APRIL 13: Buck Creative Director Joe Mullen and 2D Lead Animator Laura Yilmaz

Buck is a design-driven production company comprised of an integrated collective of directors, producers, digital artists, graphic designers, illustrators and animators, who believe in the power of collaboration—the special alchemy that only happens when working together toward a common purpose. Buck has offices in LA, NYC, and Sydney.

Joe Mullen is the Creative Director at Buck L.A.. He is a designer, animator and director. He’s been involved creatively with many of Buck’s award winning projects for the past ten years, including Goodbook’s Metamorphosis, Childline NSPCC, Google Offers and Facebook Factory. He received a BA from California Institute of the Arts.
Joe will talk about Buck’s general process creatively, including how mixed media work fits into their process.

Laura Yilmaz is a 2D lead animator and art director at Buck Design (LA). Prior to Buck, she freelanced at numerous commercial studios around LA, including Mirada, Logan, Psyop, and Royale. Her personal films have been screened in festivals around the globe, including Animafest Zagreb, TAAFI, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Animation Block Party, and the Seattle Film Festival. Her USC MFA thesis Places Other People Have Lived was awarded Best Animated Film of the 2012 Black Maria Film Festival, a Spirit Award at the 2012 Seattle Film Festival, and was a featured as a Vimeo Staff Pick and semi-finalist in the 2012 Vimeo Festival Awards. Laura holds a BA from Harvard University and an MFA from the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts, USC (2010). She is also a Hench-DADA adjunct professor.

Laura will speak about how to brand and present a portfolio with a broad mixed media background to make oneself marketable in the commercial animation world.

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18 thoughts on “APRIL 13: Buck Creative Director Joe Mullen and 2D Lead Animator Laura Yilmaz

  1. Megan Simon says:

    What a mind blowing presentation from Buck! I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face with a reality check and at the same time given tons of motivation to get working. Bucks work is incredible! I adore their way of making mixed media look so polished! I had a lot of uncertainty too of what constitutes as a good reel or good portfolio and buck made it so clear. Looking at their videos I’m seriously inspired to try new things and focus on creating a polished look. They really broke down for me not just their process of working, but also a way to understand why skills of mine are core and what are bonus. This helps me a lot think about my future and I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful presentation!!


  2. Yu Yu says:

    BUCK combines 2D, 3D and stop-motion animation together very well. I love the way that they tried to make their works look organic even it was made by 3D. It’s especially smart that they organize their style and the look by using the specific colors. So that they can use all kinds of animation skills in one film and still make the tone consistent. I especially love the transitions they made. Even they used the woods stop motion, they can still find the way the transit them to another frame softly.

    The suggestions of making the reel and personal website are really useful as well. It’s nice that Laura Yilmaz reminds us not to put everything on the reel. The point in not only about what can we do, but what we want to do in the future.


  3. David Nessl says:

    Buck Studios produces a lot of very beautiful visual music pieces. I thought that the presentation was informative and it was great to have some insight on how to present yourself in the industry. I wonder what BUCK stands for? I also really liked Joe’s beard and wish that it was a requirement that all men grow a beard if they begin working in animation. Men should grow beards and women should die their hair in fantastic colors like our fearless leader Lisa Mann. I would go as far as saying men should die their beards, but then women dying their hair wouldn’t be as cool.

    I also propose that all animation companies be required to create one completely ridiculous commercial, funded by the government, and broadcast on all network TV stations for April Fools day. If I had the money I would pay for a commercial that advertises dog brain waves and how owners could tap into their dogs thoughts only if they purchase vanilla ice cream. If you have gotten to the end of this blog post please state your own ridiculous commercial idea. Toodles.


  4. Shang Song says:

    What I learn from this seminar:

    1. Translating Mixed Media Work into a Professional Skillet:

    (1)Know your audience:mixed media work is a rare treat in a studio setting.

    (2)Demonstrate a strong traditional skillset, with at least 1-2 core specialities.

    (3)Demonstrate the ability to work in a broad variety of styles.

    (4)Properly differentiate between ” core ” skills and ” bonus ” skills.

    2. Core Skills versus Bonus Skills

    — A “core”skill is used on a day-to-day basis in the workplace.

    — A “bonus” skill is used once in a while on special projects.

    2D Core Skill: design, illustration, animation(cel/AE), compositing, typography, storyboarding

    3D Core Skills: generalist, modeling, rigging, lighting, texturing, animation

    2D/3D Core Skills: mograph generalist, AE/C4D,design

    Bonus Skills: stop motion, fabrication/crafting, studio art, experimental work, live action/photography

    3. Presenting Your Work

    Animation Reel:

    — short and sweet, aim for around 1 minute.

