Edinboro alum gets ‘Loud’ at Nickelodeon Studios

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Edinboro alum gets ‘Loud’ at Nickelodeon Studios by Gabriel Hypes
Photo courtesy of Jordan Koch and Nickelodeon Studios

Edinboro University prides itself on having an art school they believe can stack up with the best in the country. And with the success of someone like Jordan Koch, they’re certainly making a case.

Earning his BFA in applied media arts from Edinboro in 2012, he would also depart with a concentration in traditional 2D animation. Sporting these accolades, he has been employed at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Los Angeles as a storyboard artist for the newly popular cartoon “The Loud House.”

Koch took time to talk to The Spectator about his time here at Edinboro and how it prepared him for a job in Los Angeles.

Q: How did Edinboro prepare you for a career like this?

A: Edinboro taught me the fundamentals. Introductions in art and animation, like gesture drawing, color theory and how to flip animation paper, but also started conversations about beginning your career and familiarizing yourself with the industry. At Edinboro, in addition to my animation classes, I was required to take intro-level courses to all of the other disciplines in the art department (painting, photography, sculpture, etc.).

At the time, these courses vied for my time and attention with my animation classes, but in hindsight, having the opportunity to work in a wide variety of mediums broadened my exposure as an artist.

Q: Was it hard to adjust to a career after school (more specifically, moving from Edinboro to California)?

A: I didn’t really give it much time to affect me. I graduated on Saturday, May 12, 2012, and nine days later I was on a plane to Los Angeles. Over the course of a week in L.A., I met up with contacts I had made at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, Warner Bros. Animation, and DreamWorks Animation.

I went back to Pennsylvania and two months later I packed up and moved to Los Angeles. I didn’t want to give myself time to cool down after graduating. After four years of all-nighters, stacks of sketchbooks and a drawing every day, I wanted to keep that momentum going and get started as soon as possible.

Q: Were there any professors specifically that influenced you or helped you land a job after school?

A: Mike Genz, Brad Pattullo and Jeremy Galante taught me what I know. They each drew from their own experiences in the industry and wove that into their classes. Hearing their stories about working in production (from Disney Feature Animation, to stop- motion, to “Sesame Street”) gave all the more purpose to what we were doing.

Jeremy balanced teaching and working on freelance projects, which taught me a ton about time management. Brad had a way of demanding the very best from you, while dutifully reminding you about the competitive nature of the industry outside of Edinboro.

Mike saw my passion for animation early on, and encouraged me to challenge myself and make something worth watching that an audience could connect with.

When you made decisions in your animation, Jeremy asked “why?” When you pitched an idea, Brad would say, “do it.” When you showed a pencil test to Mike, he would go over your drawings and ask, “how can we make this even better?”

None of the professors I had at Edinboro ever sugarcoated anything. They were always available to look at your drawings, and answer your questions. I had Malcolm Christhilf for 2D Design, Drawing I & Drawing II, and I remember bumping into him a day or two before graduation. He told me, “be a success story.” A little motivation goes a long way.

Q: What is your workload like? Talking with many art students at Edinboro, they seem to be busy 24/7. Is it like that now still? What do you do day to day?

A:  My workload right now consists of storyboarding on “The Loud House” during the weekdays, and working on personal and other projects at night and on the weekends. I’m not working around the clock now like I often was when I was at Edinboro.

It’s important to find the balance between work, your personal work and life itself. My day usually starts with coffee at my desk at Nickelodeon while I answer emails, maybe do a warm-up doodle or two, and then I go over the work I did the day before. Then I spend the day storyboarding the current episode I’m working on. There may be a storyboard pitch or a meeting or two throughout the day, depending on the schedule that week, but for the most part, I’m at my desk working on my storyboard. I usually leave the studio around 6 p.m. and depending on my mood after dinner, I’ll work on one of the personal projects on my desk, pick up the book I’m reading at the moment or just relax and watch a movie.

Q: What kind of connections and portfolio building did you have to make to be where you are now?

A: Networking, creating contacts and forming and keeping relationships is a huge part of being a successful artist in the industry. I started making contacts while I was still at Edinboro by sending emails and messages to artists working in the industry, and to my initial surprise, I received a ton of answers to my questions, advice, and even invites to get together whenever I was in Los Angeles.

Animation is one of the most collaborative art forms and I’ve been hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t willing to give you a moment of their time. I remember hearing an interview with actor Kevin Spacey where he said that his mentor, Jack Lemmon, used to tell him, “if you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.”

I think the most important thing for students to keep in mind with their portfolio is not whether your work is “good” or “bad,” but rather is it applicable to the industry. Studio recruiters are looking for artists who will be the very best fit for a job opening. Focus your time and attention on work that you enjoy doing, and that shows that you’re able to work in production.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

A: One of my favorite parts of my job is being responsible for the acting and the performance of the characters. I did a lot of acting in plays and musicals in high school, so I love reading a script for the first time and picturing in my head how each of the characters will act out a line of dialogue. I also love working with our crew on a team. Animation is the most collaborative art form and everyone on our crew is extremely talented in what they do. Every day I get to work with writers, directors, producers, storyboard artists, editors, character and prop designers, background/layout artists and painters and it’s impossible not to be inspired by all of their work.

Q: Many students see what you are doing now as an ending point for them, kind of their dream job. How would you instruct a student to follow in your footsteps?

A: You have to put yourself out there. You have to be willing to have an open mind, keep improving your work and above all, you have to bewilling to take risks. I knew before I graduated from Edinboro that my chances of getting a job in animation while still in Pennsylvania were severely less than if I was in LA, so I took that risk and moved across the country. This July I will have been in LA for 5 years and I’ve loved every minute of it.

People are always discouraged by how competitive the industry is. You’re competing with yourself. If you’re truly passionate about what you want to do and are willing to work hard to get there, you will succeed. Work hard, build up contacts and relationships and make it happen.

Gabriel Hypes is the assistant arts editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com. 

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