Starting off as an intern at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in the Writing Fellowship department, Garrett Prince quickly transitioned into the the world of animation and has steadily climbed the production ladder. He has worked on various shows and feature films including, Nickelodeon's The Mighty B! and Walt Disney's Winnie the Pooh.
"I always loved cartoons growing up, specifically The Ren & Stimpy Show. I never thought I would enter this as a career."
Since graduating from Chapman University with a degree in Public Relations & Advertising, Garrett Prince has worked at three major animation studios which includes Walt Disney Animation, Nickelodeon, and DreamWorks Animation Studios.
Who are you and what do you do?
I am a creative wrangler. Working as a Global Production Supervisor for the Image Finaling Department at DreamWorks Animation, I strategize, organize, and maintain balance among artists within the exciting, and often chaotic, atmosphere of animation.
What college did you attend and what was you major? Do you think this helped you with your pursuit in the entertainment industry?
I attended Chapman University where I majored in Public Relations & Advertising. I would say, this major helped in a very peripheral way. During a class lecture, the Director of Nickelodeon’s Writing Fellowship program came to speak. She became my initial contact and future mentor within the entertainment industry.
When did you know you wanted to be in the entertainment/animation industry and what events led you to choose it?
I always loved cartoons growing up, specifically The Ren & Stimpy Show. I never thought I would enter this as a career. It was only when I began my internship at Nickelodeon where I got my first taste for the industry and for production work. I immediately gravitated towards the work and the career path developed from there.
Has anyone/anything inspired you to follow your passion for entertainment? What/who?
Yes. My first mentor in the field was Karen Kirkland (currently, VP of Talent Development & Outreach at Nickelodeon Animation Studio). I interned for Karen when she was the Director of Writing & Artist Programs at Nickelodeon. It was her career and advice that truly set my course within the industry.
How did you land the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship & Festivals internship at Nickelodeon? What did you do there?
Timing and persistence. This industry is extremely competitive and I would encourage anyone looking to work in entertainment to build genuine relationships and always be passionate about any opportunities that arise. With Nickelodeon in particular, I approached Karen Kirkland directly after her talk at my school and asked her about internship opportunities, which happened to be right when she was hiring. In the Writing Fellowship Program I did a variety of intern tasks including, archiving, script coverage, and festival packet preparation. This was really my sponge phase. I absorbed so much during this internship that forced me to lend a hand wherever I could and gain a better understanding of the industry and what role I could potentially serve.
How was the application and interview process like? What do you think set your application/interview apart from others? How was the internship experience overall?
It’s hard to say what set my application apart. I would imagine it actually looked quite similar to others who were applying. I think at this stage, since experience is limited, it would be important to make sure your resume reads clearly and includes at least some job experience that showcases a work ethic. What I hope set my application apart was my onsite interview. I remember that I was very eager and excited about this potential opportunity and held it in the highest regard. I loved this internship; it helped build my foundation for where I am.
From Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship & Festival department, you moved onto into on “The Mighty B!” How was that?
That was fantastic! The crew on this project was amazing. This was my first experience in a more production related path, handling similar tasks that may have been required of a Production Assistant normally.
Did you ever see Amy Poehler?
Any advice to students applying to the Nickelodeon internship program?
Yes, definitely apply. If you do not have the opportunity initially, these roles are all about timing and the more you pursue these opportunities the better chances you have of landing something.
Any advice to students who just got accepted into the internship program that you wish you had known?
It may sound cliché, but this internship goes very quickly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the skills I was learning and the people I was meeting would continue to shape my career. My advice would be to really make the most of any time you have there.
How was the internship experience overall and what was the best part about being a Nicktern?
Everything I was able to get involved in at Nick did not disappoint. Nickelodeon is a very special place. The best part about being a Nicktern is being involved in a place, and process, that has been the entertainment of so many people growing up. Being around this environment and process was a constant reminder of how important the art form is.
After your time with Nickelodeon, you scored a Production Assistant position at the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Can you tell me about your experience here?
I was very lucky to have worked at Disney, especially on the staff of Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh housed the careers of so many talented 2D animators that were responsible for many prior Disney classics. This film really contained so much talent and was a unique interpretation of a familiar story. I assisted the animators and production staff directly, driving dailies and ensuring proper tracking and stamping with every hand drawn frame and shot. It was my first feature film experience and an opportunity to work with some amazing legends in the field. I will never forget that experience.
