Angelo Scalise, Owner and Creative Director at The Machine Tree, has certainly paid his dues to get where he is. Beginning as a slave-like animator at Funnybone Interactive (where he slaved away for 8 years), he later climbed his way up the animation industry ladder to become a Senior Animator, Graphics Specialist and Senior Designer at various production studios.
Now Angelo gets to be the top dawg, at his own animation studio. Angelo's brainchild-studio, The Machine Tree, works in all aspects of production, including: 2D & 3D animation, video production, graphic design and illustration. Their client list includes Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers, Lego, FOX, and many more.
We caught up with Angelo recently and picked his brain about his 15-years experience in the industry...and he came up with some great pearls of wisdom for our aspiring animator readers:
What is your firm's focus within animation and what led your firm to have such a focus?
Since we started this company, our sole focus has been the production of animation. We focus on servicing the needs of so many companies that would like to be close enough to the production house (here in the USA) to be able to manage and produce EXACTLY what their vision entails. Working closely with our clients makes it possible to create and brainstorm, and to go above and beyond expectations. Our small office is a central hub; a place for many talented artists to call home.
Fill in the blank: The future of animation is __________.
What is the most difficult aspect about working in the animation field?
Of course the competition overseas has posed a problem, but for the most part companies choose where they get their animation from the best place that most suits their needs.
Among your firm's achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
We are just proud of every relationship that we develop. No matter how big or small if the work is good then our job is done. Job satisfaction means everything.
What skills/qualities does your firm seek out when hiring new employees?
The fundamentals of art, even if technical expertise isn't exactly there they can be developed, but artistic ability is hard to come by.
What particular schools, if any, does your firm recruit new hires from? If none, where do you recruit new hires?
I do have a preference for alumni of the Joe Kubert School in New Jersey, its where I went so I am partial. But, the truth is that a portfolio speaks louder than any certificate or degree.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
Be versatile, never turn a job down or be afraid to try new things. I had no idea that I would end up an animator when I started many, many years ago. I majored in illustration instead of animation and I’m glad that I did. Too many kids get out of school with the ability to move an image from one area to another, but without the basics of animation.
What kind of education did it take to get you where you are today?
I went to the Joe Kubert School in Dover New Jersey. I learned so much there but it doesn’t compare to what I have learned on the job. The basics are taught in school but you have to keep your mind open to learning more things every chance you get.
What animation software packages does your firm prefer to use? Which one would you recommend to beginners?
The best program with the smallest learning curve still has got to be Flash, its easy to learn and you can still get professional looking work. In the end, you can have the greatest software and hardware but if the basics aren’t there the work will never pass a certain level.
Could you share with us your best story about working in the animation industry.
The days of traveling from central Connecticut to Times Square--3 hours from door to door--just to work at studios for 2 or 3 months at a time when the first day of production is already 3 months behind schedule.
Do you think that there is an increasing or decreasing demand for animators overall? Why?
Well, its such a random industry that changes day to day along with the economy. There is always a demand for animation that has a good story, that will never change. I know that game animation can be limited but there is a great demand for it right now and if you are going to put everything you have into your work it will always be gratifying. Be able to roll with the punches and take on all comers and you will do fine.