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Meet Andres Obelmejias Lattanzio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andres Obelmejias Lattanzio.

Andres, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I suppose going way back, my efforts to get into my line of work professionally date back to when I was about 12 years old which was when I first began making 2D animations. I would animate stickman fights and post them on YouTube. I did that for about two years until I delved into game dev programs such as Unreal Engine 3. Living in Venezuela at the time and approaching my latter high school years, I began to study 3D animation more seriously when I was about 16 years old.

Through incredible efforts and perhaps some luck from my parents, we were able to move out of Venezuela and I began to study animation in Florida at Full Sail University. Many of the things that got me to where I am today were thanks to seeds I planted during my university. I would very frequently post my work online in public animation forums. As I did that consistently, people would recognize me and my work and I slowly gained a small but loyal following, which grew a bit after one of my animations went viral in social media and CG forums. During that time, I also made some very good friends in university that were already working professionally in the industry, one of them even referred me to my first animation job as an animation apprentice literally one day after my graduation.

My dream was always to work together alongside the biggest of the big leagues, so I felt still had a lot to go. I graduated in September of 2016, and another one of the friends I made during university was a professional artist that worked at Lucasfilm in San Francisco. He gave me the opportunity to do remote work with him and his friend on an animated Japanese TV ad during mid-September. It was a team of 5 including me, however this team was composed of a then CG supervisor at Dreamworks, an Animator at Pixar, my friend who was a Senior Modeler at Lucasfilm, and an animator from Tonko House. This was my first taste of what it was like to work with big leagues in my industry, and while the project was only two weeks long, the experience was exactly what I wanted to find more of. Immediately after wrapping the project, I actually was hired by my University in a small department, where myself and another artist directed and animated a 3D short as an ad for the university, as well as doing promotional 3D work for them. However, I started to feel a bit too comfortable working there, and I believed that after putting two years of excruciating work into college, to just work in the university would’ve left me with a lot of regrets had I stayed there.

So after four months of putting great work into that job, I elaborated a scheme with my best friend from college who had just started working at the Bay Area so that I would go there and work face to face with my friend from Lucasfilm together on a super secret awesome startup project. However, I didn’t have much money nor a place to stay, and my friend had roommates whom I didn’t want to inconvenience, so I pitched the genius idea for me to sleep in his car and take a train to San Francisco everyday to meet my friend at Lucasfilm’s local Starbucks.

Looking back, it was probably a bit reckless, but sleeping in that car and having that daily routine was probably the most fun three months I can remember in a while, and that’s the perfect type of adventure 20 years old me was happy to be a part of. Of course, my friend from Lucasfilm had no idea I put myself in this predicament, and a few months after working together he found out about it as we were bantering and he decided to help me out financially afterwards. I did feel pretty bad because I felt I put him in a weird spot and I really didn’t want to be a burden, so after a few months of him helping me, I said it wasn’t necessary anymore and that I was ok now (I wasn’t really in a good spot, but I didn’t want him to worry about me at the time and I just wanted to work on awesome projects and meet great people!) While staying at the Bay Area, he had invited me multiple times into the studio’s campus at the Presidio in San Francisco, and I frequently had lunch with his senior friends from inside where they gave me industry and life advice, as well as work critiques! Lucasfilm being the pinnacle of the VFX industry, I felt like this was the type of environment I felt the best around, and it’s still currently the bar I set for myself when it comes to the type of people and work I want to surround myself with.

However, I still hadn’t formally gotten into the industry… Or made money that year since we were all building something from the ground up. Fortunately, the work I did on that “super secret awesome project” was what I would use to apply to companies, and I got interviews and job offers left and right thanks to that work! My first real gig was as an animator in one of the top studios at the time! However, due to unfortunate circumstances, I was let go from the job four days after being hired with no chance of returning in the future.

This completely crushed my morale at the time since it was my first job, also from a company I had kept in touch with for two years prior to that. On top of going through six months of grueling interviews and finally pulling through with an offer letter. However looking back at it now, I couldn’t be more thankful for that happening, because a little over one week after being let go from that job, I immediately got an animation gig at Frame Machine TV to work on Mortal Kombat 11, one of the biggest gaming releases of 2019!