After your time at Walt Disney Animation, you scored a Producer Assistant/Central Coordinator position with DreamWorks Animation Studios. What did your responsibilities entail?
As a Producer Assistant I was the link between the producer and several key points of contact on the feature. In addition to traditional Producer Assistant responsibilities (scheduling, answering phones, booking travel, etc.), it was my job to ensure consistency and accuracy of all information the producer needed. A producer’s time is extremely valuable and I was the gatekeeper. I paired this role with Central Coordinator for the show where I helped set up and maintain the show calendar, incorporating the show’s numerous production meetings.
Is there a difference between the roles of a Production Assistant and a Producer Assistant? As a Production Coordinator at DreamWorks, what did your daily tasks consist of?
Yes. As a Production Assistant I’d say you’re much more involved in the production process. In my PA roles I had an opportunity to drive dailies, work with Production Coordinators and Supervisors to resolve schedule conflicts and address deadlines. I had much more interaction with the artists on the films as well. These skills were extremely valuable as I made my transition to Production Coordinator. Daily tasks for a Production Coordinator are highly involved. You’re the direct link to Production Supervisor and maintain updated information from daily check-ins with the artists on your team; information that is sought from you often. I saw Production Coordinator very much as a Production Supervisor in training role. I maintained a tracker and worked to take over several responsibilities. You have an opportunity in this position to take on more because you’ve built trust as a Production Assistant. This is your time to learn more about the production process, but also gain experience without being fully responsible for the team, like you are in the Supervisor position. I would say I learned the most as a Coordinator for a variety of departments.
Usually after being a Production Coordinator, the next step is becoming a Production Manager, but you ended up taking a different path. Now, you are a Global Production Supervisor, Image Finaling at DreamWorks Animation. Why did you decide to go this path and how?
At DreamWorks the typical production path was a bit different. A Production Coordinator would normally shoot for a Production Supervisor role next. This role adds more responsibility and Production Manager interaction, but also focuses on a people/team management component, which you would not have with the coordinator role. I chose this department path because Image Finaling was not only unique to DreamWorks, but was unique to the Redwood City studio specifically. Since this department handles requests from all projects, including marketing, I saw this as an amazing opportunity for growth and experience.
What do you do as a Global Production Supervisor and what does your day-to-day look like? Any advice for someone who might be interested in pursuing a position like this?
A Global Production Supervisor role is an incredible macro view of what’s involved in a feature film. As a supervisor for the Image Finaling department, I strategized the workflow and schedule for every feature, short, and marketing component that may hit our department. I worked with production managers, studio executives, and marketing heads to determine staffing, shot deadlines, and long-term projections. My day-to-day consisted of maintaining artist priorities, implementing project deadlines, and weekly reporting to continue the success of our department and goals. It was important I stay aware of any changes or reported and potential concerns I saw. If anyone has an opportunity to take this route, I would highly recommend it. Working in the department expanded my interactions within the studio, but also gave me an insane amount of context for what is involved in our filmmaking. I also had the opportunity to work with our India studio on two features, which was a huge plus.
Having worked at the PDI/DreamWorks office for several years, how do you feel about it shutting down?
This was a devastating experience. Many of the people who worked there I consider family. Whether we worked on projects together, ate lunch together, or passed each other in the halls, PDI was an incredible group of talent and hardworking individuals that all gave many hours of their lives to that studio. The only positive thing about the closure was the fact that it solidified how truly important everyone was to each other and how much we cared about the same things.
What are the cultural differences between the three major animation studios you have worked at: Nickelodeon, Walt Disney, and DreamWorks?
I would say the cultural experiences at each studio were similar in the sense that everyone involved in a production cared about the end goal, not only for the team they were on, but for the project as a whole. I was at DreamWorks the longest and had the most experience in a variety of roles there, so it’s hard to compare all three evenly. However, having been involved with the other studios in different capacities I can say that the sense of community and friendship is consistent. I’m still in touch with people from all three studios and the fun and crazy experiences one shares when involved in making a film are present at all three.
Thank you Garrett, for letting me interview you. I wish you the best of luck at Dropbox as Project Manager, Black Ops.