Hard work and perseverance are key ingredients behind Animation graduate Katie Klein’s successful career. She talks to Sean Ridgway (Animation Department Head) about her journey.
Katie Klein is a 2018 graduate of the 3D Animation program. Katie is what I define as a true trooper and someone with a passion to succeed. The road wasn’t always easy for Katie, but she has now found her niche and is experiencing success in a role she never thought she’d enjoy or even pursue. Congrats Katie and all the best in your future endeavors!
SR: What animation shows and studios have you been a part of and what was your role?
KK: Right now, I’m at Yeti Farm and started here in 2019 as a 2D animator. After the 2D Harmony bootcamp CAT offered, I was hired to animate on ‘Pete the Cat’ and then animated on a pilot episode called ‘Alpha Betas’.
Work dried up for a bit at Yeti, so I was hired at Oasis Animation, who are based in Montreal to work on the last season of ‘F is for Family’ for Netflix. I had a chance to come back to Yeti and I’m currently animating on a show called ‘Summer Memories’ and it’s going to be on the Family Channel.
SR: Describe, growing up, what the influences were that led you follow this career path?
KK: I think it’s been forever as my family is a very Disney family. We would watch the animated films on tape until they practically broke. Also, movies like Star Wars and Jurassic Park – seeing the mix of practical and CG effects – influenced my decision.
My initial plan in coming to CAT was to focus more on VFX. Now I tend to watch more sitcoms and take inspiration from the comedy writing which is something I’m really interested in now.
I first heard about CAT animation when I was in grade 9. A recruiter came to my school in Regina and did a presentation in my art class. I was confused why someone would come all this way from Kelowna to talk about making cartoons.
When you’re a kid in the prairies, you don’t really think that’s a job. You think of Disney in LA, not Vancouver or Kelowna.
So, I thought that would be interesting. I was 14 at the time and took some computer and FX classes in high school and decided to apply to CAT. I’ve known since I was 14 that I was going to CAT. It was the only school I applied to, and I was still just a baby at the age of 17.
Being a student is hard and it can be a bumpy road. I’m a testament that if you fail, you can still succeed. Don’t be afraid of asking for help and take advantage of opportunities.”Katie Klein
SR: What were some of the personal challenges you faced while attending the 3D CAT animation program and how did you overcome any of them?
KK: Definitely moving when I was 17 was a challenge. I was trying to learn at CAT and at the same time learning to be an adult. Putting a roof over my head, having a job, putting food on the table all while attending long days at school was very tough.
Secondly, failing a course early on in the program was hard on me, but I definitely learned from it. My initiative to ask for help earlier definitely improved. I understand why that happened, and I believe everything happens for a reason.
I needed to fail that course to learn a lesson and perhaps I wouldn’t have been in line for the opportunities CAT presented us with in respect to lighting and composition and the 2D bootcamp. I was initially down, but I picked myself back up after that fail and took advantage of all the tutoring we offered and support systems.
Thirdly, I came in with the mindset of learning VFX, which wasn’t a huge focus of the animation program, then I focused on lighting and composition, and finally 2D. These were all unexpected hurdles and challenges. But look how it all turned out!
SR: What’s your recollection of attending the 2D animation workshop and the experience you took from that?
KK: I remember Randal Typusiak emailing me ‘Hey, I know you don’t care for animating, but there’s this cool opportunity and it could help get your foot in the door’. I wasn’t getting much industry traction with my lighting and composition reel so I thought if this could lead to other things then so be it.
Logan, an animator from Yeti, who’s still here, came in to deliver it. It was really hard at first, learning a new software and basically getting familiar again with animating, in only six weeks! It wasn’t a lot of time to really soak up everything. I didn’t really hit my stride and get into a rhythm until months on the job at Yeti. But I stuck with it and here I am.
SR: Did you find immediate success in your first studio animation job?
KK: It was hard. Again, coming in with minimal training and experience as an animator, the learning curve was steep. But Yeti is super supportive of young artists. I had a mentor at the studio who picked me up and showed me the ropes. That was really helpful.
Also, going on the re-takes team at Yeti, really helped my confidence. You get to see what all the other animators are doing in their shots, and you can pick up valuable tips that way. I’m now in a position where I can help younger artists and I’m the one that can be relied upon to handle the workload and perform at a high level.
SR: What do you feel has led to your success and the drive to succeed?
KK: Well, I think taking a longer road at CAT to finish the animation program helped, although at times it seemed like forever. Being a student is hard and it can be a bumpy road. I’m a testament that if you fail, you can still succeed. Don’t be afraid of asking for help and take advantage of opportunities even if they don’t necessarily align with current goals. I’d love to pass that message along to other students.
SR: What do you like most about this type of job and career?
KK: Now that I’ve been doing this a while, I understand why people love animating. When I was at CAT, I didn’t really understand the fascination with how characters moved and such. It just didn’t grab me at the time. But now I see the beauty in it. When I produce nice, fluid movement in a character and it looks super polished. When you’re inspired by other people’s animation, you just want to do that. It’s great having an idea in my head and being able to execute that on screen.
SR: What are your more long-term goals?
KK: I’d like to stay at Yeti and direct one day. To do that, I want to learn more about the production pipeline to better round my skill sets. I have a couple of shows in my head that I’d love to work on someday. As I mentioned, comedy writing is something I’m working at, maybe even doing stand-up. Definitely directing though is the top goal.
By Sean Ridgway, Animation Department Head, Centre for Arts and Technology