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Jennifer Ely’s Experience as a Mentee

JenniferEly_1Jennifer Ely was one of our very first mentees who got to meet with Kathy Altieri and we finally got to meet Jennifer this past November at CTN.  And the best part was Jennifer finally got to meet Kathy face-to-face too!  She had amazing things to say about the program and how working with Kathy was life changing.  Here’s what Jennifer had to say:

The Motivarti Mentorship Program changed my life.   For less than a fourth of the cost of a typical class at the art schools I have attended, I got hours of one on one time with a professional with more experience that Walt himself could shake a stick at!

I attended CTNX in 2011 having recently decided that visual development for feature film animation sounded like the best job in the world!  Victoria Ying and Mike Yamada had a table with prints and things for sale and as I was looking at their displays, a bright green square caught my eye.  I picked it up and made a note to look it over later.  It was dumb luck that found me pouring over the Motivarti website where applications for the very first round of mentorships had just opened!

Looking through the list of possible mentors I was overwhelmed!  I saw so many names I recognized, these were people I knew and respected with incredible projects under their belts and a world of knowledge! Any one of them would be amazing just to have a simple conversation with!  When I came across Kathy Altieri, I knew I had found my mentor.  I had just seen a video where Kathy talked about her role as Production Designer on How to Train Your Dragon, one of my favorite films of the past many years.  Kathy was the first artist hired at Dreamworks, with a trek at Disney before that.  She’s an expert in color and just about everything else I was looking to learn…  but the real thing about Kathy is that she will give it to you straight.  I knew going in to work with her would be a real push, and that’s exactly what I needed.

I was beyond shocked and entirely THRILLED when I got my acceptance email stating that Kathy herself had chosen to work with me!!  I cannot express the joy that was working with her!  I wasn’t sure at first how it would go…  It was so free form.  I spent some time trying to figure out exactly what I wanted from my time with Kathy.  We met for the first skype session and she was energetic and positive and completely at ease, which in turn put me at ease right away.

Over the next several weeks we got into a rhythm.  It always started with questions, I would come to the sessions with a pile of things I wanted to know, and Kathy would answer and give me entire new things to think about.  We talked about my work in a very honest way and set some goals for the progress that she expected to see by the end.  Kathy has a way of getting right to the heart of what is not working.  She has the rare ability to explain that something you’ve done is not working in a way that has you utterly excited to give it a second, third, or even a fourth go!  In addition to feedback on the work, we talked a great deal about the working environment at a studio, what to expect, how to get in.  Kathy taught me not to neglect the personal and social aspects of working in this industry.  Our goal was to land me an internship at an animation studio, big or small…  just something to get my foot in a door!

After back to back internships, I was recently hired on as a Production Assistant in the Art Department at Laika, the studio that created Coraline and the more recent Paranorman.  I use the skills and the ideas that Kathy taught me every single day.  Working with her had a huge impact on my work and my understanding of this industry.  To this day she is a kind and thoughtful mentor who always has time for a quick shout or a question.  Or even some lunch and a cup of coffee!  We met at CTNX this year and had a blast catching up in person for the very first time!  I feel incredibly lucky to consider her a friend and I truly believe that the Motivarti Mentorship Program was a life and career changing experience that I cannot recommend highly enough!!

One last thing–  If you work with Kathy, be self motivated.  This probably goes for all the mentors, but Kathy is incredibly busy and hard working.  The knowledge and the willingness to share is there for you!  Make it easy and pleasant for them to give it by preparing for the sessions and knowing what you are looking to get out of the experience.

Thanks so much to Jennifer for the beautiful write-up!  So happy to hear how Motivarti has helped you grow as an artist and all your hard work is paying off!  Congratulations!  It’s well deserved.

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