Julie Baltzer

25 years old. Danish
Bachelor in Character Animation 2013-2017

I’ve never had a mango-tree before. I think it’s my favorite thing about the Pipangaï House where I live with a couple of other interns and employees from Pipangaï. The fruits are getting ripe in a couple of weeks so I can make mango-rum to bring home for Christmas.

The main perk of this internship is the location. A small tropical island in the middle of nowhere? Yes please.

When the plane descended on the narrow runway with a white beach and blue seas on one side and green, volcanic mountains on the other, Viborg had never seemed so far away. The studio had booked a cab to pick me up and drop me off at the house where I was to live for the next four months. I’d barely sat down on the porch before the guys at the house put a cup of coffee in my hand, offered me fresh passion fruits for breakfast, and invited me to a hike on the volcano the following weekend.

So I was off to a great start, and felt welcome right away.

But it’s not all palm-trees and lava, a large part of life here is obviously spent at the office.

You're gonna mess things up

It’s quite a transition to go from a 3rd year student to an intern. Being an intern as a production assistant is such an odd combination of responsibilities. No one knows me; they don’t know what I’ve tried or what I’m terrible at. So you’ll find yourself in a situation where someone is explaining something very simple to you in a way that suggests you have the intellect of a fruit-fly. And the second you manage to think “Dear Darwin, she must think I’m a moron”, lo and behold if it doesn’t flip. And they will ask you, casually, to change a bunch of stuff in Shotgun or fix up some personal files, and you have no idea how to proceed. (Shotgun is a planning software were you can keep track of shots and asset statuses in a production, so, for example, you can see exactly how far a character is in the process or which animator is assigned to which shots). What folder is it in? What Google-sheet was that again? And the pressure grows when you realize that if you make a mistake it will affect actual humans, and the co-production studios in Paris and Belgium, and everyone will think “Ah, they have that intern down there, of course the shot-page has been saved over”. That’s the moment where you feel so stupid and ignorant that you start to believe the fruit-fly could do a better job. And it might, since it could never actively mess something up.

Which you will. A lot.

Two days in a row (yes, in a row) I forgot my password to Shotgun and was too embarrassed to ask my boss to re-set it, so I just gave it around 40 tries, until my account got frozen (which I didn’t even know Shotgun could do. Shotgun: A world of un-known wonders and terrors). So I had to go ask my boss to re-open my account. Twice.

The lesson here is: ask for help. No one expects you to know anything anyway. And I mean that in a good way! They know you’re there to learn, they expect you to mess up: because that’s how you learn. No matter how many bruises your vanity might have to suffer. And it will suffer greatly, as it should.

Juggling around 5 different tasks

Another thing that’s different compared to the previous years in school is the level of urgency when people come to you with requests. If you don’t follow up on someone’s problem, that person most likely won’t be able to work. So you can’t make a nice, orderly list and sort through the issues in strict priority and take your own sweet time. You have to instantly judge how important the problem is, how many people it might affect, and what’s the most efficient way to solve it. And then you fix it. Instantly.

Juggling around 5 different tasks at one time is quite normal, and that’s without counting the lists with level 7’s or lower. By now I always have 3 different half-written emails open at once, and half a dozen Shotgun-pages pitch-patched nonchalantly across my screens with various spreadsheets in between. A collage of controlled chaos.

When I started here at Pipangaï, I was put on a 3D TV-series that was recovering from not having had enough time to make tests or even set up Shotgun before production started. The tracks were being put down in front of a train driving at full speed.

Everything got better as the planning caught up with the project. When I saw how much a lack of pre-production had affected this production, and how much it stressed out the team, I looked back with appreciation on our luxurious 4 months to prep and test before even layouting our bachelor films.

After a month on the series, I was moved so I could help with the feature, Zombillénium, the studio is also working on. I figured I knew stuff around here by now so it shouldn’t be to big of a change. Turns out a new project means new systems, new Shotgun maneuvers, and pretty much new everything.

And this is where I leave you, in the present. I’ve been on Zombillénium for a week now, and am finally catching up to the new system after a rough week with even more rookie-mistakes. The production manager is going on vacation for 2 weeks so I’m going to try to hold the fort and not delete all the pages on Shotgun. Should be interesting.

Saying goodbye to perfectionism

What I’ve mainly struggled with so far has been my own perfectionism. When I mess up I get really upset and embarrassed. I try to remind myself that I’m supposed to make mistakes, and it’s all part of learning and growing but it’s difficult.

It takes the gravity out of the screw-up’s to think about how insignificant you are in the office. If the coffee machine breaks down it’s a disaster. If I don’t show up everything will still be sort of fine. That serves as a great reminder to leave any shred of ego you might have preserved after the bachelor film at home. I try to swallow my pride and use my mistakes to improve myself on various levels. Whether it is how to handle your mood when you’re stressed or how to multitask better or even how to use a French keyboard. Which is hella difficult, for your information.

One thing I’ve learned is that I should have written my bachelor thesis and finished my Making-Of in the summer break. This may sound obvious but it isn’t. I think I speak for many a 4th years when I say I regret not writing it back in August.

I hope this was a small insight into some of the challenges and experiences as a newly hatched intern. Please take care of us out there; we’re not sure what we’re doing.

Thank you to Charlotte, Xotschil and Arnauld for taking the time and trouble to teach me how to manage a production, and thanks to the wonderful people at Pipangaï for embracing my idea for the Friday Beer-tradition with such enthusiasm and music.