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Life After SCAD – Sunny Wai Yan Chan

Tell us about yourself!

Hello! My name is Sunny. I moved from Hong Kong to Savannah 3 years ago to SCAD because I wanted to learn everything about animation. Now I’m working as a contract in-house animator at Brazen Animation in Dallas, Texas.

Did you have this job when you graduated? If not, how long did it take you to get this job?

I graduated in November 2019 and I got this job in February 2020.

How is the animation industry different than what you expected it would be before you graduated?

The animation industry is much more competitive than I expected, especially in the US. Standard is constantly and rapidly going up along with technology development. What you saw 10 years ago is completely different from what you see now. Time is of the essence. While it’s fun learning and practicing so much about animation at school, pay attention to what the real world demands and craft your goals with that in mind.

What advice do you have for seniors applying for jobs?

I can only speak from the standpoint of an entry-level 3D animator and layout artist: Search for demo reel tips from various industry professionals and websites. Look at demo reels of both entry-level artists and experienced artists. Demo reel is the most important element in job applications. Make these areas as presentable as possible – contact info, portfolio order, reel breakdown, credits, video description, video title, music etc. Different studios want to look at different stuff. The more obvious examples are game studios (attack cycles, idle animations) and feature animation studios (close up and full body acting shots with dialogues). Ask multiple people with the same title but working in different studios. VFX film studios like to see layout reels that contain scenes from a live-action film re-created in 3D while feature animation studios only want to look at 100% original works. There are other things that help with job finding once you’ve made your demo reel as solid as possible – things that expose your work to people, such as portfolio reviews from school, animation events (CTN Expo, Lightbox Expo, Career Fair etc) and online media platforms (Linkedin, The Rookies, Animation Competitions etc.)

What has been the hardest thing to adjust to moving on from SCAD into the industry?

To be prepared for moving from places to places. There are a lot of short contracts and temp jobs from studios all over the US.

What film did you work on at SCAD?

I worked on “U.P.P.” (animator, layout artist) from the graduate collaborative class, “Drawn Apart” (animator) from the SDGM collaborative class and “Godspeed” (director, animator, layout artist, editor) which is my thesis film. Each project is a journey. I was motivated, inspired, frustrated and fulfilled. It’s also a good opportunity to practice my soft skills like communication and time management. I would say efficiency is the key. Completing a film alone is a great achievement. Think about how to utilize time for the best balance between quality and quantity.

What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on?

Definitely “Godspeed”. Godspeed is about family and is heavily inspired by my childhood experiences. This is what I wanted to achieve – a simple story that is emotionally amplified through the eyes of the child protagonist because saying goodbye to his mother matters to him a lot. The production of Godspeed was very tight-scheduled. I’m blessed with really talented friends, especially the following three who helped me the most: Brian, Yuna and Aster. Despite the hardship, I never regretted choosing to make a short film for my thesis.

What were some things at SCAD that you were a part of that helped prepare you for the industry?

Collab films, as mentioned earlier. I was a helper at SCAD Day for my professor’s demo classes for prospective students and their parents. I was one of the guest filmmakers at SCAD Savannah Film Festival and I got to learn and connect with industry professionals at the event.

What’s a typical day look like for you?

Pretty standard – wake up at 8:30am, take a shower, get coffee, go to work, animate, ask for notes, animate, ask for notes, animate, animate, animate, animate, leave work, do fun things that relax my eyes.

What have you learned since working in the industry?

I always remind myself to apply the following three qualities to as many aspects of myself at work as possible: be genuine, be passionate, and be perseverant. Don’t take comments personally. Listen carefully. Always have an open mind. Be passionate, it shows in your work.

Did you have to relocate for your job?

Yes, I had to move from the San Francisco, California to Dallas, Texas. I went straight to work from the airport carrying my big luggage. But overall it was a smooth and fresh experience.

What are your career goals for the future?

I want to take part in a feature animation production after I no longer need to worry about my visa status.

What is the most surprising thing about the industry to you?

All the people I have met from work are super friendly, despite the rumors of toxic working environments I read online.

What software do you find yourself using the most in the industry?

Autodesk Maya

If you could do anything differently when you were at SCAD, what would it be?

I would have taken an acting or improv class. When I was interning at LAIKA, I went to acting sessions for a week and it was very beneficial to me as an animator, performer and storyteller.


Thanks to Sunny for taking the time to interview with us! Check out more of his work on LinkedIn, Vimeo, Instagram, IMDB or his Website.

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