Industry Giants Conference brings animation to life

“Today in our portfolio review we a saw a young lady who said that last year they just slammed her and she took it all to heart and [she] had viewers today that said her portfolio was amazing,” said Vince Sidwell, co-chair of the animation collective A Bunch of Short Guys.

The group sponsored the 17th annual Industry Giants conference, which took place at Gilley’s in Dallas on Sept. 21. The event brings local animation, film and gaming students and professionals together with industry experts who share their experiences with aspiring artists. It coincided with the Big D Design conference which took place Sept. 19 – 21 at the same location.

“We want to educate and inspire and build a community of artists and that’s we been doing for 20 years,” said Will Nicholson, president of the guild. “We started out as a group of people who just wanted to make a short film, an animated film.  It turned out that we weren’t as good at making a short film as we were at meeting and talking about it. So, the name A Bunch of Short Guys means a bunch of guys who want to make a short [film].”  

A Bunch of Short Guys formed in 2000. The hosted the first animation, gaming and special effects forum in 2002. Games became part of the program in the years that followed. 

John Pomeroy displays his work in the Artist's Alley at Industry Giants 2019.

John Pomeroy displays his work in the Artist's Alley at Industry Giants 2019.

The speakers of the conference shared their stories of how they became professional artists, animators and game developers. There were some commonalities among the speakers who were all passionate about their craft. 

“Passion always wins out,” said John Pomeroy, president of John Pomeroy Productions about his career in the animation industry. “Learn what you love,” recommended Mark Simon, storyboard artist for the “Walking Dead” television series, on finding a focus within your field. 

“People respond to stories,” Simon said. Frank Abney, an animator with Pixar Studios recommended artists put themselves into their work. “Tell your truth,” Abney said. “As artists we want to connect with people.” 

The speakers also recommended aspiring artists be assertive in their pursuit for work and never stop learning. 

Grace Liu, lead artist at Airship Syndicate, encouraged young artists to learn to work with feedback. “The first step is always the hardest,” she said and told the attendees to never lose hope in pursuing their careers.

In addition to the conference, the event featured Artists’ Alley where several artists displayed and sold their work. A figure drawing class and a portfolio review session also took place and offered attendees the opportunity to get feedback on their work from industry professionals.