Blog Interviews Spotlight Students

Donald Brooks

Tell us about yourself!

Hello, my name is Donald Brooks, and I’m a current senior here at SCAD. I was born in Philadelphia and currently live in Delaware. My area of expertise is in 3D character animation and hope to work on feature films or on games as a cinematic animator. During spring quarter 2019, I had the opportunity to work on the SDGM 560 film, “Under Your Skin,” as a character animator along with other fantastic students under Professor Bernardo Warman. Currently I’m working on the senior capstone film, “Cambrian Explosion,” which is directed by Devon Palmer and Helen Prekker.

What area of animation do you enjoy the most and why? 

I enjoy learning and engaging with all aspects of animation; however, I lean to character animation the most and put all the juice into crafting that aspect. I’ve had the opportunity to learn aspects of technical animation such as hair grooming/sim and character modeling. Character animation appeals to me the most because of the possibilities of the performance, entertainment, and acting choices per shot. It’s always fun seeing an acting choice that is packed with personality and feels genuine. I like to feel as though I can personally interact with the character and have a conversation with them If I was able.

What is a challenge that you’ve had to overcome? 

One challenge that arose last year was finding ways to educate myself in terms of animation outside of regular classes. I couldn’t take character animation classes last year because they were all filled before my time slot came around. I was energized to learn as much as I could! To combat this, I signed up for multiple films as the year progressed and developed my character animation skills through experience, reading articles, and watching videos online. Some of the films I worked on last year include, “Abducted,” “Metal Me,” and “Under Your Skin.” I also scheduled some meetings with Professor Webber so I could get feedback on my animation.

What advice would you give yourself as a freshman? 

Sleep and time management. These are SUPER important, and during freshman year I disregarded them. It wasn’t until fall quarter of sophomore year that I took them more seriously. I took three studio classes during that time and one was 2D animation principles with Professor Webber. I was able to excel in each class during the quarter because of time management and I’m grateful for that experience because it helps me be effective even today. I also make sure to wind down during the later hours of the day by taking a shower to relax and watching favorite shows and movies on Netflix. By watching live action shows such as, “The Twilight Zone,” I’m able to study acting and enjoy the interesting stories at the same time! Big win!

What inspires you during a difficult project? 

What inspires me is the end result and the possibilities of it being something truly amazing when combined with the other aspects that are planned. I like to look at behind the scenes or work in progress animations from animators at Disney, Pixar, etc. I love seeing the blocking, first pass, polished, and final rendered stages. It’s super interesting seeing their process and how they’ve arrived at a certain acting choice. Combine the finished animation and the lighting/rendering, and you’ve got gold! It’s a surprise even for the animator when they see it fully rendered.

What experiences have stood out to you? 

“Under Your Skin” is defiantly an experience that stands out to me for various reasons. It felt like an actual studio experience by applying for a role on the team through submitting your reel. We also showed our most recent work each class through dallies which I loved because I was able to see the other great work everyone else was doing. I also had a great time working with everyone on the film and we had a lot of great laughs during my time on the film, forming friendships in the process. “Cambrian Explosion” is also unique because of how understanding and well the team works together. Another aspect of this current film that stands out is the fact that it’s in a colorful underwater world. Super fun!

What classes have you enjoyed, and why?

2D animation princples was one of the many classed I’ve enjoyed at SCAD. I first learned about “C” curves and “S” curves from Professor Webber during the class.

What type of studio would you like to work in when you graduate?

I would love to work in feature film. Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, etc. That’s my goal. I am also open to working at a game studio. I see amazing and fun projects from them all the time as well!

Do you have any advice for working as part of a team?

Be conscious of others on your team. Your work affects how well they can do their work down the line. This means making sure your files are properly named and making sure the different aspects within the Maya files for example are named appropriately. Also please be open to feedback and try out what is being suggested for other. You won’t know if you don’t try, and if it doesn’t work, at least you know you tried. If you don’t understand something, you can also ask someone else or google something about the software. There have been times when I didn’t know something, and I ask a friend who did. I was able to improve workflow and avoid counter-animating something.

Do you look up to anyone in the industry?

Someone I look up to in the animation industry is an African American animator named Frank Abney who has worked at Disney, DreamWorks, and currently at Pixar. He also is currently directing his own short film titled, “Canvas.” I see him as an inspiration because we come from similar cultures, and I see how helpful and willing he is to share tips about animation through YouTube and Vimeo. I want to be able to share knowledge that I’ve learned with others in an understandable and helpful way as well so that we all can grow together. I also respect him because of his positive outlook on life and family, showing that it is important to have those aspects as an animator.

Do you have a favorite animated movie?

Hard one! There’s so many great movies that I’ve enjoyed. Some at the top of my list include, “Finding Nemo,” “Zootopia,” and of course “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” I hope to work on the next wave of giants.

When in your life did you decide to choose animation as a career?

I started drawing more during middle school and didn’t realize I could go into animation until junior year of high school. I took a drama class freshman year of high school but didn’t being in front of everyone. During junior year I took a creative writing class which I enjoyed a ton because I had the opportunity to develop worlds, characters, and stories (even though they were short). Combining the aspect of storytelling/world building with art merged into a desire for animation.

What are some things you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love video games as well as reading, and archery. My two favorite game franchises are Assassin’s Creed and Gears of War! My favorite Assassin’s Creed game is Origins. I LOVE the setting of Ancient Egypt and being able to explore the world. I feel like an adventurer. I have a soft spot for learning new and interesting facts about ancient cultures. It’s cool to be a nerd! Also, in my free time I use SyncSketch to frame through animation and study what the greats do.

Thank you so much to Donald for taking the time to do this interview with us! Check him out on his Website, Vimeo and LinkedIn!

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