FEB 10: Valerie LaPointe-Pixar Artist

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Valerie LaPointe received her MFA from USC’s Animation division in 2007. Her student film Lolly’s Box was in competition for the 2006 Student Academy Awards and Annecy 2006.
She participated in the first Story internship at Pixar in 2006 and after a short semester back at USC, started working full time as a Story Artist at Pixar Animation Studios in 2007.  Her professional work includes:  Presto, Brave, Mater’s Tall Tales, Toy Story Toons, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, and she is currently working on Toy Story 4. 
Outside of Pixar, she is developing her own short films and recently had a drawing book published, 100 Years of Fashion and Fun.  She also enjoys traveling and teaching story to students at various universities across the world.
Valerie will present on her personal journey as an artist and filmmaker that led to working at Pixar. She will explain the work a Story Artist does in developing character and plot, along with the actual story-boarding process at Pixar, with examples from Inside Out.
Twitter: vallapointe
Valerie boarded this Inside Out scene “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” (later deleted): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmJqgn7yX60
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26 thoughts on “FEB 10: Valerie LaPointe-Pixar Artist

  1. David Nessl says:

    As I’m looking at the character sketch of Joy above automatically I think that she is the cartoon version of Valerie. Even their personalities are so similar it was quite a treat to hear her talk to us last night. I always love it when an artist is able to include a lot of themselves into a huge production. I think that Valerie just being at Pixar contributed in an enormous way to the success of this film. I’m also inspired that she is an alumni, and that she took the time to come up to our cubes and answer even more questions.

    Its a tough subject for a man to engage in when talking about gender equality in the work place. I usually stay out of any conversations having to do with gender biased in fear that I’ll be labeled as a sexist individual no matter what I say, or for asking certain questions. I also feel like its unfair to provide gender specific scholarships, organizations or opportunities that exclude the opposite gender. Some days I feel like I’m being punished for the sexism of sexist people. How do you begin trying to diversify an industry that’s primarily male by providing an equal opportunity to everyone no matter what their gender is?

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    • Sequoyah Madison says:

      Dear David,

      I don’t believe many men label themselves as misogynistic, thus leading me to believe there are probably many men who ask this question, and feel unfairly excluded. I think including yourself in the conversation is an important part and I would encourage you to do so because without really trying to be aware of women’s perspective on the matter (even if it makes you insecure) then it is hard for me, and perhaps other women, to accept your feelings that you are unjustly excluded. Women are often unjustly excluded, but because sexism is rooted in the subconscious it makes it just a bit more difficult to point at “rules”, such as the gender specific opportunities you speak of, and say well this is clearly discriminatory.

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      • David Nessl says:

        Hey Sequoyah,

        I just feel like we’re going about solving the problem in the wrong way. I’m not sure how to make a difference outside of those certain steps, like gender specific scholarships, or creating groups like the Alliance for Women in Media, but imagine if you received emails that read, “Alliance for Men in Media,” or you found out that you couldn’t apply for a scholarship because your a woman? It does sometimes make me feel like I’m being discriminated against for being male. I know that sexism exists both subconsciously and in people’s conscious behavior and because animation is saturated with men, that’s a big disadvantage for women. I don’t know…I can get over-dramatic. I understand its been, and is extremely unfair for women in our society I and want to help change that. Especially since Ariel, (fiance) deals with this ten fold in the sciences and I have 5 nieces that I wish the best for.

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    • Lisa Mann says:

      Just writing your thoughts is a step forward! Men must be part of the conversation if change is to happen, just as white people must be part of the conversation on racial disparity, and straights for gay rights. Gay marriage became legal only because a lot of (really) straight people thought it should be! There is a problem when at least 50% of animation students are female, yet a severely lower percentage are in the animation workplace and even lower are in upper tier positions. Considering that little girls watch a lot of animation, it would seem logical to make sure that women have a voice in shaping the entertainment/role models/super heros that these little girls are consuming. It’s just recognizing that we need to be aware of stereotypes and inequality behind and in front of the camera. I thought her talk was so refreshing and I applaud Valerie for demanding equal pay and her own office, dad gummit! But not all women are as comfortable aggressively seeking these positions, as she said, because of cultural conditioning. We need the guys to “get” it too, so thank you David! Valerie and Sagar both recommended the book and TED Talk by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In.” Book club time anyone??

