to get this job?
I was selected for the Character Internship at Blue Sky in March before graduation, and I started at Blue Sky 3 days after graduating! During the last week of my internship, Blue Sky made me a full-time offer and I started at the end of September.
How is the animation industry different than what you expected it would be before you graduated?
So far, I’ve been getting a lot more sleep while working in the industry than I did at SCAD! It has been way less stress for me personally. In school, you work on your projects at all hours of the day. At work, you only work while you’re at work! It’s not like this at all companies and definitely different during crunch time, however.
What advice do you have for seniors applying for jobs?
You only need 1 “Yes!” Don’t get discouraged by rejections because you WILL eventually find a job. I was rejected for the Blue Sky on-campus portfolio reviews, and then I ended up getting the internship when I applied online. Keep your demo reel up to date and put your best work first (and if an interviewer asks you what’s your best piece, make sure it’s the first piece on your reel 🙂
What has been the hardest thing to adjust to moving on from SCAD into the industry?
I think my schedule is a little less flexible working 9-6 M-F instead of taking classes at kind of sporadic times. Also, I am still figuring out what to do with the free time I have outside of work 🙂
What film did you work on at SCAD? What was is like, and what was your role? What advice would you give to Seniors working on their student films currently?
I worked on Wander during my senior year! I did the lookdev/grooming for the girl, Nia, and the ducklings. I would say communication is one of the most important aspects of a team project, and never underestimate the importance of clear and honest communication.
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on?
What were some things at SCAD that you were a part of that helped prepare you for the industry?
AO (Animation Organization) and DMC (Digital Media Club) meetings were definitely super helpful; I got to learn a lot of skills and meet alumni working in the industry that taught me a lot.
What’s a typical day look like for you?
I come into work at 9AM, and I’ll get breakfast (we have free cereal every day, Bagel Mondays, Fresh Fruit Wednesdays, and Donut Fridays)! We have Materials department rounds (dailies) at 9:30AM. I might show my work in the Character department rounds around 11AM, or possibly with the Production Designer and/or Director of the film if they are approved. We have lunch from 1-2PM, and there’s lots of different activities like figure drawing, yoga, basketball, or sometimes film screenings. I’ll work for the rest of the day until 6PM.
What have you learned since working in the industry?
So much!!! It’s likely that I learned more in my first week at Blue Sky than I did in all 4 years of high school.
What is the most surprising thing about the industry to you?
Things are sometimes broken, and sometimes nobody has the answers. It seems obvious that not everything goes smoothly in the animation feature pipeline all the time. But when I was in school, I thought I was dealing with stupid problems, but it turns out they were the same problems people have in the industry.
What software do you find yourself using the most in the industry?
Houdini!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love Houdini and we use it all the time at Blue Sky. Also, Renderman and Substance Painter/Designer.
If you could do anything differently when you were at SCAD, what would it be?
Sleep!!!!!! Wow, I cannot stress this enough. I learned the really hard way that your mental and physical health are more important than your school work and trying to get a job.