Chasing the DreamWorks Dream

The Shrek films are produced by DreamWorks Animation What more can we say about Cesar Alejandro Montero Orozco? The Digital Design grad has parlayed a talent for clear, effective storytelling and great animation – to say nothing of boundless enthusiasm – into his dream career.

Sex and the Socket – a fictional ad for compact fluorescent light bulbs that was his final project in the program – might sound dry. In practice, it’s a clever concept flawlessly executed, and Cesar was rewarded for his efforts when the project took Gold at the MI6 Advertising Awards for Best Student Marketing as well as a Davey Award.

When we caught up with Cesar after the MI6 win, we asked him what future accomplishments he’d set his sights on. His reply? “I would love to work at a place like Pixar, DreamWorks, or ILM, since they care about storytelling. I will do whatever is necessary to get there.”

Last year, in the animation equivalent of Babe Ruth’s called shot, he made good, signing on with DreamWorks Animation in Los Angeles to work as a Surfacing Artist on Shrek Goes Fourth. “I get to apply textures and surface properties to anything that appears on screen,” he explains.

We’ll let Cesar tell the story of what he’s been up to since graduating from VFS in 2006 and how he landed at his dream company.

We know that DreamWorks has been your ‘dream job’ for quite a while. What is it about the company and its work that you love so much?

Everything inside it is in balance. The life inside the company is as great as their movies. I wanted to belong to a family and not only another workplace. I like to make a person’s life better with my work. Making someone smile is worth a lot to me.

DreamWorks You went through the Digital Design program, rather than an animation program — can you speak a bit about how DD gave you the tools and experience that helped you get where you are?

There are so many things that Digital Design has helped me with that it’s difficult to be fair and select a few.

I’ll say that it helped me focus my creativity and artistic talents into attaining a specific goal. VFS helps you be a professional and not only a hobbyist. I remember that one teacher told me once, “Being a professional means more than being just great at what you do. It means you can be great under the direction of someone else. A professional musician knows to play any style that their public asks and not only the style he likes to play.”

VFS helped me be more confident with myself. It helped me realize dreams can come true!

What made you choose Digital Design rather than, say, 3D Animation & Visual Effects?

I chose Digital Design based on a strategy for what I wanted to achieve in the future. I already had a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. I was not in a position to take another four years of college in design. I knew that I could learn 3D from many sources, but the essentials of design were better learned with an instructor. Therefore, I decided to enter Digital Design and study it by day. And by night, I did my homework and then some 3D work and freelancing. It was quite challenging to follow this rhythm of life, but it paid off in the end.

In my early days of self-taught 3D, I realized that many users of 3D programs knew a lot about how to use the software, but not really how to use it to make a visual solution, or how to apply the basic rules of photography for a realistic render, or how to combine it along text for a magazine. I knew that if I was to succeed, I required something that others didn’t pay attention to – design.

Still from Sex and the Socket What role did your project Sex and the Socket play in securing your job at DreamWorks?

Technically, it showcases my lighting and shading skills. Creatively, it shows that I can think creatively. If people start asking about “why” I made it, they will realize about my passion for CG, and how much I like challenges that make this a better world. It helps me show that I’m more than a CG Artist looking for a paycheque – [it shows] that I really care and love what I do! I think that is what DreamWorks looks for in an employee, and the reason I so much wanted to work here. I knew I belonged in this place.

The question must be asked: do you find light bulbs sexy?

I find reflections and transparencies quite attractive. The origins of the story do come from a night out at a bar with two girls discussing guys, then coming back and looking to a light bulb blinking in the bathroom.

What are the similarities & differences between the design and animation communities in Mexico, L.A., and Vancouver?

You forgot to include London. Remember, I was also there!

Design and animation in Mexico is not as strong and developed as in Vancouver, L.A., and London. I have been fortunate enough to work in different countries and [see] the amazing talent of many individuals from varied countries. This has made me realize how important is to be humble, to keep growing as an artist/designer. You have to stop living by the motto of “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is the king.”

Still from Sex and the Socket Animation in Mexico is in its beginnings. There is a group of veterans who have been producing the work for TV and some feature film, which is quite closed to new influences. The new generation of animators is on its way. Hopefully they will be the ones that will transform the industry.

Vancouver is quite open to new ideas, especially new processes and mindsets to create design [and] art. It’s not only about what is done in Vancouver, but how fast mindsets and techniques evolve within this city. This makes Vancouver an incubator for new trends of design and art.

I worked at CIS Vancouver for some months. It was a great experience. I worked there as a Lighting Artist. I didn’t have a close encounter with the design/animation communities. However, I know from what I have heard that there are plenty!

London gathers a lot artists from all around the world. Things are done more slowly, but with much more care. This helps artists and designers produce a quality of work that goes beyond expectations. The culture surrounding the city promotes this mentality, and therefore it is possible for such developments to be fulfilled.

I’m new to L.A.! I still need to figure out more about my surroundings before I can give an opinion.

Thanks, Cesar! Good luck at DreamWorks!

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