A visit from DreamWorks offers inside advice on a career in animation

In Art, Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV
Steve Marks, a university relations representative, led the DreamWorks Visit on Friday. (Kaleb Stewart / Daily Titan)

The opportunity to work at DreamWorks Animation would be “the dream” for many animation majors on campus, including Bradley Ziegler. Ziegler sat in on a lecture from a DreamWorks representative who taught the basics necessary to win over employers at the famous studio.

Steve Marks, a University Relations Representative for DreamWorks Animation, led the DreamWorks Visit on Friday. Covering many subjects from preparing a professional portfolio to the work one can expect in the field, the visit was for those students looking to break into the entertainment industry.

The room was filled with students, some taking to laying on the floor or leaning against walls as seating was filled well before the beginning of the presentation. Marks, a talent development representative for DreamWorks Animation, encouraged those in attendance that they can “find their place” in the field of animation, even if they are not immediately going to be a creative director or character designer.

“We have been connected to DreamWorks going back to its inception,” said Dana Lamb, professor emeritus and Entertainment Art and Animation internship coordinator. “When they started their company, I was invited to come and see a presentation by Jeffrey Katzenberg to the industry talk about recruiting for our artists for a new company called DreamWorks.”

At that time, an animation program had begun at Cal State Fullerton, and so they had reached out immediately to all of the studios. As a result of that, an internship program was built.

“A lot of you are probably going to be leaving school feeling like the only thing you can do is the thing that you majored in in college,” Marks said. “What you are going to find is that entertainment is a large beast with lots of different parts … and there is ways to maneuver and ways to pivot.”

Marks himself has a degree in screenwriting and began his career as an intern at Nickelodeon. He since worked at Disney and Laika.

“My one big takeaway is that regardless of how the next year or whatever goes, you will find a place and everyone will be good. Don’t worry about it so much,” Marks said.

The presentation featured a brief overview of DreamWorks Animation’s television department. It was founded in 2013 by Margie Cohn, when herself and many talents from Nickelodeon had brought themselves over to DreamWorks.

The DreamWorks building in Glendale is five floors, which is three floors larger than when Marks had begun working for the company only a year ago.

“The TV business is booming right now. It’s definitely where most of our action currently is,” Marks said.

There is approximately a 90-minute movie worth of animation created for television every week. All of the newly in-development DreamWorks programming is set to air on Netflix, which includes recent creations “Trollhunters” and “Voltron.” TV development serves as a sort of boot camp, Marks said, as its production is much faster than in feature films.

On top of giving a behind-the-scenes look of DreamWorks Animation and its culture, the visit was an educational guide on how best to impress a prospective employer with a portfolio, particularly for DreamWorks. Aspects such as how best to showcase technical, storytelling and styling skills was discussed.

“When we say ‘storytelling,’ we are talking about the ability to make people feel something,” Marks said. “A lot of that feeling comes down to clarity in your drawings. If we can’t tell what your characters are feeling or what their facials are or their motivations or emotions are, it can be very hard to tell what the story actually is.”

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