Interview With Elize Ohira: How World Travel Prepares You For A Career In Animation (And Other Tips)

July 25, 2014

Elize OhiraNYFA: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and what first got you interested in animation?

Elize Ohira: I have always been more “right-brained.” As a kid I would spend hours drawing little storyboard comics. When I was 17 years old I had my first fine art exhibition, where I gained some recognition and was able to sell two pieces.

I was born and raised in Brazil to a Japanese father and a Chinese mother. Cultural differences were a big part of my growing up, making me curious to learn more about them. I decided to come to the US for college and graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising.

I moved to New York City to work as a graphic designer and after three years I felt a need to expand my knowledge in the creative field. I have always loved animated movies and was always fascinated with visual effects, so studying 3D animation was the next step.

NYFA: You serve as a member of SIGGRAPH’s NYC chapter. Would you recommend that students join the organization while still in school? If so, why?

EO: I highly recommend joining NYC ACM SIGGRAPH.

It brings the NYC-area professionals, educators, students, and organizations together through a variety of events. It’s a great way of networking and getting involved in our growing animation community.

One of the events that I benefited from as a student, and am still benefiting as a professional, is called BYOA (Bring Your Own Animation). BYOA happens every month, encouraging CG artists to show their work, whether it’s in progress or finished. It’s a great way of getting used to talking about your work, learning to accept criticism, and seeing what other artists are working on.

NYFA: How has living in five different cities around the world impacted your outlook on life, and how has it influenced your artistic side?

EO: Living in different cities around the world requires change, and change fuels creativity. Experiencing and learning to adapt to multiple cultures widens the perspective you have on yourself, on others, and the many creative possibilities.

NYFA: Having studied and worked in several different countries, are there cultural differences that dictate an artist’s job? Or are the skills and knowledge more or less universally applicable?

EO: Ambition and perseverance are what dictate an artist’s job. Having worldwide experience opens your mind and sharpens your artistic eye.

NYFA: What role did your time at the NYFA animation program play in establishing your career?

EO: Some of the greatest professionals in the field teach NYFA’s animation program. They guide you in the right direction, and help you grow as a professional. Don’t be scared to ask them questions, they are like eyes to the blind.

NYFA: What made you choose the New York Film Academy for your studies?

EO: NYFA offered a hands-on, intensive 1-year program that covered all the areas I was interested in learning in animation, and more!

One of the most exciting experiences was working with a motion capture studio. It gave us the opportunity to learn about the different mocap systems out there, and how to integrate that in our pipeline.

NYFA: Is there anything that is particularly memorable from your time at NYFA?

EO: I will never forget the all-nighters I spent rendering out my final project in the 3D animation room at Union Square. There was a lot of laughter, but also a lot of despair. You work crazy hours, but you still have fun because you are doing something you are passionate about.

NYFA: Is there anything you wish you would have known before beginning your studies?

EO: That your computer becomes your new best friend. You spend days and nights with it, and all your money on it.

NYFA: What is your ultimate career goal?

EO: Making the next Disney animated movie. I have always loved Disney movies, so working for the Walt Disney Animation Studios would be a dream come true.

NYFA: Any parting words of advice for aspiring animation pros?

EO: Be patient, don’t give up, and a smile goes a long way.