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      • Lisa Mann says:

        And, one last thing. Please don’t forget to ask Andreas Deja when he comes to Seminar in a couple of weeks why there weren’t Nine Old Men AND Women? As you may or may not know, most of the women at Disney at that time were relegated to fetching coffee, inking and painting the cells, and “taking dictation” with the notable exception of Mary Blair. Yes, we’ve come a long way since those days, but you know that we still have a long way to go. You guys will be the next generation so racial and gender disparity will no doubt be a faded memory soon enough— I have faith in you!!

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    • Erik Dumas says:

      The way I justify scholarships and organizations that are exclusive to underrepresented groups is really pretty simple. As a white male, I already have an unfair advantage in almost every scholarship or job position I apply for. Until things get to a point where there is fair representation in the animation industry and certain groups don’t automatically have an unfair advantage over others, exclusive scholarships and organizations remain necessary.

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      • David Nessl says:

        Don’t sell yourself short for being a caucasian male Eric. You deserve the same rights and opportunities as anyone else no matter what your race or gender. Do you truly have proof that you have an unfair advantage just for being who you are? We can’t keep battling issues by creating circumstances that are similar to the ones we are trying to overcome.

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  2. Sequoyah Madison says:

    As a child I begged my mother to take me to see every Pixar movie that was released – how original right? But I also seriously idolized the people behind the stories, the ones who came up with the ideas; the ones who created unique animations that would entertain not only me but millions of other children and adults alike. Valerie Lapointe did not disappoint. Her critique to a fellow graduate and reasoning behind each critique was so accurate and concise it blew my mind; this only further solidified my assumptions of that Pixar’s story team is a mental powerhouse. As one of Pixar’s few female story leads and only story USC alum, Valerie is truly an inspiration!

    Points to remember
    • An audience understands and are accustomed to a film language – this language is reused so that audience does not have to readjust.
    • Overboarding doesn’t make a story better.
    • Push and clarify shots – what is the best way to tell the story
    • think of placing the camera when boarding for animation in places it could reasonably be in live action – the laws of gravity will probably still apply in an animation and the familiarity of perspective will not force audience to readjust
    • Exersize: Pick a scene from a movie and reboard using toys, different characters, your own characters.
    • Take an editing class, cinematography class, acting class, Steve Block class.
    • Join improv group – yes and
    • Next year move Studio Day to January so can attend

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  3. ZOEY says:

    I deeply got immersed in the happy and joyful mood from talented story artist – Valerie. From her delightful body language and facial expression, I could totally feel tremendous energy and self-achievement she gained from her career and dream. Nothing is more important than to feeling satisfied and stepping on the blueprint of imagination to make it come true successively.

    Also, I really appreciate her sharing working details and practical process with us. All these things can really help us figure out real world and operation of industry system. On the same trajectory, she mentioned about how to turn experiences, emotions, research and analysis into storyboard of Inside out. The workflow is like filtering water by pitching and printing out big scale map to see whole structure. In this way, inspiration source can find best way out to show best shot for story points. This subtraction concept is the most significant part to refine a piece.

    Alloy of knowledge and positive attitude pave a path for her confident and clear instruction.

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  4. Hey all! Its great to read this feedback and hear your thoughts.

    Thanks for having me come and speak, its a treat for me to meet you all and see the work you are doing- mutually inspiring. You are all incredibly advanced and its exciting to see the program so expanded and thriving.

    Its interesting what you bring up, at the top. I had some thoughts that night after leaving. Specifically that I wish I had mentioned how many of the men at work have been mentors to me. Encouraging, supportive and essential to my growth as a filmmaker. The Head of Story I worked with on Inside Out, Josh Cooley, really mentored me in my storyboarding and was an advocate for me in getting my voice heard. Men are essential in equality and I see the generation I am in, the men, being a big part of the change. They push back on the long standing “normal” of women’s roles. Though in some cases, it took going out of their mental comfort zone to get there.

    I was recently part of a panel at Pixar (an internal persentation within the company) for Leading Women at Pixar. Something I felt was important to mention was my family dynamic, growing up. The women in my family had just as strong a voice as the men. Every girl in the family’s opinion was just as valued as the boys’. It has had a huge impact on my sense of self and accomplishment. It wasn’t just my Mom, but also my Dad who valued my thoughts and opinions.

