Michal is coming to the University of Cumbria to host a 3D animation master class over the weekend of January 28 and 29 and a public lecture on Monday 30th January from 6-9pm.
We caught up with him to find out what it’s like to work as an animator at Pixar!
Tell us a bit about who you are and your current job.
My name is Michal Makarewicz. I am a Directing Animator at Pixar Animation Studios.
I’ve been working at Pixar for the last 14 years and currently helping animate a future feature at Pixar.
What is your education and career background?
I started my college career at UC Riverside studying Computer Science. After realizing that computer science wouldn’t work for me, I transferred to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. There I finished my art degree, and started my professional career with an internship at Pixar Animation Studios. I’ve been there ever since.
What made you want to get into your industry? And how did you do it?
My Mom was what got me into the industry. I started college at UC Riverside studying computer science. My whole family has some sort of engineering or computer science background, so naturally it was thought that I would head down a similar path. However, I quickly realized that computer science wasn’t for me. I was really terrible at it, and did not like it at all!
Before UC Riverside, I initially expressed going to UCLA to work my way into making live action films, but had trouble getting that idea past my parents. So after my mom realized computer science was not for me, she started looking around and found an art school. My mom thought of it as a compromise because it had art for me, and computers for them. I never thought about going to an art school, so I didn’t know what to expect. I took a lot of different classes until I eventually stumbled across animation. The animation class felt very natural and was pretty fun. I always wanted to be in actor anyway, and this was like acting through lots of things; cars, rats, people, etc.
The term “starving artist” was passed around a lot, and it was not helping my confidence; but I decided to put those thoughts behind me, and focus becoming the best animator that I possibly could. Through extremely hard work and focus, I eventually made my way to Pixar! It was lots of hours, perseverance, sacrifice and love for what I was doing – and it was totally worth it.
Can you describe a typical day in your role?
They differ greatly if I am a lead or an animator on the show. As an animator I typically get in at 8:30 so that I could get coffee before dailies. Dailies lasts for about an hour, and I really enjoy going to get inspired by all the work.
Then I get to my desk and work until lunch. After lunch, I get back to my desk to work for another 3 hours and then go to the gym. Usually after the gym I stay for another 2 hours and then head home. Intermittently during the day I visit friends and take breaks.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Collaborating with amazing artists.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
As an animator, I think it’s to achieve a performance past certain expectations. There are all these amazing talented artists I work with that have very good eyes for the work. I am always trying to create something that is above their already high expectations.
As a lead, creating an environment that allows for an animator to have fun, and grow as an artist during the production.
What advice would you give to a student or graduate hoping for a career in your industry?
This isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. It’s an extreme amount of fun mixed in with an extreme amount of hard work.
It’s good to understand what your final goal is, so you can cater your demo reel to it.
Take your time. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself. I sometimes see students tackling a bouncing ball, and then within the same semester starting to do acting shots and a walk cycle. I think this is too much. Learn the basics extremely well, before moving on. Everything is based on those fundamentals.
What should students expect from your upcoming Animation Demo and Lecture Masterclass at the University of Cumbria?
Hopefully, a lot of information packed within a unique fun perspective! This class is a compressed peek into everything I have learned for the last 14 years at Pixar. The lectures I give allow us to learn by breaking down the subject matter. And the LIVE demos I give allow us to learn by starting from scratch and building upon it. I have always been a fan of watching someone work and actually do the job in front of you! I think you can learn a tremendous amount from that.
My layered workflow is also a different approach to animation. It’s an opposite idea to the Pose-to-Pose work method. Hopefully this shows students and professionals that there are multiple ways to work.
Tickets are now available for the Masterclass here: https://makarewicz-masterclass.eventbrite.co.uk/
Tickets for the public lecture on Monday 30th January from 6-9pm are available here: https://makarewicz-lecture.eventbrite.co.uk/
Check out Michal’s showreel, which features favourites such as Up, The Incredibles and Toy Story 3, here: https://vimeo.com/168857358