John Bucholtz, Collins College in Arizona

When I was ten years old, I went with a bunch of kids from a summer program to watch this brand new film that was getting a lot of talk. It was 1977 and we were going to see the first Star Wars movie. I was in the fourth row, in the seventh seat from the aisle when the opening credits rolled. When the first ships flew overhead at the start of the film, I was amazed! I knew right there I had to do something like this when I grew up.

I first started chasing my dreams when I enrolled in Al Collins Graphic Design School. I graduated with honors in 1993 with my Associate of Arts in Visual Communication and then went back and attended the first Maya animation classes that Collins College had to offer. Shortly after finishing the classes, I found work in Arizona at Bridgestone Multimedia working on the children’s DVD series, Kingdom Under the Sea. I was hired on as a generalist but as the team and the project grew, they asked me to become the production manager/coordinator in charge of the animation department.

After the DVD series, I found myself with a lack of real 3D work in Arizona. My first work was in Burbank at a small boutique studio called 3dBob. After months of working for free learning Max, and doing whatever they needed around the office, they rewarded me with a paid position as a generalist artist. I served as the Motion Capture Supervisor on a project, Book of Hope, in charge of two other artists, and we were responsible for the recording, clean up, and editing of motion capture data for the project.

It was while I was working at Lowry, a Digital restoration film place, that I got my big break. I had seen an ad for motion editors months before on a popular 3D website and had sent my demo reel and resume to them. After the interview and before I knew it, I received an email offering me a job to work on the company’s first animated film, Happy Feet!

While after, I saw a job listing on another popular 3D website looking for experienced MotionBuilder artists. Not ten minutes after sending a link to my demo reel and resume, I got a call from the production manager at Lightstorm Entertainment wanting to interview me for the position. A week later I was working for one of my all-time favorite directors and Hollywood heavyweights, James Cameron, on his next film epic, AVATAR! I spent the next year and a half putting all my skills and education to the test as I worked one of the most grueling schedules I had ever experienced as we rushed to get the film finished on time and meet the director’s incredibly high standards for detail!

As my part on the film began to wind down on AVATAR, I received a call from a friend and fellow co-worker on Happy Feet, Eric Leidenroth. It seemed that writer/director George Miller had started his own production studio back in Sydney called Dr. D Studios and had hired Eric, as well as several other artists from the first Happy Feet movie to help start up his new company and start work on his next film, Happy Feet 2. I was flattered to find that my name was one of the first on their minds. They hired me as a Lead Motion Editor and I will be lending my experience and expertise overseeing a small team of artists.

I now find myself back in Sydney, living a very blessed life. I am helping establish the pipeline and procedures for the mocap department while we quickly approach the start date for primary motion capture. (The film has a 2011 release date.) And after this, the studio has a slate of movies that they wish to work on that could extend my work in Sydney for eight to ten years! Only time will tell what movies I’ll be working on next.

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