    PS: We have also started covering up names on portfolios that we look at in the room- for potential story artists. To do exactly that- eliminate gender, race, etc from the consideration. We literally just look at the work.

    Please feel free to email me if you have more questions or need feedback for your intern portfolio submissions. I passed my email on to some of you, and Lisa also has it.

    Thanks!
    Valerie

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  5. Evan Tedlock says:

    Valerie is an energetic, eloquent, animation professional. I can see how her skills transfer well into education via the workshops she and her partner put on. I was surprised to hear about how much the story artist position at Pixar is like the old ways at Disney. The magic of letting artists figure out the story as opposed to having a writer lay it all out is something to be desired from other more hollywood animation houses.

    Equality. This is an issue that has plagued humans for as long as we have existed. Bias is born from a natural inclination to associate and empathise with things that are like us, maybe because we see ourselves in those that are similar and therefore form an unfair favor because it feels so close to favoring ourselves. Whether or not this is an evolutionary trait to help protect the tribe, it no longer serves any legitimate role in today’s world. The issue at hand is not, we need more women in the animation industry, rather we need more unbiased opportunity in the animation industry. The fact of the matter is that women are tipping the scales in animation schools. Last year I was teaching a Junior studio course in the Animation department at KCAI and 80% of my students were women. So then, the question that lingers is that if there are so many women learning and pursuing careers in animation and film, then why is the gender gap perpetually existent? Why are there fewer women in animation and why are the women who are in animation often marginalized or discredited? Why is it that a story about the inside of a young girl’s mind was directed by a man and had only two or three women story artists on the project? I have no idea where these problems originate or how to solve these issues on any sort of large scale, but I do know that exposure is a step in the right direction. Discussions, awareness and as much understanding as possible are the medicine to help start treating this problem. If we as men in our industry can be aware of these problems and subvert our own natural inclinations to be biased towards similar people, then we can rightfully hope for a more diverse, more inclusive, more interesting creative climate for the future of animation and filmmaking. I don’t know about you guys but the movies that these older white men have been making are starting to get really tired and boring. We need new ideas, and I don’t care where they come from.

    One more note. On being a man dealing with gender issues, the first move is to take a step back and listen. I feel very strongly that if we really tried to listen and empathise with people when they speak about issues they’ve encountered, bias they experience on a daily basis and inequality in our modern world that there would very quickly be a paradigm shift in the way businesses operate. Empathy is not explaining someone’s problems away or even encouraging them to push on and ignore it. Empathy is a visceral, vicarious experience of someone else’s feelings. There is not justification for inequality so it can never be mansplained away.

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  6. YuYu says:

    Valerie LaPointe is Joy from the Inside out! The characters in her story are just energetic and positive as her. It’s great that she knows what she want to do since childhood and work hard till she gets to her goal. It’s surprising that she is barely the only woman in the story telling a team of Inside out. How can they figure out what’s a little girl thinking if they’re so less woman involve the story?

    It’s an interesting topic about why there’re fewer women in the animation industry. Not only in the animation but in others fields there are fewer women than man. We have so many female classmates who study arts at school, most of the time they are much more than man, but we don’t see them in the working field anymore. Where did they go after graduated from school? Go to their family? Why can’t they be a mom and keep their jobs at the same time? This issue is more serious in the Asia. People are too used to do the things that others told them, even the older rules which are not useful anymore. The studio I worked once cooperate a big case with China. In the meeting, I am the only woman in that group. They all respect my opinions and decisions, but I also am asked when do I want to marry, do I want any kids a lot. At first, I think maybe they tried to be nice because I was also the youngest on the team, yet I began to feel they were just testing how long will I stay in the company. I personally will stay in the industry no matter what, but I still don’t have the answer or suggestion of the lack of woman in the working field.

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  7. Katie Smith says:

    I was so thrilled to have Valerie LaPointe come to USC and hear her presentation! I actually had contacted Valerie back in 2007, after graduating from college in Virginia and was looking for advice on working in animation. At that time I felt a little lost, I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t sure how to get there. I remember when I saw her response in my inbox and being SO excited – she wrote a lengthy email back, full of fantastic advice and tips. She also mentioned Blue Sky Studios in New York, which at that time I didn’t actually know was located there. After hearing from her I didn’t feel so lost, and soon after that I landed in NY. So to meet Valerie in person, years later, and to be able to say ‘thank you’ in person was especially awesome.

