With the launch of the Unity Global Student Challenge on Unity Connect, students are encouraged to share their work and progress throughout the competition. As part of the challenge, we're launching the #mydevstory Twitter campaign. We want to share the work and progress of creators working in the industry to show you the paths they took to get to where they are now.
If you're a creator, you can share your story on Twitter with an image of one of your first projects and compare it to a project you are working on now. The goal is to inspire students and demonstrate the power of progress and perseverance.
Learn about Line Producer Andy Wood and his journey through the industry - how his early experiences with technology led him into a career in animation and visual effects, which brought him together with people that enabled his success.
I’m Andy Wood - I produce content for various mediums and technologies. I studied animation and visual effects in college at the Academy of Art University. I started working on projects in virtual reality and different mediums about four years ago, which is what led me to my most recent project with Unity - to create broadcast content in real-time.
I was the line producer for a VR short film called “Wolves in the Walls”, based off a book of the same title by Neil Gaiman. I started working on it at Oculus Story Studio and finished it at Fable Studio. We released Chapter 1 at Sundance 2018 as part of the New Frontier program.
Before that, I was the production manager at Oculus Story Studio on Dear Angelica, which was nominated for an Emmy last year and won a Peabody earlier this year. It was all illustrated in VR using touch controllers to draw in a 3D space - we developed a tool called Quill to do that.
These projects hold importance to me not only because they were cool pieces of content to work on, but also because the teams on both of these projects were defining how to tell stories in VR. We weren't just learning how to tell these stories, we were also developing new workflows and pipelines to tell them.
Prior to Oculus, I had worked on various independent VFX projects. I spent some time as a production assistant at Lucasfilm, but my career really started at DreamWorks Animation as a Production Intern on How to Train Your Dragon 2 and an Outreach Intern for the University Relations team. I met the Outreach Supervisor through a friend and joined the team later that year.
When I was growing up, I loved film and games and all sorts of media. When I was around 13, I used to mess around with Source SDK and made little films using Valve’s authoring tools. That got me into animation - using tech to create stories. The nice thing was that the tools were available for free.
When I was a kid, we didn’t have access to an expensive camera or high-end film equipment, but in a game engine, you had complete control over the scene. You could place the camera, characters, and environment anywhere. The projects that we made weren’t very high quality, but we were making things, which was the fun, and important, part.
Learning how a game engine worked carried with me along the way. Using Source SDK especially helped me succeed in making these VR projects because they were built in a similar way to a game and were made in a game engine.
My first big project going into school was a minute long short film called “Horse Herd.” That was a learning experience. There were about 20 people on the team all with different skill sets, and we were all learning how to make CG films. We worked our way through it, figured out what to do, what not to do, and broke a lot of stuff along the way.
The next project was a promotional piece for the San Francisco Giants Community Fund called “Junior Giants” - kind of like a Saturday morning cartoon. We were building content for their little league program. It was how I met Mark Droste, who I now work with on a daily basis on “Baymax Dreams” and other projects at Unity. Mark and I had absolutely no idea what we were doing, but dived into the project head first with about 50 other students, and ended up creating a 7-minute short film.
I also worked on a bunch of independent films and went to the Sundance Film Festival for one of them. That was where I tried VR for the first time. I was instantly hooked on the idea of telling stories in a new medium.
Working on a bunch of projects at school was a good way of figuring out what worked and what didn’t. Regardless, there was a lot of learning we did along the way. For a lot of these projects, there might not have been VFX or animation in them if it wasn’t for the students working on them, so it enabled us to work on cool projects and filmmakers got a chance to see their vision come to life.
One of the hardest moments in my career was when a studio I worked at for a few years had to close its doors. It was rough because we were working on really cool projects and had built an amazing team. It was sad to see everyone disperse. That was definitely one of the hardest moments I’ve had in the industry, but it also taught me the value of the teams you work with. While studios may not be permanent, you can always foster a community among those teams that will last well after the project has wrapped or the doors of a studio have been closed.
That same experience was also one of the most rewarding. After the studio shut down, we were able to continue working on one of the projects we were developing. Getting the project up and running again was extremely challenging, but It was so rewarding seeing people connect to it once it was complete, and how proud the crew was to get it out into the world.
It’s the people you meet and work with that give you your next job. It’s the people who you spend time with and know you - whether it’s your instructors or classmates. It’s important to foster that network and keep it strong. Some of the best people I’ve worked with have been people that I met in college. These people helped get me into the jobs I’ve had, or at least get me in the door. Obviously, your skills and abilities are part of the hiring process, but if people don’t like working with you or if you don’t keep up with your network, it’s a whole lot harder to get a job.
Creative industries are so collaborative and connected that you need to be able to work with the people around you and enjoy working with them; otherwise, it will take a lot of energy out of you.
Being a self-starter is really important. It depends on where you are and what university you are at, but being able to move forward without someone to guide you is really important, and not something inherently taught in school.
It’s a hard lesson to learn - there’s a fine line between keeping things moving in a productive fashion and going off the rails, doing things you’re not supposed to do. It can be hard to learn this at school when you have classes, and timelines, and regimented schedules that keep you grounded. You need to learn to be self-sufficient and make progress without the support structure provided through college and school. That will make you a stronger artist and team member.
I read Variety and Cartoon Brew, and Animation Magazine for my news on Film and Animation. I stay up to date with the games world through watching and reading IGN. I look at news around conferences like GDC or E3 to see what studios are developing which game. A lot of times I get my news through what people have shared on different feeds like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
There’s gonna be times where things become really, really, REALLY, difficult. Don’t give up - keep moving forward.
Start building your story! Check out our amazing online tutorials to begin learning Unity, or join the Unity Global Student Challenge to build and showcase your project and collaborate with your friends. If you want to share your own story, join us on Twitter with #mydevstory.