After a career creating characters, drawing and sculpting, veteran Hollywood animator Wade Ryer explained to students at Windsor Central High School that his job is actually a numbers game. And that number is one.
“As an artist, you’re going to hear a lot of, ‘No’. But, you only need one, ‘Yes,’” said Ryer.
Ryer has heard “Yes” a number of times in his career. He currently works for the Framestore in London, animating ad campaigns. He has also worked in New York City, Dallas, Chicago, Boston and spent six years at the Hollywood movie studio Dreamworks. There, he helped design the facial features for characters in Kung Fu Panda 2, Rise of the Guardians, and How to Train Your Dragon 2.
“It’s amazing. Every time, it’s incredible seeing my name in the credits. Even commercials, I’ll be in a restaurant, look up at a TV and say, ‘Hey, I did that. I made that guy.’ It never gets old,” said Ryer.
He is also a Binghamton native who graduated Seton Catholic High School along with current Windsor CHS teacher Brendan Curtin. The two reconnected before Ryer’s visit this weekend to participate in Binghamton’s LUMA Festival.
“He asked, ‘Would it be valuable to students to have me talk about my experience?’ I jumped at the chance,” said Mr. Curtin.
Ryer talked about red carpet premiers and brushes with movie stars, such as the time Nicholas Cage visited the animation offices of Dreamworks.
“People are at their desks working on their animation and Nicholas Cage is poking his head over their desk asking, ‘What are you working on?’ People were just freaking out,” said Ryer.
He also gave the students a peek inside what it takes to bring an animated movie to the big screen.
“It takes about four years and 500 people to create a movie,” said Ryer. “On a movie you’re a member of an orchestra. The director is the conductor and you have to play his song.”
But much of his advice revolved around one theme – hard work.
“It’s not easy, that’s for sure. If you really want to work toward (being an artist), you can do it. The best advice is to master yourself to do what you don’t want to do. You might want to play Fortnite and hang out with your buddies, but if you have a project you really want to look good, you have to work,” said Ryer.
Ryer has spent much of his career working on projects through work during the day, then at night on his own characters.
“You don’t have to be Michelangelo to do this. Just be original, have good ideas and go from there,” said Ryer.
Ryer also said animation is as much a tech job as an artistic exercise.
“I’d say 90 percent of my day is coding and scripting. I never realized how much math goes into what I do. It’s lots of trouble shooting and problem solving,” said Ryer.
It’s a lesson some the aspiring artists who heard Ryer speak took to heart.
“I heard you need to know a lot of math,” said sophomore Justin Golden, who is interested in video game design and animation. “It was cool to hear him talk about good art schools. I’m definitely going to look at those more.”
But for those looking to work in Hollywood, the learning goes beyond art school.
“That’s show business. There’s lots of ups and downs. You need to stay sharp, learn new programs and work on your own stuff,” said Ryer.