After 6 plus years of putting it off, I decided to join Toastmasters last September. A lot of people are familiar with Toastmasters, but for those of your who are not, it is a public speaking organization that has clubs all around the world. Something that I didn't realize before I joined was the opportunities to improve your leadership skills as well, which is nice.
I got the idea to start sharing my Toastmaster's speeches since they are usually centered around South Korea or animation. And since a lot of them have hilarious stories, I also wanted to have a place I was documenting said stories. So I'll be posting my Toastmasters' speeches as I do them. I have already done 5 speeches out of my Competent Communicator manual, so I'll publish those now.
Your first speech is called your Icebreaker, so here is mine. I titled it "A Life of Animation".
The director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille, Brad Bird said, “Animation is about creating the illusion of life. And you can’t create it if you don’t have one.” And oh, what a life I’ve lived thus far. I will be sharing how I chose my path, the journey to my first job and what I hope the future holds for me.
How I chose animation?
Growing up, I was always good in math and art. My family had these Disney books and VHS tapes that I would always use to draw and recreate the covers. I was drawing all the time. As for math, I remember being in 8th grade Algebra, sitting there drawing angles and finding the degrees with my protractor for fun. I was always trying to figure out how to merge the two together. I went through wanting to be an architect, industrial engineer, etc. My senior year I joined the FIRST robotics team at my school to do the animation portion of the competition, but ended up being one of the three students that worked the most on our robot. So it was always a back and forth battle.
In high school, I was able to do dual enrollment and take seven classes. The seventh class was a 3D animation class. When I took that class and learned how to use the program, I said, “This is it!”
I majored in animation in college and graduated. I was stuck doing what every college graduate is doing after they are set free from the system of grades and homework; trying to find a job that actually uses your degree. I was not having much success. I applied to a bunch of places, got a few interviews, but couldn’t manage to land a job. I decided that I didn’t want to have to resort to working at McDonald’s and Best Buy to get by and the only thing that compared to getting a job in my industry was moving to a different country. So I was on my way to teach English in South Korea.
My first year in Korea I taught at an all-girls middle school and an all-girls high school in Gwangju. My contract was coming up for renewal and I was about to re-up for another year and I was having a conversation with one of my friends and he asked, “Don’t you have a degree in animation?” I responded, “Oh yeah!” The fairy tale land of being a teacher clouded my judgement a bit. So, I was preparing to make my way back to America, but I had a thought. I had never seen the inside of an animation studio, so why not try to visit one while I’m still in Korea. I sent emails out to about a dozen studios and two responded. One in Gwangju and one in Seoul called Digital eMation. I went up to visit the studio in Seoul and at the end of the tour they asked me if I had a demo reel, also known as a portfolio. I told them that I didn’t have one, but I could! So I went back to Gwangju and in between classes, after work, and on the weekend for the next four months, I would work on my demo reel. I sent it to the company and they invited me back up and offered me a job.
Working for Digital eMation, I got the opportunity to work on Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, Scooby Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I remember one day, it was time to choose my next project and my supervisor asked me if I wanted to make a snake or a Batmobile. I wanted to challenge myself so I chose the Batmobile. When I sat there looking at the screen, I didn’t know how I was going to tackle this particular model because of all its complex components that flowed together. But as I was figuring things out and making progress, I remember sitting there looking at my screen with a sense of satisfaction saying “This is it!” Which essentially meant that I didn’t waste four years of my life.
People are surprised to hear that I’m not fluent in Korean. I can say 안녕하세요. 저는 데보라예요. 저는 메터리에 살아요. I can read Korean, so with their excellent transportation system I can get around the country of Korea better than I can figure out how to take a bus from Jefferson Parish to Orleans Parish. I can order food. I can have simple conversations. When I would get into a taxi, all taxi drivers ask pretty much the same questions, so I would listen for key words to guess the question and I would give the answer. No, I don’t have a boyfriend. I’m am so and so years old. I’m from America. Yes, there are black people in America. For the most part when I was working at the animation company, where no one spoke fluent English other than the Vice President of the company and the lady in Background Design, I had to become fluent in hand gesture. Make it bigger, make it smaller. The animation terms were the same, except with a Korean accent. Modeling was…Texturing was…Animation was…etc. After a second year in Korea, I was tired of being stared at all the time, so I came back home.
I’ve worked for TurboSquid in New Orleans and now I work for the state of Louisiana and I’m in a place where I’m ready to start sharing all that I’ve learned with others. I’m looking to do speaking engagements, workshops and mentoring centered around animation. I want to make the animation community an actual thing like it is in Los Angeles and New York City.
So as you can see, I’ve had a life full of animation. My discovery of my path went all the way up to the wire when deciding what to major in in college; I went off the beaten path to get my break into the animation industry and definitely took the road less taken. Actually, that road didn’t even exist. And I look forward to many more experiences that will add to the animated life I’ve had thus far. And to quote another great icon in animation, the great Porky Pig. Th-th-tha, th-th-tha, That’s all folks!!
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