Navigating a Career in the Animated Film Industry: Advice from a Dreamworks Executive

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(Pictured: Dreamworks’ recently released animated film, The Boss Baby.)

The following article is part of a reflection from the “Hollywood Mentor Series.” Through the Hollywood Mentor Series students in JPCatholic’s MBA in Film Producing program get the opportunity to meet and network with a variety of top executives and professionals in all sectors of the film industry in Los Angeles. MBA graduate Tyler Carlos shares the lessons he learned from these meetings:

“Doing the work to do the work.” This was the message given to our class by Aydrea Walden, a Production Supervisor at Dreamworks Animation. She explained that it is now our job as aspiring professionals in Hollywood to do what is necessary to build and maintain a career in the film industry.

Walden began the session by talking about her professional experiences and how she got into the animated film industry. She got her first job in Hollywood at Nickelodeon, which was recommended to her by a friend. This was something that she was not expecting to do, but once she got into animation, she realized just how many opportunities there are in the field. She also found that people in animation have diverse backgrounds and skill sets. Walden says she was pleased to find that animation offers a bit more freedom than other areas of film because animated movies take years to create, which brings job stability, and offer a somewhat normal 9-to-6 schedule. This gave her the opportunity to dive into other personal projects.

One of Walden’s outside projects is running a personal and satirical blog called “The Oreo Experience.” Walden said she updates the blog consistently, which she believes has led her to success. She emphasized that in the case of her blog, consistency is more important than volume.  She says her readers visit her blog regularly, because they know she will post something every week. Walden says she started the blog because she wanted to continually be creating material.

Walden concluded by giving advice on networking, saying: “Do things that you like, with people who like doing things you want to do.” To demonstrate this, Walden talked about a group event that she started during the days of Downton Abbey. As a fan of the show, Walden wanted to enjoy watching her favorite show with others who enjoyed the show. So, she posted on her blog that she would be hosting a viewing party at her house each week during the season. What started as a small, 3-person gathering turned into a weekly event that sometimes 40 or 50 people would attend. That is how she has met so many people. She says that we have to do things that we think are fun, and we must prepare and work at it. This is not about going out and having a wild night. This is about doing things you love that also build yourself up personally and professionally. Walden recommended that we literally work this into our schedule. Pick 2 or 3 nights a week in which we network, and stick to it. If we put in the effort, we can see results.

That was the point she wanted to drive home: “Doing the work to do the work.” Everyone can be successful in this industry. But it doesn’t come overnight, and it does not come passively. We must DO the work. It will not just happen. We must MAKE it happen.

— By Tyler Carlos, 2016 JPCatholic Graduate —