On Thursday, Nov. 8, the Brooklyn College Art Department and the Magner Career Center hosted Digital Careers Night in the Jefferson Williams Lounge of the Student Center. The workshop included presentations from three panelists: Michael McGetrick, Richard O’Connor, and Tyquane Wright. Each of them discussed their unique career paths, the people that inspire their work, and what exactly they do as digital artists.
The first panelist was Michael McGetrick, the founder/co-president of Spark451 who has worked on motion graphics at Disney Television. McGetrick reminisced about his time as a student at Brooklyn College where he “didn’t have a lot of direction in life,” but knew he loved to create. After dreading some “heavy-duty” math classes and enjoying some of the art classes, McGetrick soon realized what he wanted to do. As he continued his journey, McGetrick revealed it was essential for him to know more about business, since his job as a designer meant making marketing decisions that could impact companies. This prompted him to take management courses at NYU, which proved to be valuable to him even as a designer.
McGetrick’s turning point in his career came 15 years into his job at an agency where he enjoyed what he was doing, but “didn’t like the direction of the company” or what the management stood for. His desire to make a change led him to make an offer to buy the company. He jokes that this offer threatened the company, and this resulted in him being fired. With nowhere else to turn, McGetrick started Spark451. Since then, McGetrick has worked on websites, digital campaigns, and fundraising for higher education.
The next panelist was Richard O’Connor, a current adjunct professor at Brooklyn College whose first credit as an animation producer was Sesame Workshop’s “Troubles the Cat,” which aired on Cartoon Network in 1996. In his presentation, O’Connor took a different approach and focused on three artists that were very important to him in his career.
O’Connor never met artist Fred Mogubgub, but felt inspired by his work on “The Pop Show” (1963) to not be “limited” just as an animator, but to be many things and use all of it in his work. O’Connor was influenced by Tissa David’s emphasis on the power of contact saying, “Animation isn’t really real. Characters aren’t really interacting or human until they touch one another.” This was something she once said to him that inspired his work going forward, such as “A Certain Kind of Love,” an animated film for StoryCorps. Lastly, O’Connor credited Kelsey Rose Stark, describing her as one of the most “brilliant” people he knows and “possibly the best artist” he has ever worked with.
The last panelist was Tyquane Wright, a BC alumnus from the class of 2006 and the Senior Look Development Technical Director at Sony Pictures Imageworks. Wright started by crediting his Brooklyn College professors that encouraged him to “expand” on his thoughts and point him in the “right direction.” It was at Brooklyn College where Wright was able to “integrate” what he learned and combine it with his own experiences as inspiration for his work.
The turning point for Wright was an e-mail from someone on LinkedIn asking if he would be interested in working for SONY, which he jokingly said he thought was spam. Wright had sent various art submissions to competitions, and although he did not win any of them, various people saw his work, including Stan Lee. One of Wright’s most recent credits is “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which premiered last December and won him an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for its visual effects. Wright, however, revealed that he did not get to work on the film as much as he wanted because he had to leave to start working on “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which premiered this summer.
Similar to O’Connor, Wright revealed he does not like to say that he only does “one thing,” but acknowledged his specific role as an artist using computer graphics for lighting, composition, and look development in various films. These roles require him “add the assets to a movie” from “a long laundry list of items” by creating shaders, making “recipes” to create images, and working to replicate glass, skin, metals, etc. Specifically, Wright mentioned Spider-Man’s web being slightly refracted and how it was his job to make sure that shaders were assigned to all assets so that the image would look good when rendered. Currently, Wright is working on an animated film for SONY called “Vivo,” which is scheduled to be released sometime in 2021.
After the presentations, the panelists answered questions and offered career advice.
O’Connor shared a story about how he got a job interview from going to school with the interviewer’s son.
“You get work to pay off your loans and pay off all your debts through relationships you had, and very often as an artist, those relationships are people that you meet in school,” O’Connor said. “You could be the most talented person on Earth, and if you’re a jerk, it makes it harder to get a job than just being a mediocre talent like me and get along with people,” he joked.
In terms of what they look for when hiring as employers, emphasized a focus on having the skills and being a team player – but made clear the value of having experience.
“Don’t worry about getting paid that much early. Go out and get that experience. There is nothing more valuable than that,” McGetrick advised.
As for Tyquane Wright, he revealed how introverted he was as a student, but encouraged students like him to express themselves more openly.
“You are contributing personally your life experiences to their production. I am still learning to do that and try to include myself into my work pretty much as much as I can,” Wright said. “Make sure you show yourself your personality.”
Before the presentations, Mona Hadler, Brooklyn College’s Art Department Chairperson, handed out fliers with information about a new minor being offered to non-art Majors in Digital Design and Production. According to the flier, the minor aims to “prepare students to pursue promising careers in fields such as Animation, Web Design, Interaction Design, Product Design, and Digital Fabrication.” This is a definite consideration for those who wish to follow in the footsteps of McGetrick, O’Connor, and Wright.