    As mentioned above as well, Valerie’s own personality really translated to the character ‘Joy’ – smart, energetic, positive, and funny. The presentation was incredibly informative and fun, I loved seeing the script pages with her thumbnails on them, and her process sketches and ideas when figuring out the scene or character. We also were so lucky that Valerie was able to change her flight and stay longer, allowing for a lengthy Q&A and time to hang out on the third floor! During that time she gave a board critique to a fellow grad, which was fantastic to see how she breaks down the shots and why. Even just witnessing that I felt like I learned something, it was really great.

    Also, I had no clue that ‘Inside Out’ had been worked on by only men until Valerie came on board, and am so glad that her voice became a big part of it and that other women became a part of the team as well as time went on. You guys have hit this point already, but it really is baffling how the percentage of women studying animation is higher than the percentage of men, but then when it comes to being in a studio, it is the opposite – especially on the creative side. Typically there are also more women in production, and I’m not sure where or why these shifts happen. However, I am seeing more women on teams or in roles that used to only have men, which is encouraging. In my experience, I’ve found that the men and women in higher roles in animation are incredibly supportive of those in lower positions – male or female – as long as they’ve got the fight and desire in them to learn and put in hard work.

    Thank you again Valerie, for taking the time to come in and talk to us!! It was such a pleasure to have you here and meet you in person. Thank you, also, for offering to give portfolio advice and feedback – that would be such a great opportunity.

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  8. Shang Song says:

    I know, Valerie is one of my most admired people. I first saw the news of Valerie is in a Chinese animation website news reports, about “Insideout”, I learned about theValerie and her story. But at that time I did not know, she is alumni of USC.

    Thank Valerie for sharing her own story, and some experience.
    As a story artist, rather than “storyboard artist”, is one of my biggest dream job, I hope my first job can working at he story department in the animation company , and Valerie even in the internship period do that!!! I was very envious, she did I learn seven years of animation and can not achieve. Unfortunately, I just understand a part of his speech (my poor language), but this part for me is help me still great. I wish I could be like her, to be an excellent animation story artist.

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  9. Jing Huang says:

    Valerie is such an alive JOY! V’s presentation was full of happy and exciting mood, impressed me a lot.

    It’s good to share story with us, and her story inspired me a lot. It’s a wonderful thing that we can achieve our dream which in our childhood, and how nice that people can absolutely know what they wanna do when they grew up as a little age. But Valerie is one of lucky people. I really like drawing in my childhood, and I drew a lot. I’m a little surprised that I can be an animator now, because parents always asked me ‘what’s your dream’ in my childhood, ‘scientist’ always was my answer. Funny thing that physic is my worst subject in my high school. Now it’s time to decide what I wanna do in future, where I wanna go in future.

    Thanks Valerie, for your positive and happy presentation!

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  10. Jane G. Kim says:

    Valerie LaPointe was a a great guest lecturer who went the extra mile to stay longer and talk with us (Thank you!).She was a window into what the work environment is like for Pixar and Inside Out. Because of that I realized what I want to do for sure, though it is also something that many others want to do as well! I’ve always known it was going to be a competitive route with many talented peers, but now I’ve just been reminded of the challenges. Though a little discouraging, I’m going to take this lecture as motivation to work harder and do what I want to do.

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  11. Sagar Ramesh says:

    Having Valerie at seminar last week was a great experience! I really appreciated her candid responses, and her energy throughout her presentation. It was inspiring to hear about her path as an artist, her work on Inside Out, and her take on the creative process. I’m also a very big fan of Mater’s Tall Tales; I have very fond memories of my younger brother and I watching the shorts over and over a few summers ago, and it was awesome to hear that Valerie helped bring Moon Mater to life!

    I also appreciated Valerie’s discourse on equality at Pixar. It’s fantastic to hear about the efforts to eliminate biases based on race, gender, etc. Evan’s comment above was very thought provoking as well, and I wholeheartedly agree that the focus should be on the work and the talent, no matter whom they come from. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Arielle Zuckerberg, a venture capitalist, partner at KPCB, and champion of women in tech (a very male-dominated space, unfortunately). I found myself constantly drawing parallels between what I heard from Arielle and the discussion we had with Valerie, and it’s very inspiring to hear about so many initiatives to promote equality in the field.