    — show range, but with a core skill through line.

    — each shot shows new information or new challenge.

    — should feel dynamic, well-paced, fun to watch.


    — clean and easy to navigate.

    — 2D design, illustration, boards, or viz dev.

    — provide behind-the-scenes contest for projects.

    —supplement with less formal sketch blog or tumblr.


  5. Katie Smith says:

    I really enjoyed seeing Joe & Laura’s presentation for Buck. The work they create is SO cool!! I loved the mixed media aspect of it, and how it’s a giant team process to build and execute. Their team is made up of ridiculously talented people, who think way outside the box and have the ability to turn around these visually awesome commercial pieces in a short amount of time. It really blew my mind watching their presentation, and I also appreciated the advice they gave and to see the portfolios of some of their recent interns. It was pretty eye-opening to see the talent they’re looking at and looking for, and gave me a kick in the rear to strive to push my work and create more pieces that hopefully might one day constitute a call back from Buck.

    My ridiculous commercial idea would be to play the theme music from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, and then it would just be a giant close up of a burger (made out of clay, gotta go with claymation) that slowly comes in to frame – kind of like one of those slow-mo shots of a planet. Once the theme music gets to that “bah BUHHHHHHHH… bah-bum-bah-bum-bah-bum” drum part, the voice over would say “EEEeeeeAT IIIiiiiT.” And camera goes to black. The end!


  6. Sequoyah Madison says:

    BUCK has so much jaw dropping, mind blowing, awe evoking work!

    I learned from BUCK is that applying for a job is like dating. They don’t want to see anything that makes them doubt you while they are considering to make you a partner. No one wants to read your entire biography or watch your 10 minute demo reel when they haven’t decided if they even like you yet. Present a solid persona and body of work that feels cohesive as a whole but dynamic in parts. Once the foundation is solid, add bonus skills. Demonstrate that you know what they want by giving them what they ask for. Be fun to watch. Make your intentions clear… I am a 2D animator looking for a 2D animation job. Don’t repeat yourself… if you repeat the same anecdotes or capabilities it gets old reel fast.

    Research the company you are applying for. Wouldn’t you want to know if you are dating a psycho or narcissist? Odds are if you don’t like the person/the company they probably won’t like you either, so why waste your time or theirs. Different companies have wildly different suggestions and tips. Some studios are irritated by musical reels, while BUCK suggests that music can help with visual cuts and formatting. AMAZING SUGGESTION!

    I give BUCK’s presentation eight fingers and two thumbs up! The only thing I would have wanted to see is at least one example of a female intern portfolio, so I can pretend hope is not lost.


    • Laura Yilmaz says:

      Hi Sequoyah – just wanted to quickly reply, since you brought up a good point about the three sample portfolios all being from male interns. I actually thought about that when I was making the presentation, but I decided to show those 3 not just because they’re super talented, but also because they have 3 very clear and different approaches to their portfolio/websites. Looking back it may not have been the best choice, considering the “women in industry” theme of the week (which I only found out about the night of the presentation, whoops…). Anyway, I just want to say that Buck has had a ton of really fantastic female interns, many of whom have since been hired as staff. There’s lots and lots of opportunities for talented women in this industry, and especially at Buck!



  7. Evan Tedlock says:

    It was really nice to hear from some professionals working in this area of animation. Motion Graphics is relatively new but it’s been on my radar for a little bit. I’ve been watching BUCK’s work for a good little while now, I’m especially fond of their Good Books spot! It seems like they get to work on wildly different spots every single day. Not a dull moment to be had. The collaborative nature of the studio is also really inspiring. That probably adds to the wonderful variety and speciality that each of their pieces have.

    Laura’s explanation of how to present yourself as a multimedia artist was super helpful and really interesting. It totally makes sense too with her differentiations between core skills and bonus skills. A company still has to be able to use you 95% of the time when you’re special mixed media skills aren’t necessary.

    It was a great presentation by these two and looks like an amazing place to work!


  8. Erik Dumas says:

    I think it’s safe to say that I’m not alone in saying that Buck’s work is pretty fricking cool! Since, I’m sure they already know how great their work is, I’m not really going to dwell on that bit. I think the way more informative part of the seminar was their insight into the industry and what it takes to break into commercial animation. While I wouldn’t say that commercial animation is my dream job or eventual end goal, I’m definitely not going to rule it out as an option.


