On January 21st Addy award-winning animator Esteban Valdez, owner of downtown St. Petersburg’s Echo Bridge Pictures spoke in the Digitorium on St. Petersburg College Seminole campus in partnership with the college’s Innovation Lab. Valdez, a veteran animator with more than 12 years of experience in the industry, came to campus to share his knowledge of what it takes to be successful with students.
Campus provost Dr. James Olliver made a few brief remarks before introducing Valdez, telling the audience about opportunities in the digital arts, and about the degree program on Seminole campus. He also announced that the college plans to introduce a bachelors program in arts and entertainment, pending approval from the Florida legislature, in April 2016. The program would bring together students from the Music Industry and Recording Arts (MIRA) program at Gibbs campus, the digital arts program at Seminole campus, and theater and photography students on Clearwater campus.
After showing a short demo reel made by Echo Bridge Pictures, Valdez told the audience about the highly competitive nature of the entertainment industry by relating anecdotes from his experiences with other artists. He cited statistics from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics that showed that most animators and artists are self-employed working on short term projects, and deal with the same challenges that entrepreneurial contract workers in other industries do. He also cited figures to show that while there is a growing demand for animation in movies, games, and mobile applications, only six percent of that growth will happen in the United States due to outsourcing to countries like Indonesia and China. Valdez told the audience that it is important to ask why they want to be in this industry, and that animation is more than a job, it is a passion. “For me it is one of my life’s callings, and it has taken me 15 years to understand that.”
Valdez talked about common pitfalls for artists that do not have a career path in mind. Because artists are like small business owners, they have to learn how to market and sell their art while watching costs.
Like craftsmen, they must avoid getting stuck in a creative rut and be able to be extraordinarily flexible in their art as styles, and what the market will pay for is in a state of constant flux. The demands unique to this field can take their toll on animators, and Valdez stressed the importance of keeping a sense of perspective and a positive attitude.
At the conclusion of his talk, Valdez took questions from the audience. Artists asked about the tools Echo Bridge Pictures uses, distribution online versus traditional, how long it takes to make a stop motion movie, how to balance the workloads of the business and artistic sides of the industry and more. After the question and answer period Innovation Lab Maker-in-Chief and campus librarian Chad Mairn announced the winners of the lab’s character design contest. Among the winners was Jyeesha Wilson-Shanely, a St. Petersburg College student in the video games design program. The winners will receive reserved seating in the upcoming animation workshop with Esteban Valdez in PB603 on Seminole campus on January 29th at 2 PM, as of this writing there is still limited seating available, register today. See the full live stream of Esteban Valdez’s talk here.