After scoring a Production internship with Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Tiffany Chiu quickly worked her way onto one of the biggest animated TV shows of 2014, The Legend of Korra, where she worked closely with none other than the creators of the show, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino.
Before her time with The Legend of Korra, Tiffany, like many other talented students, had no idea how to break into the animation industry. She had always enjoyed watching cartoons, drawing, pretty much anything that involved creativity, but it wasn't until high school when she found out that she can do this for a living. Tiffany's SAT teacher told her of a designer friend who worked on Star Wars.
"[H]e opened my eyes to the many opportunities available to work as an artist in the industry."
With this new ambition and determination to break into the animation industry, Tiffany decided to study at California State University of Fullerton and received a BFA in Animation before making her animation career debut at Nickelodeon Animation Studios.
You started off as an intern for Nickelodeon. How did you find out about Nickelodeon's internship program and how was the application process?
I found out about the internship when I was a member of our school’s animation club called Pencil Mileage Club. The application process was very simple. I just submitted my resume and a cover letter online, but I did not hear back for an interview until a month later. Nickelodeon gets thousands of resumes so I knew it would take a while.
As a "Nicktern" what department were you a part of and what did a typical day look like for you?
I was a Production intern on The Legend of Korra during the Fall 2013 term. A typical day for me was to provide assistance to my production manager or producer with various tasks. After I finished all the assigned tasks, I would ask around to see if any other members on the show needed my assistance. Occasionally, I would attend classes and fun special events offered as a part of the internship program. In my spare time, I would often schedule meetings or interviews with [employees] I wanted to meet and to learn the experience of the people working in the industry.
How was the internship experience overall?
It was awesome. No other way to describe it. I met so many people, made new friends, and learned so much about the animation industry. It only made my passion and knowledge in animation grow.
Any advice to students applying to Nickelodeon?
Your resume and cover letter are really important. Ask your friends, classmates and/or family members for feedbacks on them. It’s very important to understand that it is okay to ask for help when needed. You should always have the same attitude at a work environment because it is better to ask for help than to act like you know what you are doing and end up making a mistake.
How is the culture at Nickelodeon?
Everyone is super friendly and we all have the same desire to produce nothing but the best and Nickelodeon will always continue to maintain it that way.
How did you make that transition from an intern, to a full time employee at Nickelodeon?
As my college career and internship were both coming to an end, luckily a position for an Executive Assistant on [Legend of Korra] became available. My team members encouraged me to pursue this opportunity; I immediately applied for it and was accepted. I was fortunate the opportunity came when I needed it. In most cases, to get a job in this industry requires much patience.
You became an Executive Assistant for the Legend of Korra!? That must have been an exciting show to work on. Can you tell me about that experience?
It was super exciting and definitely a once in a lifetime experience. To this day, I am still amazed I got the opportunity to work on that show. I have been a big Avatar: The Last Airbender fan for as long as I can remember and getting the chance to work with the creators of that show was a huge learning curve for me and a great step into the animation industry. The experience definitely opened my eyes to TV animation production in a way I had never viewed it before.
What can someone expect an Executive Assistant to do?
Basically manage the executive’s calendars, taking messages, and coordinating meetings. In a nutshell, be a proactive administrative support to the top executives and the team.
How was working with the show’s creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino?
Bryan and Mike are GREAT people to work with. I never felt like my job were those typical assistant jobs where I would do whatever the boss told me to do. They treated me and everyone else on the team with equal respect and I felt like I was more wanting to help them with the amount of workload and pressure they constantly had than me just doing my “job.” I was very happy doing it. They were not only my bosses but also my mentors and I learned so much from working with such respected individuals in the industry.
Was the Legend of Korra a tough show to work on?
I do not think “tough” is the best word to describe it. Although this project is challenging at all levels (pre-production to post production), seeing the final product makes the experience well worth the effort. Everyone on the team was like family; we help each other in need.
What is your favorite animated film and/or TV show?
I love too many animated films and shows. But my top picks would be Finding Nemo, Gargoyles (Disney TV Series), Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Has anyone or anything inspired you to follow your passion for animation? Who or what was it?
Oh man… ALL of the artists/creators behind my favorite animated movies and television series are huge inspirations. Also, all of my college art instructors and co-workers are definitely inspirations for my passion as well. They all showed me that being able to bring out your creativity and imagination to life for the world to see is something very inspiring and something I would love to be a part of.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
To be character designing for an animated feature film or animated television series.
What is your dream project?
Definitely to create and produce my own animated show. But getting the opportunity to character design for an animated film is already a dream to me.
What has been your proudest moment?
Seeing my name in the end credits as part of the team that brought this great show to such a wide audience is one of the most satisfying moments in my career.
Thanks to Tiffany Chiu for letting me do this interview. She is extremely talent and a joy to work with. Any studio would be lucky to have Tiffany as a character designer.