After Ran Jing graduated from the Classical Animation program at Vancouver Film School, he went to New York University (NYU) to expand his skill set in storytelling. Combining his love of animation and narrative set him on the right path, and he is now doing what he loves every single day as a story artist at Blue Sky Studios.
Ran’s hunger for knowledge brought him to fantastic cities and allowed him to meet influential people in the animation industry. For him, the greatest lesson learned was that hard work and determination really does pay off.
We had a chance to speak with him about his journey through VFS and beyond. Enjoy!
Where are you from originally? What made you decide to study at VFS?
Ran: I'm originally from Beijing, China. I've always been interested in animation and storytelling, but I never considered it as a career option. VFS's Classical Animation program is a condensed one-year training program. I thought it would be a perfect place for me to learn the craft and to see if working in animation was a good fit for me.
What was your time like in the Classical Animation program? What was the best thing about it? What was the most challenging part?
Ran: I liked the workshop environment of all the classes. I got the chance to work closely with all the instructors and students in my class. The best thing was that every hour I had the opportunity to learn something new. The intensity of the curriculum was my favourite part. It was also the most challenging part. I was making my first short film while learning the craft. As a result, I planned my story idea before I even understood what I was capable of doing. My skills matured along the line, but it was too late to change my short film idea. I had to stick with it and make the best out of what I already had.
What did you do after graduating? Where did you go?
Ran: VFS confirmed my passion about animation. I wanted to further hone my skills in storytelling, so I went to NYU as an undergraduate student in the Film and TV directing program right after VFS. During my time there, I came to realize that feature animation tends to hire very specialized talent. To break in, one has to focus on one area of expertise. Because I wanted to direct, I chose story without hesitation, and I thought the story department would be the best place for me to learn and grow. Therefore, I spent my senior year storyboarding, designing characters, and writing.
I took an independent study class with Professor John Canemaker on storyboarding. The portfolio I developed in that class helped me get a story test from Dreamworks Animation studios and a couple of interviews at other major studios. Unfortunately, I wasn't chosen. However, the feedback I got from the major studios was extremely helpful. I went back to the drawing table, took all the advice to heart, and did a new portfolio. Then, I landed a story trainee position at Blue Sky Studios. My experience showed me that people in animation are so humble and approachable, as long as you are driven and eager to learn, you will find so much help and encouragement from industry people you meet along the way.
Where are you currently working? What’s your role? What does that entail?
Ran: I'm currently working at Blue Sky Studios — a division of 20th Century Fox — as a story artist.
A story artist's job is helping the director visualize his/her vision.
What’s a typical day like for you? What’s your process?
Ran: Usually, we have story meetings in the morning. I sit in a room with the directors, producers, and other story artists to discuss a sequence. Then, with notes, we go back to the drawing desk to revise a scene and pitch it again to the director.
What films have you worked on? What has been your favourite project and why?
Ran: I just finished working on Ice Age 5 (2016). My past film credits include Rio 2 (2014), Book of Life (2014), and Peanuts (2015).
How did the Classical Animation program prepare you for what you do and where you are today?
Ran: I think the Classical Animation program was a really solid foundation for me to understand the animation process.
Can you tell us about some upcoming projects you’re working on?
Ran: I'm currently working on a feature that's still in development.
Thanks, Ran! We look forward to seeing your future projects!