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Meet Etienne Guignard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Etienne Guignard.

Etienne, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised on a very small French Island, just near Madagascar, called Reunion Island. An amazing paradise (Google it, you’ll see)! That’s probably why I’ll always need to draw tropical stuff! I have my island in my heart! I’ve always been drawing like, always. My parents used to tell me this story: When I was five years old, I tried to climb a coconut tree in the garden… And I fell. Boom! My first reaction was to run into the house, take a paper, and draw a kid falling from a tree! I guess that’s just how I am, I’ve always needed to put on paper everything that is happening in my life.

I was very lucky to have very encouraging and supportive parents. I’ve always dreamed to find a job where I can draw, and they never questioned it. So after high school, I left my tropical jungle and waterfalls to go to Paris and find a good Art school. Big move for the small “Tarzan” that I was at this time… (And that I still am by the way!). I’m not gonna lie, this is not the best part of my journey. I spent five years in the Ensad school (“art-decoratif de Paris”) which wasn’t exactly the best match for me… But at some points, I decided to do a LOT of internships in different animation studios. And that was the best move ever. In a few months “on the field”, I learned much more skills than I did in the first four years of my school, and also… I was working very hard… so… During my last internship before starting the 5th and last year of my school, the company I was working with decided to hire me! And in the same time, I’ve been contacted by an editor to work on a comic book! So basically, I started to work in animation before the end of my school. I had a part-time job in an animation company, I had to to do a short-movie jus by myself (for my graduation) and during the nights, I was working on the comic book! What a year!

In this animation company, I met a lot of amazing people. And thanks to those contacts, I found another job, in another company, then another job in another company, then, it never really stopped. In a few years, not only I was doing my dream job… But I also found a community, a big family. Everything went very fast. And today, I am still amazed and grateful about this adventure. It all started thanks to Sylvain Dos Santos, this crazy guy that decided to believe in me during this internship job! Thank you my friend 🙂

Seven years later, after a small experience in Japan, I decided that I really wanted to travel and to leave Paris ( not enough coconuts for me in this place haha). And this is when another crazy guy came into my life! It was in 2017, I was talking with Ian B Graham on LinkedIn, I sent him my portfolio… and a few days later, Nickelodeon contacted me to work on their new show Glitch Techs (you can watch the two seasons on Netflix!!! You’ll love it!!!). It’s funny because I never really had the “American dream”… But when they offered this opportunity, I was like… “hey, why not? let’s try!” so here we are, after six months of crazy paperwork… I was in the plane! Thanks to Ian B Graham and Nickelodeon that sponsored my visa, I could start a great new adventure.

Everything was completely new for me! American people doesn’t work the same way than we do in France… I learned a lot from these new experiences. Really. This is SO interesting to discover different ways of working, to compare, to question each different culture and take the best of it!

I first worked in Nickelodeon, then I had the huge honor to work on the very last season of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe which was one of my most beautiful experiences cause I was a huge fan of this show.

In a few weeks, it will mark three years that I lived in Los Angeles. It hasn’t always been easy to adapt myself to this new culture and experience (especially with my broken English, haha) but I am absolutely grateful for the people I met, the work experiences I had, and of course, for the surf! haha

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Has it been a smooth road? Yes and no. Yes, because I was lucky enough to meet the right people at the right time. People that believed in me. We are nothing without the people we meet on the road. No, because the first years of my career, because I haven’t been in the “good school”, I had a lot of complexes and I was always comparing myself to everyone. I just didn’t feel legit. The biggest struggle I had was between me and me. It took me years to stop searching for everyone’s approval. I mean… It’s crazy how much time and energy we can loose by thinking “I can’t do that, I am not allowed do to that…etc…” There is so many crazy talented people in this industry. Everywhere. You spend your day working with amazing people, then you go home, you scroll on internet, and boom, you see even more amazing people!!! It’s so easy to feel bad.

At some point, I just told myself that searching approval from the outside would always lead to pain. it has to come from somewhere else. Somewhere like yourself, I guess? That’s another big journey and it would take hours to talk about that, but you’ve got the idea! 🙂

The other struggle I had may sound strange… But it has been very hard for me to find the right balance between my job and my personal life. Because this is not a job to me. I just do what I love and I get paid for it. It’s a passion-job. Trust me, I know how lucky I am to be able to say something like that. But the issue is that, for years, I was doing that and only that. I spent nights, weekends, vacations doing storyboards and animations. My entire life was about my job. And… I loved that. At first, I felt the same way you probably feel when you’re addicted to sport. It’s a “good addiction”. But It became toxic. Of course. And after some sad family-events, I decided to stop working for few months to take care of the other aspects of my life. Let’s say I went through a kind of rehab! And it worked well 🙂 Karate Kid is right, Balance is the key!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
My job is to do the storyboard for animation shows. It means that I receive the script from the writers, and I have to draw it. I have to think about the narration about how we gonna film this sequence. Where do we put the camera? How do the characters behave? Where do I put them in the background? I have to think about everything, and I have to do rough drawings about my idea, and if it’s approved by the director, then they send my storyboard to the animators that are gonna do the “final product”. As I like to say, my job is to do an Ikea Manual for the animators. Here is an example to understand better: A comparison between my storyboard and the final episode:

I have worked on many different shows. My strengths are the heavy epic action sequences and the heavy emotional sequences. So, let’s say I am good with heavy stuff! haha

What’s makes me proud is that I really put myself into my work. I try to make my characters real. I give them love and life. I really try to get into their skins, into their soul. And ultimately, to cry with them! Whether it’s tragic tears, epic tears, or joy tears… I’m really looking to cry with the characters and the audience! So at this point, we can probably tell that what set me apart from others is that I’m crazy? haha

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
For me, there is two important qualities:

Have fun. Really. It may sound obvious, but the highest priority is to have fun. To play like a kid. If you enjoy what you do, you will do it more and more without even noticing it. You’ll spend hours and hours doing it. And you’ll get better at it cause that’s just how the brain works. The more you do something, the more you master it. And the better you get, the more fun you have! So the strategy is to find the productions where you can tell you’ll have fun. And jump into it.

Be nice. Yeah, pretty obvious too. But think about it: Animation is only about teamwork. You’ll spend months in an office working with the same people. You’ll spend more time with those people than you’ll spend with your partner!!! So do what you have to do to make the office a nice place to work. And it starts by simply be nice to the other. Of course, you have to be talented, but never forget that we all want to work with nice people.

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