Mary Nittolo is an accidental entrepreneur. Her awkward—yet successful--career path landed her as President and Owner of The Studio—a production studio in New York. Accidental entrepreneur turned multi-million dollar company owner.
In 1988 Mary created The Studio and over 20 years later it is a multi-million dollar production house with 23 visual-effects artisans, artists, designers, directors, animators, and programmers.
Despite her lack of an animation-related education Mary climbed her way to success by honing her skills at a boutique design firm before starting her own company.
Mary has not taken her success for granted and sits on many advisory and directors boards—including the Board of Director of Srina Tea—an organization working to help small-scale Sri Lankan farmers with sustainable development. The Studio is also WBENC Certified and 100% woman-owned.
Mary recently took time from her uber-busy schedule of company-running and time volunteering to answer some questions for our future animator readers.
What is your firm's focus within animation and what led your firm to have such a focus on this one?
Our firm's focus is digital production mostly for major brands, advertising agencies and their clients
Fill in the blank: The future of animation is ___________.
full of amazing possibilities. Digital media supports animation in all aspects. Our eyes have been trained to expect, movement and interaction when we view the screens that are our main sources of information and entertainment.
What are the best and worst aspects about working in the animation field?
The best aspects are that animation is a medium that supports metaphor and artistry. The worst is that clients sometimes don't understand the timelines and how labor intensive the process can be.
Among your firm's achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
Having a STUDIO. We have gone counter to the industry standard of employing free-lancers and have employees many of whom we have trained as we have one of the few internship/ apprentice programs where candidates are NEVER asked to do tasks irrelevant to their training. We don't send interns for coffee.
What skills/qualities does your firm seek out when hiring new employees?
Besides technological expertise, we look for signs of a good work ethic and integrity and the ability to assimilate to our culture.
What particular schools, if any, does your firm recruit new hires from? If none, where do you recruit new hires?
I have taken several students from NYU, SVA, and Ringling College, but we interview and hire from anywhere. It's the work that counts.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
Work hard, be nice and study as a generalist. Students who come out of school with too much focus are usually not good enough to be hired as specialists and not useful enough as generalists to get a full time job.
What were your most challenging projects, and why?
This is not evasive but all of our projects are challenging. Most of our work is the 30 second to 1 minute format and it is very hard to tell a good story in that amount of time.
What kind of education did it take to get you where you are today?
I graduated from NYU with a major in Philosophy and Comparative Religion, so my education is not obviously connected. But Philosophy is a rigorous major and involves a lot of discipline-a useful trait in managing a small business. Comparative Religion allows you to focus on symbolism, narrative, commonalities and stories that resonate, also useful in what we do.
What animation software packages does your firm prefer to use? Which one would you recommend to beginners?
We use the entire Adobe Suite, Maya, Motion Builder, Final Cut, Toon Boom, occasionally Flash...The Adobe Suite is the lingua Franca of today. Every visual communicator has to have a mastery.
Could you share with us your best story about working in the animation industry.
Getting to present at fmx 2011 in Stuttgart in the Eyes on NY segment where I spoke about our methodology in a lecture entitled "STUDIO as space"
Do you think that there is an increasing or decreasing demand for animators overall? Why?
Increasing because smaller screens demand it . Also, consumers are becoming more visually demanding as the glut of content makes demanding curators of us all.