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Today, it is becoming more and more clear that multimedia industries are penetrating the education system. The Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, on the west coast of Florida, is known for the quality of its general, art and digital education programs. It is also known for its ability to adapt to the new ways of thinking of younger generations. Indeed, for nearly 86 years, illustrators, film animation designers or graphic designers of video games seem to agree that the school of tomorrow will resemble the world of tomorrow.
« Born with a stylus in their hand »
Like Ringling, schools of arts and design throughout the country have become breeding grounds for young creators born with a stylus in their hand. The film and television industry has understood that its future also depends on a flow of new ideas and young artists who are passionate about new technologies. Famous studios such as Pixar in California and Viacom in New York (the parent house of Paramount Studio) look to find future candidates for employment in these creative schools. What better way to encourage highly talented students to enter into these programs than by offering them a job as soon as they graduate?
Perhaps even more astonishing is the number of generous donors who do not hesitate to help young promising artists. Indeed, while touring Ringling with Brian Byrne, a former graduate, I learned how one of his drawings (currently exhibited in the gallery of the college) had earned him a scholarship to attend the school. Without the financing from his sponsor, his mother would not have been able to afford the tuition of such a prestigious college. Brian showed me a newspaper clipping of the press coverage his award received in the local newspaper. Through the auspices of an anonymous donor, Brian was able to earn his diploma and he eventually landed a job in the art department of Fox News in New York as a graphic designer!
At Ringling College, corridors are covered with movie posters, all of which Ringling graduates had been involved with in some fashion. Walking through these halls, I was reminded of one of my more amusing film projects in France during the late seventies. I had stitched some posters for a couple of Super 8 short films made with my classmates into a college! This in the almost total indifference and contempt of many teachers who saw me as a young eccentric extraterrestrial. The Macintosh did not exist and Bill Gates may not have thought about Windows yet. Making movies under these conditions, without any subsidy, was a real technical challenge and a pioneering educational tool. On the other hand, we lived on tremendous adventures during our low-cost shoots, dreaming of technological utopias. It is a great pleasure to see that today, new generations can be encouraged by effective teachers and make a passion into a profession.
« Nickelodeon, number one in the heart of many generations »
Diana Chu is Senior Director, Graphics Operations for Nickelodeon in New York, a channel under the Viacom umbrella. Diana has a subtle and clever way of managing the technical, administrative, human and artistic management of the channel’s programs and its image through other media. Nickelodeon’s programs are dynamic, entertaining and educational. With an outstanding status as the best cable channel for many years, it surpasses the competition¹ and remains the number one channel in the hearts of many generations of children and teenagers through the adventures of iconic characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more recently Henry Danger, The Thunderman, Blaze and the Monster Machines.
Every year, Diana « the explorer » leaves the prestigious building Viacom for special missions: recruitment trips at these schools of design. Expeditions across the United States but with nothing in common with those of Dora the Explorer! The work requires remarkable preparation because the stakes involved are very important. The prowess of her movements are both athletic and intellectual. Diana is scheduled to meet with the students, introduce the channel with the vice president of animation, and select the future candidates who may join the teams of New York creators and directors. An American dream that will become a reality for the best students.
The first time I went to the Viacom Building to visit Nickelodeon’s studios with Diana, I could not help but appreciate the unusual spectacle of the bay windows in the studios. I watched the starry night fall on Times Square, the Empire State Building, the huge sparkling avenues, and further down the Hudson River that borders Manhattan. I had taken a thousand pictures before looking up, looking towards the north. But no matter, stars are not lacking in New York as Viacom points out on its recruitment website: « Our employees are the biggest stars. »
A conversation with Diana Chu, Senior Director, Graphics Operations for Nickelodeon
Frederic: What is your role at Nickelodeon?
Diana: I am the Sr. Director of Graphics Operations for Nickelodeon and it’s suite of channels (Nick, Nick Jr., Teennick, Nicktoons and Nick@nIght). My team of managers and I support the On & Off-Air promotion of our shows and the Brand. This includes but is not limited to Television, Marketing, Digital & Social platforms. I work to make sure our graphics department has the resources it needs to complete the work that is requested. This includes finding talent as well as technical needs, among other things.
Frederic: Artists are not lacking in New York, what is the purpose of your stay in another state and especially in a school like Ringling school of art and Design?
Diana: We are a diverse company and department – looking for a perfect mix of fresh, new graduates to work alongside seasoned professionals. Ringling College is known for it’s talented students and wonderful Motion Graphics Program. It is worth the investment to recruit at schools such as this one to find, nurture and develop recent graduates and offer them the opportunity to work in NYC at a company such as Viacom – particularly, at Nickelodeon.
Frederic: Are you looking for people who propose technological innovations (software developers) or rather who have a good classic pencil stroke?
Diana: I look for a specific skill set in terms of software known. At Nickelodeon, we work primarily in After Effects & Cinema 4D. Knowledge of other programs such as Harmony Toonboom, Flash and Maya are welcome, but not necessary. A perfectly well-rounded candidate can design and then animate their work. However, we also have those who design only and pass their work off to animators. Those designers are very hard to come by.
Frederic: Sarasota is a city of art, what did you enjoy the most?
Diana: The beach! Haha, The food was great too. I unfortunately didn’t have much time to enjoy the city ti it’s fullest. I’m hoping to go back next year and will make sure I get some time to explore.
Frederic: Why is SpongeBob, one of Nickelodeon’s iconic stars?
Diana: I think partially for its appeal towards different age groups. Kids and adults alike enjoy the show! It’s charming, whimsical, weird and clever.
Frederic: In a nutshell, describe a typical day for you at Nickelodeon in the heart of Times Square ?
Diana: My day starts by avoiding the craziness that is Times Square, so I enter thru the garage and not on Broadway where there are thousands of tourists haha. A typical day for me includes troubleshooting issues within our studio. That could include technical ones as well as staffing concerns. I forecast upcoming needs based on projects I need to assign vs. the number of people we have to do it. I am continually working with my managers and leaders of other departments to address concerns they may have with process, etc.
I plan recruiting trips. The season for college recruitment is February thru April for me, with a trip in November as well for an event in Los Angeles. Heading to SCAD in Savannah, Ga in a few weeks. This involves planning a presentation that the VP of Animation and I will give and going thru many submissions for interviews to narrow down the candidates. Finally, my day will usually consist of meetings with creative teams to discuss current and upcoming projects.