    Lisa: I’d love to talk about Sheryl Sandberg’s work with you and anyone else who’s interested in continuing this discussion. Another inspiring woman in tech is Julie Zhuo, the lead Product Designer at Facebook. She, like Valerie, Sheryl, and Arielle, is a phenomenal individual and proponent of equality in the professional world. If anyone’s interested, some of her written pieces can be found here: https://medium.com/@joulee.

    Thank you again for sharing your stories with us, Valerie! Looking forward to seeing more of your work on the big screen soon.

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  12. HyeonJeong Cho says:

    Where should I start? I’d been drawing since I was very little, but I stopped for a while due to personal issue, but the motive and reason made me come back to the art is the movie that I encountered in the theatre while I was working as a part-timer, and the title of movie is ‘Wall-E’. I watched the film over and over again, watched it more than 20 times at theatres, and watched it anytime when I feel down. The meaning of ‘Pixar’ for me is, something that guides my path of live when I was lost. Well, it might be too much information about me.

    I studied animation in undergrad, and I realised I want to work in story department (as a storyboader) as I worked on my thesis. I came to graduate school to study more about this (how to visualise the idea and story into drawings), and I keep being reminded how much I love it as I’m studying it. So when I was see Valerie LaPointe’s name on the list of seminar, I was soooo excited to meet an WOMAN artist from STORY department!
    I vaguely know how the story department works but it’s good to know more detail about it, and so happy to hear that the artists have a lot of power to create the story; not just being written in scripts and translating them into pictures, but visual itself can be a main elements of creating story.

    And thank you for the sharing the story of making ‘Inside Out’. As many people pointed out already it was kind of a shocked fact for me that there were only one woman in the department(at the begging though) while the story is about young girl’s mind. How come that happened? Where have all the talented women artist gone? This is the topic we should think about, need to bring up, and constantly be aware of. This is not the thing ‘somehow’ happened. It might not be only reason but I believe that patriarchal notion that widely spreads among the society highly influenced this circumstance. A huge percentage of talented women workers leaves their career to ‘take care of their family’ and become hard to come back(not sure in America but it’s definitely happens in Korea A LOT). Why taking care of kid is subconsciously considered ‘mum’s job’? It’s getting better, but still, I think women are considered having more responsibility to (especially) taking care of children or house hold work.

    Sexism is not obvious. Even myself, I often encounter the biased thought; I consider myself as a feminist though. Because it’s hard to see, we have to talk more, and consciously try to make a gender equality. Speaking of ‘specific gender scholarship’ or gender organisation, I think it is the one movement that forcible attempt(or try) to achieve gender equality; it might not the ideal solution but I think it is needed because normally the side who obtains power doesn’t want to let it go – there’re many examples in history of fight of power (not only for gender equality but basic human right or something); nothing just happened, there’re always people who fought for making things better. If opportunities are equal given regardless gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, I believe those specific group based things will fade away; because there’d be no reason to exist at that point.

    I’m bit worried of my writing that I’ve delivered my idea in a wrong way due to my English, but it’s a great chance to speak out what I think about the issue.

    Anyway, again, thank you so much Valerie LaPointe for the presentation and the talk after the presentation. It was really nice meeting you.

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  13. Kun Xia says:

    Valerie Lapointe’s presentation was very inspiring, she is very friendly and thanks her so much for sharing her working experience and techniques. I always found storyboard is fascinating, it makes much easier for the artists to share and explain their vision with others. It also can show people exactly how the video is going to be mapped out and what it will look like. This makes it infinitely easier for other people to understand artist’s idea. Including all the shots that needed, the order that they’ll be laid out, and how the visuals will interact with the script. At the same time, it has its own advantage, which allows the director or producer to experiment with changes in the story line to have strong reactions.

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  14. Okike Franklin says:

    Valerie’s presentation was deep. First off, I appreciate it when speakers are themselves! There’s something exceptional when you chat with a person that’s real regardless of their environment or how people may perceive them. I really appreciate how casual yet salient her presentation was.

