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Fredrick Fassé: From Animation Mentor to Sony Vancouver

by | Apr 1, 2013

Updated: Fredrick Fassé worked on The Smurfs 2. Check Out his demo reel!

Fredrick Fassé: From Animation Mentor to Sony Vancouver

Fredrick Fassé was instrumental in gathering the Sony 30 for a recent group photo. Fredrick took a break from animating on The Smurfs 2 to chat about his Animation Mentor experience and journey to Sony Vancouver. And now it’s time to begin your experience and to start your journey. Apply today for our upcoming term.

— The Animation Mentor Crew

Tell us a bit about yourself. Any art background? How did you become interested in animation?
Hi, my name is Fredrick Fassé, I come from Vancouver, Canada, and I’ve always loved art and animation. As a kid, I was always doodling. I was never any good at it but that never stopped me from trying. During my childhood, I would spend most of my afternoons watching cartoons. My favorite shows were always playing on Saturday mornings. Those were the Looney Tunes, (and) the Disney classics like Gummy Bears, DuckTales, and Darkwing Duck. But my all-time favorite cartoon was the classic, Transformers. Ahhh those were the days of the original Saturday morning cartoons!

It wasn’t until I saw the film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and then after, Jurassic Park, that I started to think — “Hey! I want to do that!” Then I saw Toy Story and was convinced, I HAD to get into this industry.

At first it wasn’t easy. One of the schools I applied to in 1996 didn’t accept me (because) my art portfolio (wasn’t) strong enough. It wasn’t until 1999 when I saw Iron Giant (my all-time favorite animated film) that I again tried getting into an animation school, and this time, I was accepted. It would be a long time, however, before I achieved my goal of animating on a feature film … which leads me to answering the next question below.

How did you learn about Animation Mentor and why did you apply to the school?
I had spent quite a long time animating for TV, direct to DVD, and videogame projects before I found myself a bit lost and confused with where my career was going. I originally wanted to do VFX and full-length CG features but I could never get those big studio jobs I had always dreamt of. That’s when I started asking my friends about Animation Mentor.

I learned about Animation Mentor through some friends of mine who had completed the program. They spoke very highly of this school so I wrote a message on Animation Mentor’s website requesting more information. My biggest concern was whether or not I would get much more out of the program, seeing as I had already been working in the industry for some time now.

Then I received probably one of the most important phone calls in my entire career. Brittany, an admissions advisor at Animation Mentor, gave me a phone call and explained how the school curriculum could still benefit someone in my position. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Britt … Thank you!!!

How did you learn about the opportunities at Sony Vancouver? Can you describe the application and interview process?
I had heard about the job opening at Sony through my good friends and fellow Animation Mentor alumni, Tony Mecca and Valerie Scheiber. I was visiting them at (Rhythm & Hues Studios) when they mentioned (that) Sony was hiring. I never in a million years had planned on applying but after they saw how much I wanted to come back home, they said some things that resonated with me. So in the end, I applied because of them. I think I owe them a dinner :).

So, normally one would apply through the main website, but I contacted the recruiter at Sony directly. This was due to the fact (that) I was getting a referral from a friend who was already working there. At the time I applied, my demo reel was still videogames heavy, due to the fact I was still working at Crytek in Germany. So after speaking with the recruiter, I decided to recut my Animation Mentor reel and animate a new shot specifically for Sony. I told them I’d have something done in a week. It was crazy to think about, animating a long one-person dialog shot in such a short time, but thanks to some help from a couple great friends of mine (whom I worked with at Rainmaker Entertainment,) I finished the shot, and delivered the new reel.

Not long after, I had my phone interview with one of the leads, and then another week later, my dream came true. I was offered a position to work on my first VFX feature film!

Tell us how life at Sony Vancouver is similar to class.
Life at Sony is very similar to Animation Mentor. The production is separated into many groups, similar to classes. And each group has a lead, similar to a mentor. And just like at Animation Mentor, when you block out your shot, when you have any questions, or look for help of any kind, you go to your lead. Later, when the shot is ready, it goes to the Animation Supervisor, who then decides if it’s ready to be shown to the client.

How did Animation Mentor prepare you for studio work?
Animation Mentor has an excellent curriculum and they have done a great job preparing the students for studio work. The classes are built in such a way, that the transition should be close to seamless. And you can see how similar Animation Mentor classes are to the studio environment in my earlier answer. Everything a student learns at Animation Mentor directly applies to how one animates in a studio. So watch your lectures, and follow your mentors’ notes and you shouldn’t have any problem when you start working in the industry.

How does Sony Vancouver differ from Animation Mentor?
The main difference between Sony and Animation Mentor, is that you have a quota. It’s similar to the deadlines Animation Mentor puts on your assignments. At work, you don’t get nearly as much time to animate on a shot as you would at Animation Mentor, so you can’t spend a lot of time doing tons of research and video reference. I’m not saying (that) you shouldn’t do it, you just have to spend your time wisely. You also get your critiques in person while they are being projected on the big screen. A most humbling experience I might add.

What’s it like to work with so many Animation Mentor alumni and mentors?
It feels like a family, really! The teams right now are quite large but having “Animation Mentor” in common with others helps break the ice in a studio full of new faces. It can also be intimidating too because there are so many talented animators here, that sometimes you wonder if you’re in way over your head.

How was the transition of learning from your mentors to working with your mentors?
I’ve had the pleasure of being in this situation before when I was working at Capcom with Steve Cady (who is a mentor at Animation Mentor). I was actually in his class as I worked along side him and if anything, it made me want to work harder since he’s a friend and colleague. At Sony it is more or less the same.

I think one will always look up to their mentors, but remember, they also want to be your equal, too. Who knows, maybe one day, it will be you teaching them a new trick or two.

What advice would you give to the Animation Mentor community regarding the job search?
First piece of advice I’d give is to network! It’s important for one to start building your contacts in the industry. This leads me to the second piece of advice and this one is really important: Don’t burn your bridges! You may have heard this before but it’s something that I feel needs to be said over and over again. Almost all of my jobs within the industry have come from referrals from friends and colleagues. This is why networking is so important. Talent and hard work are of course big factors, but if you rub or have rubbed someone the wrong way, it could be the deciding factor in whether or not you’ll be getting that job that you want.

When I was hired at Crytek, I didn’t realize (that) an old colleague of mine was working there and he immediately emailed me, asking me how serious I was about wanting to work there because it involved me moving to Frankfurt. Within one week, I was on a flight to Germany for my onsite interview.

Finally, the last piece of advice I would give is, be yourself! Don’t be shy! Show them who you are!!! If you’re a student or an alumnus and have few contacts in the industry, that’s okay. Your list of contacts will grow in time. So keep those friendships that you make at Animation Mentor strong because one day, that might lead to something in the future. It’s kind of like growing a tree … If you take care of that tree long enough, it’s going to start producing fruit. The same will happen in animation. I guarantee it!

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