We had the good fortune of connecting with Courtney Yu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Courtney, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
One habit that I feel helps anyone succeed in animation production is the ability to be flexible and flow with the changes. Animation is a very collaborative process and relies heavily upon people’s availabilities, artistic changes that are unexpected but necessary, and production needs that may vary depending on outside factors like marketing/studio requests. With all of that, the schedule at the beginning of the day is hardly what actually happens at the end of the day! It’s exciting in that every day is different! The ability to be flexible and roll with any changes not only helps you stay calm, but also helps your coworkers feel at ease by following your collected vibe. I also recommend being as prepared as you can, but not being afraid to reach out for help. We all want to show that we’re capable people and want things to go smoothly, but in such a collaborative field, there’s no shame in asking for assistance. I’m lucky in that I’m working in a company that is very open-information amongst your co-workers, so asking for help is just sharing the knowledge that everyone can benefit from. My fellow coordinators know that they can also reach out to me when they need help and I will assist whenever I can, increasing those bonds of trust and friendship. I read somewhere that helping someone with a task actually makes you like that coworker more – something about those warm fuzzies you get from someone appreciating your work I suppose. Being helpful and asking for help is part of the great teamwork that everyone will build on their crews, with the added bonus of helping you avoid burnout.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
A bit about my background – I suppose my first step in Animation was working as an intern in the Training department at Dreamworks while I was in my senior year at Chapman. I learned a lot while I was there and met some interesting people, but sadly I couldn’t continue working there, as that was the year the PDI location closed with many layoffs. Shortly after, I started working as an admin assistant, and eventually coordinator, at other smaller companies while I worked on my artistic portfolio. Back then, I thought that my dream job would be a Visual Development Artist, or a 3D Surfacing Artist. While I still enjoy creating my own artwork and learning more about CG programs, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I wanted to work in the actual production of animation (the organizing/scheduling of shots, working with artists, and seeing the movie from a bird’s eye perspective). It’s not an area that was covered by my college program, which focused more on the trade of either Visual Development or 3D Effects/Animation. If there are any young professionals out there reading this, I want them to know that it’s ok to change your trajectory for your dream job. I get the sense from some of our media that “giving up” on an artistic dream and choosing something that may be less creative is seen as a failure, and we really need to revise this notion. You can still be creative in another role, and in fact, that artistic knowledge is indispensable in my day-to-day work. I enjoy being organized, ensuring shots are completed, helping artists resolve issues, and working with my fellow production coordinators and supervisors. Artists need help too, especially when it comes to resolving issues, knowing their deadlines, or needing items from another department. That’s where production can swoop in, allowing artists to focus on their tasks. I believe that’s what has set me apart from others – using that creative background to convey artistic feedback from the creative leadership on a project and helping artists to complete their work by giving priorities on what is needed for the next department, and ultimately working together to finish our movie.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My friends and I LOVE Guildhall – it’s a great nerdy bar in Burbank that streams games/esports on their screens and have an array of tabletop games to play. Good food, great themed drinks, and always has a fun atmosphere. I always recommend it as a must-visit for any tourists or friends on holiday.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A huge shoutout to Melissa Mabie, the production supervisor who hired me at Dreamworks! Her mentorship has been invaluable while working on my first feature film! Another shoutout to my friend Elizabeth Wheeler, who recommended me for this article and whose resilience is an inspiration.