    It was interesting to see how deep Valerie’s passion for art started at a tender age and that’s now a dream of hers that came through. Listening to her got me thinking about what Nancy Cartwright said last semester; be prepared when opportunity comes knocking and always follow your guts!!!

    I believe myself and every other person in the room was appalled when we heard about how Valerie was treated after her maternity leave, which is a bit half-witted of Pixar in my opinion!!

    Hand full of HOT topic to touch but I want to highlight some. I strongly agree with Evan and Sagar, the key thing to look for is talent!! regardless of the source plus there shouldn’t be a difference in pay for two people doing the exact same job or with the exact same experience generally.

    I remember seeing a study by Ms Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard stating that; being away from work for 18 months was associated with a 29% drop in earnings for mid-career lawyers and PhDs, and a 41% for MBAs. which means, a significant amount of the gender pay gap can be thought of as the cost of having children!! really!!

    It got me thinking when Valerie made mention about “race”. A few years ago, I used to wonder if ANY African American animator actually existed in the golden years because you hardly find any or an equal amount in the mainstream studios nowadays!! like the likes of
    Bruce W. Smith, Marshall Lee Toomey, Ron Husband, Janice Burgess,Tee Collins and
    Floyd Norman.

    Floyd Norman, the first African American animator hired by Walt said; Creative people don’t care about your appearance, race, belief or gender they only care about what you can do or contribute hence your “Talent”. Norman was asked how he felt about being the only African American animator at Disney in the 1950’s ( issue of racism in mind ) and he said; I didn’t see myself as being the only black artist, but as another young artist at Disney with a bunch of other young artists trying to make it.

    In conclusion, the sad truth is, the system within will not miraculously change unless people like you, me, Valerie and everyone else on this GOD given earth continually forces that door of every form of equality open!!

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  15. Amir Arzanian says:

    Valerie was one of those artists you could enjoy talking to them and learn from their experience. She was so kind and tried to be helpful to student. She stayed until late at night and hanged out with the students. It’s a rare thing. Beside of her lovely attitude, I fascinated by her work. It was obvious how creative and professional she is at her work. I like to be a director and the way I should take through this job is became a story artist. So this presentation was really important and useful for me. It lighten some dark point of uncertainty I had to take this career. When she was talking about the her duties in her job there were exactly the same things that I wanted to do in my career. She talked about Pixar and InsideOut stories which was really interesting. I always think Pixar is the best animation company. It has always produced the highest quality of commercial animation. I hope I can a find a way to this beautiful but hard to get giant of animation.

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  16. Joe Stucky says:

    Valerie LaPointe gave a wonderful presentation Wednesday. Such an incredible look into her work. She obviously pours so much passion into whatever she does. This was also a great glance into the story department at Pixar. Story, structure, and idea is such central part of what many of us in animation do, that this presentation was so valuable. Sequoyah hit on a bunch of points that I gathered from Wednesday evening. I especially appreciate the bit about economy when it comes to story… “pick the best shot for the story”.

    Valerie’s stand in a very male dominant professional field. Truly inspirational.

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  17. Ruchia Masuko says:

    I enjoyed the presentation of guest speaker, Valeria LaPointe.

    The movie “Inside Out” was a movie that gave me strong impact.
    I really loved the acting of characters especially Amy Poehler.

    I went to see the movie with my professor. ( I took him because I thought he would love the concept of emotions. ) But we ended up had some questions about the movie. Because the mental themes like “feelings” and “emotions” are delicate and could be a dangerous issues to handle especially if those were for children. He stated that the systems how feeling are created shown in the movie is totally a fantasy and untrue, and might confuses children who sees that movie. Also he mentions that only five emotions are in their “head” is wired, and if each ones have their emotions more than one, like Joy has a feeling of sad, (Emotions also must have 5 emotions in their each heads ) only one character can control all the emotions.
    I personally think focusing on their inside, like metals and feelings might cause problems, too. And I also think “emotions” are only the shallow part and phenomenons of their minds that human can names and recognizes.
    So I was little surprised and little felt awkward that Pixar chose “emotions” as the theme.

