Shondalia White knows the meaning of "persistence." She grew up in Flint, Michigan—far away from the entertainment industry—yet, despite the negativity she heard from those around her, she continues to follow a path toward her dreams. So far, she couldn’t be happier.
"Landing a job at a major studio in just three months while working on multiple projects has been one of my greatest accomplishments," said White. "Many told me that it wouldn't happen or would take a while, but lo and behold, it did for me. Having a positive attitude, persistence and faith can get you a long way. If you work hard and keep your eye on the prize, anything is possible."
As a CG animation production assistant at Nickelodeon, White is involved in the entire production process—from script to animation. Her credits include "Tak and the Power of Juju," "The Penguins of Madagascar" and "Fanboy and ChumChum." She works directly with the creator, supervising producer, animation supervisors, FX supervisor, lighting supervisor, leads, line producer, production managers and coordinators.
Some of her daily tasks are breaking down scripts; choosing which assets (characters, set, prop files, images and animated sequences) need to be created or reused; making sure the animation supervisors get the layout, primary, and secondary animation scenes for review; rendering in Maya; catching possible issues in production; creating model packs in Photoshop; taking notes in all internal meetings; shipment and answering animation and asset questions for overseas contacts.
"I'm basically learning to be a producer," White explained. "I am personally in charge of all internal reviews in the department. We recently restructured, and now my tasks also include recordings, working directly with the directors, delivering animation to post, communicating with the network and much more."
Prior to her position at Nickelodeon, White had the opportunity to gain experience as a production receptionist/production assistant on set for HBO’s Def Comedy Jam and as a script production assistant for the 2007 Hollywood Christmas Celebration from The Grove.
"My receptionist role with the Def Comedy Jam involved filtering questions from comedians, agents and managers; any questions they had went through me," she said. "As a production assistant, I assisted the coordinators on set and set up for the show. This job was more like gofer work, but I’ve learned a lot from it. Sometimes you have to take jobs that you didn't necessarily plan for to get to where you need to be. You definitely can't view things as being beyond you.
"Working on the Hollywood Christmas Celebration from The Grove was a great opportunity since I like to write. To see how they come up with the script and how many times they revise it throughout the recording was amazing! I worked directly with the script supervisor and assisted her with writing, revising and delivering the script. I also had a chance to work with the executive producer, producer, director and assistant director. Learning how to set up and plan shots for a live show was really exciting. One of the best experiences I’ve had on set!"
Extra involvement in the industry has helped White network with other professionals and opened her eyes to other outlets for her talent.
<span class='CALLOUT'>CCS taught me how to be a professional</span>, how to work hard with a focus and understanding of all the other angles of process and production
"One of the most important lessons that I've learned in my professional career is to stay involved," said White. "It’s something I love to do. Volunteering and joining organizations have been a huge part of my success."
Recently awarded the Chris Farley Service Scholarship, White volunteers as a liaison between the IO West Theater and LA Works non-profit volunteer action center. The scholarship provides free improv classes in exchange for her arranging monthly opportunities for IO West students, alumni and affiliates. Some of these projects include helping the homeless, cleaning the environment, teaching kids and doing improv.
"I started doing improv last year (2008) for fun at Nickelodeon," White explained. "After taking a class taught by my animation supervisor, I was encouraged to continue in it… Improv is not stand-up or sketch comedy. As an improviser you get suggestions from the audience, then perform scenes based off what you and your team create from the opening. Nothing is written—you have no idea what you're going to say. And you don't have to tell jokes.
"Improv is beneficial because it helps me with animation and understanding how to portray acting. It helps with voice over by allowing me to flesh out and create characters. It teaches me how to be a performer, a public speaker and much more. You become more self aware and quick on your feet."
In addition to her improv work, White takes voice over lessons (an area she hopes to pursue professionally) and is involved with Women in Animation, a professional, non-profit organization established to "foster the dignity, concerns and advancement of women who are involved in any and all aspects of the art and industry of animation."
Although it was Whites’s talent and persistence that landed her a job with Nickelodeon, she credits CCS for preparing her to compete in a cut-throat industry.
"Besides for creating short films, animating and drawing, I would say guest speakers, specific professors, workshops and roles as a resident assistant, student government representative and teacher really helped me," said White. "Lessons, advice and friendships with faculty and friends continue to impact my success. I appreciate the support I’ve received from Michael Coleman, Sharon Procter, Dave Chow, Steve Stanchfield, Larry Larson, Vera Smith, Sabrina Nelson, Sylvia Austermiller, Gil Ashby, Amy Armand and Pennie Reis. My alumni friends are also a huge support for me!
"I realize more and more how CCS prepared me when I listen to others talk about what they didn't learn or how they only have one skill. CCS taught me how to be a professional. How to work hard with a focus and understanding of all the other angles of process and production… Hearing, ‘Wow, you've had a really well-rounded education,’ is what makes me most proud to be a CCS alum."
- Graduation Year: 2007
- Employer: Nickelodeon Animation Studio (Burbank, California)
- Title: CG animation production assistant
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