What followed was an avalanche of opportunities. I got to animate every type of scenario, characters and action that I ever dreamed of! I after finishing work on Mortal Kombat 11, I got to help out on a Virtual reality game Asgard’s Wrath, another dream of mine as well. Following that, I worked on my first live action movie Call of the Wild as a previs artist, my buddy that I worked on the animated Japanese commercial with debuted as an Anime director in Japan and he gave me an opportunity to work on his show Forest of Piano for Netflix, fulfilling my biggest childhood dream of working on an Anime series. And to top it all off, I then was hired NaughtyDog where I worked on “The Last of Us Part 2” which was without a doubt one of the most anticipated games of the decade and in one of the highest tier studios in the industry. For me, everything was zen in there. I was surrounded by some of the best artists in the world, I made fantastic friends, and I finally hit that “bar” of people and environment I wanted to be a part of, but this time it wasn’t a dream anymore. And to top it off everything happened within three years of graduating!

My adventure is far from over though! In fact, I’m just getting started. Certain details and certain projects I can’t speak about at the moment will emerge in the future. But as of now, I have to keep busy and eventually the time will come for me to reveal what else has been cooking!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Absolutely not! But if it was easy, everyone would do it, right? Getting out of Venezuela was its own hell of a situation on its own, to which all the praise goes to my parents. And during university, me and my group of friends would stay up working until 4am every day for weeks without end. However, those remain as my favorite memories from university. One time we were all working in the lounge at 3am and the building’s security guard bought us all pizza since he would always see us there!

2017 was a rough year in its own. As fun as it may sound to live in a car for three months and sleep in couches for the rest of the year, there are obvious downsides to that lifestyle… Such as awkwardly looking for empty supermarket bathrooms where I could brush my teeth in without seeming too suspicious (which is pretty much inevitable), and how I used to look for public pools so I could shower. Fortunately there was a YMCA right in front of Lucasfilm, and since I was there pretty much every day I just got a membership there, so my daily routine would consist of: Waking up at my best friend’s car where he would drive to his company and drop me off at the shuttle station. I’d take a shuttle from his company to the train station, head to Safeway to brush my teeth and get a giant $6 sandwich that lasted for breakfast, lunch and dinner, taking a 1 hour Train to San Francisco, to then Uber (Or walk) to the Presidio, swim at the YMCA for about an hour + shower, then work at the studio’s local starbucks all day where I would meet with my friend multiple times a day. Will not lie, it was fun, and I did get into pretty good shape from all that swimming and walking.

I did eventually move into a new apartment with my friend and his coworker! My parents (Who I told I was working a stable job and had no idea of my situation) were catching on that things weren’t totally ok, so they helped me split the rent with my friend and our new roommate. However, working from morning to midnight on that startup where nobody had any income for an entire year eventually wore me out mentally in multiple occasions.

On October 17th of 2017, I moved back to Florida to stay with my parents as I completely ran out of money and savings. However, after a couple of months staying there, one of my friends from Florida who remains as the true MVP of this story told me she could get me an apartment in LA so I can get into the animation industry, and that I can just pay her back once I got income flowing. Which was exactly what I did.

The biggest blow I ever took was definitely when I was hired by that first studio and was let go four days after. I felt that years of work I put in to get in there were wasted. However, multiple people from within the company were kind enough to send me words of encouragement and support after I went through that experience, and their messages of motivation were what made me keep going with my head up!

I suppose looking back through all of the bumps and hurdles I’ve went through so far, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by incredible people who I’m astounded to be able to call my friends. And through my work experience, I’ve realized that at the end of the day; no matter how big or small the projects are, the people you surround yourself with is what will make or break any experience, and for them I’m forever thankful.

Please tell us more about your art.
I do all facets of 3D animation. I pride myself on working extremely efficiently and always delivering the highest quality work I can. I don’t really like to compare myself to others because I believe everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. But I always make sure to have a great time at whatever gig I’m a part of and to spread positivity amongst my peers. At the end of the day, I enjoy my profession the most when everyone’s having a good time.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Everyone I’ve met along the way deserves all the praise. Friends, family and peers. By myself, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near where I am now. Ask anyone I’ve worked with and one thing they’ll say is that I never stop talking or asking questions! Whether it’s life advice, teaching me better workflows, business advice and softskills, I’m always looking to learn from everyone around me. Especially in these environments where I’m surrounded by industry vets with 10-20 years of experience! It’s like a goldmine of knowledge.

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