How to Get Into the Animation Industry Without an Animation Background
Christopher John Kinyon, or "CJ," has had such an interesting and amazing life. CJ has been breakdancing for over 20 years, have traveled the world, once broke his neck and became a quadriplegic then making a full recovery 3 months later, and he has even been on ABC's show, Wipeout, winning the first place prize of $50,000 in 2009. And to top it off, he's been working at Nickelodeon Animation Studios for over 7 years.
“People think of me as the mascot of Nickelodeon since I don’t hold back my extreme happiness for life”
After graduating from Foothill College with an AA in Psychology, CJ eventually found his way into Nickelodeon's machine room.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Chris Kinyon and I am the Machine Room Manager at Nickelodeon Studios. There are too many Chris’s that work in the building so I go by “CJ” which makes it easier for people to remember my name. People think of me as the mascot of Nickelodeon since I don’t hold back my extreme happiness for life and the energy that I bring to the table in the 7 plus years I have been working here.
What is your background?
I graduated from Foothill College in 2001 with an AA in Psychology. I needed a job right away so I applied at 50 different places around the Bay Area. Nobody was hiring until I found a Round Table Pizza branch that was opening in a new location in Palo Alto, Ca. I was bigger than this job, but I needed money to pay rent. I worked for Round Table making Pizza deliveries for 4 years and loved the job, but again I felt like something was missing in my life.
When did you know you wanted to be in the animation/entertainment industry and what events led you to choose it?
I didn’t really know what field I wanted to get into after High School until my older brother gave me an opportunity working with video in 1995. He got me a job where he worked at Television Associates in Mountain View, Ca where I was moving tapes from one room to another at first. I did such a great job in the first two weeks that my boss gave me a raise that brought me up to two dollars more an hour than minimum wage at that time. I worked hard, smart, and fast which lead me to become the “lead tape operator” 3 years later. I worked for that company for 6 years then they sold the company to another. They wanted me to move with the company, but at that time in my life I felt like I needed to go to school. I felt like I was missing out on life being cooped up in a small room all day seeing the same 30 people for 6 years.
What is your position at Nickelodeon Animation Studios? What does your day to day look like?
Since I’ve been so dedicated to Nickelodeon over the years they quickly moved me up and hired another worker for me to manage. I trained the new guy, took on more responsibilities, learned new equipment, and helped with the integration of the layout for the room I work in. I currently work with HDCAM-SR decks, Digital Betacams, Cinedeck, DVD’s, waveforms, patch bays, Harris routers, Avid Media Composer, and work with programs like Outlook, Amadeus Pro, Toast Titanium, Compressor, Wondershare, Quicktime Pro, Photoshop, Evernote, Filemaker Pro, Signiant, and constantly move files back and forth on our servers to get the day to day final deliveries our the door so we can air the media for you to watch on Television. I also work with live action media, animation media, run the screening in the gym for events, work on some weekend events, and work closely with Post Production on the West Coast as well as the East Coast. It’s a lot to deal with, but I can handle it. :)
Has anyone/anything inspired you to follow your passion for animation/entertainment? What/who?
My older brother called me on the phone in 2007 to ask me if I wanted to move to LA and work for Nickelodeon Animation Studios doing the same job I was doing in 1995. My brother also knew I wanted to move out of the apt I was living in since 1985 and that I also wanted to pressure my dancing career. What better place than LA? :). I wrote up a quick resume and because of the 6 years experience that I had I was the most qualified for the job Nickelodeon was looking for. I started from the bottom as my brother’s assistant and over time he got promoted to an assistant editor which left the Machine Room Manager position for me to move up into.
Any advice to someone who would like to pursue this field in the entertainment/animation industry?
If it wasn’t for my older brother getting me the job in 1995, moving to LA, thinking of me when the job opportunity opened....I wouldn’t be here. I think that LA is 80% hook up and 20% luck so keep those contacts and work hard is the best advice I could give to anyone looking for work in the entertainment industry.
Best part about being a Nickelodeon employee?
Any job is what you make it. I have a lot of fun here because I get my work done while I’m having a good time. This company has fun events from time to time that include things like Halloween contests, water guns for “Family Fun Day”, “Movie Under the Stars” where they project a movie out in the courtyard at night for the employees, Thanksgiving meals, Christmas parties, etc etc......Overall – it’s a great place to work. :)
Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
I see myself working more with editing since I’m currently taking classes and I know the digital world is among us. I’m getting married in a couple months so I’m thinking that I’ll put more time into Avid Media Composer in the start of next year since a wedding takes a lot out of someone. :P
Favorite animated film and/or TV show?
“Avatar – The Last Airbender” was my favorite show that Nickelodeon has ever aired. I even dressed up as Aang for Halloween since I wish I could be an air bender in real life, but that’s the closest I’ll ever get unless I walk into an experiment like Spiderman and obtain powers. I so wish that would happen. Spongebob is clever and very smart that comes in as my number two cartoon. One of these days I hope to be a voice over actor and I actually came pretty close to being Michelangelo for Ninja Turtles (I came in second place they said), but I’m not giving up. :)