  9. Bryan Lee says:

    It was a pleasure to see the creativity and ingenuity that comes out of BUCK’s studio. I really enjoyed how most of their work was a blend of multiple mediums and carried a lot of personality and heart into their work. It was interesting to hear them talk about balancing reality versus our own individual artistic visions, and helped give me more perspective into the realities of the work industry. But, overall it was a positive experience and super neat to hear how to better prepare our portfolios and what exactly BUCK and other studios may be looking for in our work.


  10. Sagar Ramesh says:

    Really enjoyed Buck’s presentation during Talent Week! I’ve been keeping track of their work for a while now, so it was fun to hear about their creative process from Joe and Laura. For a while, I was under the impression that working in mixed media meant sacrificing stylistic consistency, but Laura’s presentation definitely highlighted that consistency may not always be that important. It was cool to see what other interns had done before they got to Buck, and the studio’s work was as exciting as it was inspiring. Looking forward to seeing more pieces from them soon!


  11. HyeonJeong Cho says:

    BUCK’s works are so fun, I can tell that people who participated in project had so much fun through their work! I always love using different media to express what you want, animation and advertisement are actually all about “What you want to tell and how to tell” I believe. Buck’s work are made with amazingly talented people with creative idea, the good vibes that works have made me excited while I was watching it.

    And thank you for an awesome tips for how to preparing portfolio. Seeing the website of interns are eye-opening experience for me, I can see why they got picked. The tip Laura mention that having 1-2 core specialties and bonus skills are important totally makes sense, it’s something easy to forget about when I’m (personally) in academia, there’re so many things that I want to learn, so I sometimes lose what is my ‘core skill’. It was a really good reminder for myself.

    Thank you Joe and Laura for sharing great works and processes, and tips. It was really helpful!


  12. Okike Franklin says:

    Bucks presentation was a bit unique. I find how confined their work space is to be extremely fun and productive.They make Practical animation look easy and fun.
    Joe was able to show the strength and importance of mixed media and I must say, that’s why BUCK stands out!
    Laura made a number of important points but the one that stood out to me was differentiating between your core skills and bonus skills. Prior to that seminar, I regarded my core skill as being a CG generalist but I think I’d have to break that down some more.
    In all, it was entertaining and informative.


  13. Amir Arzanian says:

    This seminar class for me beyond interesting was nostalgic. Joe’s presentation reminded me of my old day in motion graphics. By those day we were doing all the crazy stuff like Joe described. Lot of mixed media and alternative ways to animate. As Joe said it rarely happens to have special projects with really creative taste, most of the time commercial projects are technically boring and they are like routines. I think in motion graphics a well-designed, good looking project is more important to the customers than have a creative concept behind it.
    Lara’s presentation was really useful and informative. She mentioned some important points that I have not known before. Her presentation helped me to revise my demo reel.


  14. ZOEY says:

    It was very interesting and inspiring seminar from Buck. I like the concept they did their group projects. They put much emphasis on strong visual designs and graphic styles. For me, I can feel they pursue very unique, experimental and artistic completeness which also let them establish a clear direction with their brand. It’s optimal to see how they create high quality commercial design animation within very short period of time and limited budget. Also, Laura pinpointed some very precise idea about how to really transmit ideas through websites. It’s really helpful for me.


  15. Jing Huang says:

    Buck gave us a very useful and funny presentation. They showed us a lot of amazing works they did and these works attract me to join them. I was super interest in their art style, it is simple graphic but presents strong visual effect. The color they use is bright and cute, make people feel exciting and happy. The second part they provide super useful knowledge about portfolio and resume to make me know how to apply a internship in much more efficient way. I do really look forward to work with these talented artists.


  16. Yingzong Xin says:

    It was really an interesting and inspiring presentation from Buck .The concept design they did for group projects are fun to look at.It’s helped me to learn more about the mixed media and I am very interested at it. For so long time I has been stuck in the between of 2D and 3D animation forms ,but now I know there are still lots of way to do animation and still be creativity.I’d love to try it someday. Thanks to Lara, this was a really helpful presentation.


  17. Min Shi says:

    Really enjoyed Buck’s presentation. One thing that is most inspiring is that Laura mentioned the way that how we can show our works. Like, our animation reel can be short, around 1 min, also show different range, besides, each shot should show different information and tasks. Other thing is about the website, better to be clean, easy to navigate, it should conclude illustrations, storyboards, 2d designs and other works, and also show the processes of each work.
    After this semester, what I really want to do is to organize my website based what Laura mentioned today. Really appreciate that Lisa invited them giving us so many informative experiences and suggestions about our portfolio. Thank you!


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