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  18. Megan Simon says:

    Valerie LaPointe’s presentation obviously hit something our class has been craving for in our seminar’s. Here is not just someone who works at pixar, but is a graduate of our school. Someone who knows our teachers, our department head, even used the same oxberrys. What can I say about this incredible woman that hasn’t already been said? I had the joy of talking to her after class, and meeting her gave me a lot of confidence not just in myself but in the animation industry as a whole. I often felt very unworthy or inferior. Sometimes I am afraid to come to classes because of this. Talking to a woman who not only has an energy to face many challenges, but also an amazing creative mind gave me a lot of inspiration to be more confident. For me there are not many role models. Many times I wonder where my future will go. I fear what will happen if I make a mistake, or if I can ever overcome. Will I just be written off no matter how hard I work or what I produce? Will people see me as lazy? Inferior? Will they see me as untalented? If I am judged off the bat, how can I progress? If I am not given equal opportunity, how can I grow?

    What I appreciate about Valerie is that she didn’t just give us a general lecture about animation, or a girl power session. Really a lot of that came later, and I will talk about that in a bit. For her lecture she instead dove into her specific role and what it meant. It amazes me that so many people can be involved in the production of a feature, and how much of each person’s heart and soul is put into a film. Even if your exact shots aren’t taken (though a lot of Valerie’s were taken for various scenes), the influence of the artist’s ideas can truly inspire their collaborators. That is what I love about this industry. There have been times in class I have felt that vibe of people inspiring one another. How amazing is it that in animation there are some people in which their entire role is to simply come up with ideas to inspire other people or give other people ideas? That amazes me, and it is a sense of community. I think it’s important as animators to understand how to be part of a community. To not be in control of the end product at all times, and to encourage and celebrate the creative achievements of those around you. How else would these massive features be made if not through successful collaboration?

    That being said I know animation isn’t perfect. I realize that in school some of our fellow classmates might feel uncomfortable talking about this issue. It could be annoying to face something and hear about it over and over again. Or even feel attacked. It can also seem unfair if you feel you worked harder. Or that someone else got an opportunity because of their gender, or the color of their skin. The truth is that exact scenario has been going on for years, and the people who were tired of being looked over are just speaking up about it. I know as a woman I don’t want advantages, I just want to be treated equally. To when I run late not be that I am the only person people remember was late, even if 5 or 6 other people were. Even if someone else was chronically more late than I, yet no one holds it against them. I hope one day the industry won’t have such a huge imbalance so everyone can just focus on making animations. I hope as animators we see ourselves as opportunity makers. Not just for us, or people we hire for our films like voice actors or musicians – but also our partners and collaborators. I can imagine especially here given how wonderful our professors are it can be easy to not realize how much of an issue this is. It is certainly a hot topic. The truth is everyone here is vulnerable to failure. And it’s a scary place to be. It’s scary to think you will never be given an equal opportunity, or you might be labeled something like misogynist. It’s possible not everyone here will have the same success as Valerie, or even that anyone here will. Places like Disney and Pixar are exceptionally competitive and there’s a long line. Our classmates have as little power as we do. Even as I say that, I hope that one day when some of us work in the industry and look around and see very few women we will think back. We will want to celebrate the successes of others, like we can celebrate our fellow USC trojan Valerie Lapointe. And I hope we will all want to be opportunity makers.

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  19. Erik Dumas says:

    I really enjoyed this seminar. Not only is Valerie working at Pixar (probably my favorite animation studio) but she also attended the same program I’m currently studying in! This at least gives me a little hope for myself haha.

    I though she had a lot of really great things to talk about. I love that she walked us through the process for creating the stories at Pixar and hearing about how much creative control the artists can have as far as the story goes is fantastic. If I’m being honest though, her description of the internship at Pixar was pretty damn intimidating.

    I also think it was great that she touched on gender inequality in the animation industry. I’m really relieved to hear that Pixar seems to be taking the issue seriously and is actively trying to work on it. I think it’s super important that the entertainment industry as a whole is as diverse as possible. Different points of view and different life experiences lead to different stories being told, and who doesn’t want some new and unique stories?

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  20. Min Shi says:

    Valerie LaPointe gave us a great presentation, I really like her works and her personality.

    For me, storyboard is fascinating, it can easily show the way that different artists interpreted script into visual expression. Boards are the original of one’s story. When I was working on my own work, what struggle me most is the boards, I often try different resolutions to explain what in my head, only a subtle sequence even can change the whole story.
    So I really enjoyed Valerie’s experience when she was doing intern at Pixar. Very inspiring.

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