“If you are in love with art, film, and animation, you already have a sense of commitment that many people do not inherently possess. Art is expressive and fueled by passion. It is a form of communication.”
Barrett Lewis is the director of commercial projects and virtual reality experiences at Reel FX in Dallas, Texas. He joined the company when it was a small team of 25 people and helped it to grow into a bi-coastal, Golden-Globe nominated industry giant with over 350 staff members. In his director role, Barrett focuses on creating design and animation for commercials, film, mobile gaming, and virtual reality. His clients include Disney, DreamWorks, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and SONY—and his virtual reality work is seen in Lionsgate’s Hunger Games VR experience and AT&T’s It Can Wait driving simulation.
He admits that with such a wide range of projects and responsibilities, there is no typical day in the office. “My days consist of anything from designing, to shooting live-action, to having conference calls while trying not to talk with my mouth full,” he says. Barrett adds that his education helped him to discover a passion for animation. “When I attended The Art Institute of Houston, I was a fine artist who had not really spent much time with a computer. I was blessed with an amazing team of instructors who not only facilitated my knowledge of fundamentals, but clearly articulated and guided the application of that knowledge on how it applies to animation and design with computers.”
His creative work is challenging—but sometimes the biggest challenge comes from the client. “I once had a client that was not receptive to collaboration [and didn’t express himself in a professional manner].” The situation became so difficult that Barrett elected to cut ties with the client. “Just about every project will challenge you. If it doesn't, it won't be as satisfying. Be thankful that in the industry of design and animation, no lives are at stake. Getting to work on design and animation, in a comfy chair, and in an air-conditioned building is awesome.”
Recently, Barrett directed and created original music for the science fiction action game Prey: The History of Transtar. He also directed and composed for an animated short for Father Joe’s, an organization that aims to reshape how homelessness is perceived in San Diego and beyond. “For the Father Joe's short, we had eight weeks from start to finish. This included concepting, designing characters, storyboarding, editing, and animating with [just a small team].” He estimated that it would take two weeks to create the story—but it ended up taking four. “Since story is always most important, we had a consensus that it was priority.”
Barrett adds that he takes the time to recognize that each individual on his team is different and has an equally important role. “This fosters a rewarding and creative workplace. Every artist has autonomy over their part of a project, and every artist can manage their own time. This allows for an even amount of freedom and responsibility, which nourishes inspiration and motivation.” He also emphasizes that humility is important in the industry. “Celebrate others' successes, give compliments, and congratulate people. Don't compare yourself [to them]. Just be patient and be a good human being in the process, and you will be successful.”
Barrett, who in 1998 earned an Associate of Science in Animation Art & Design from The Art Institute of Houston, says that passion is necessary for anyone going into the animation industry. “If you are in love with art, film, and animation, you already have a sense of commitment that many people do not inherently possess. Art is expressive and fueled by passion. It is a form of communication.”
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