Storyboard Artist Carlos Romero’s 3,000 Mile Gamble for Career Success: ‘Minions’ and Beyond

Forget distance getting between you and your dreams. If you’re driven enough, you’ll travel as many miles as it takes to start your career. For Carlos Romero, 3,000 miles, to be exact. To pursue his calling as a storyboard artist, Romero moved from New York to California.

As a young kid in New York City, animation had an immediate effect on Romero, and he knew he wanted to become part of that world.

“From as far back as I can remember, I was always drawing and creating characters, getting inspired from the animated cartoons and movies I’d watch,” said Romero. “I remember Charlie Brown being my earliest influence and inspiration.”

He noted that the first “coherent” story he developed was during the third grade, titled “The Lucky Coin,” about a young boy who turns his luck following the discovery of a lucky coin.

“It was my first coherent story with my own characters and ideas, and I was encouraged to do more things like it,” he added.

In fact, he did more things like it. But in order to develop a career in the business, Romero realized New York wasn’t the best place.

“Most of the industry was in California, and I had to study and learn there to have a shot at getting in,” said Romero. “So I always kept that goal in mind as something to give me the strength to make it on my own away from home.”

The move was a necessity for Romero after he was accepted into the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). It was difficult to leave his family, his mother was especially unhappy with the move, but Romero knew it was something he had to do in order to pursue his passion for animation.

Arriving in a new place and knowing no one was difficult for the native New Yorker. But there was a light at the end of tunnel: Romero bonded with people who had the same interests as him.

“Arriving at CalArts and meeting people who shared the same love and enthusiasm for the craft as you made it an extremely special, nurturing place. There was something to be inspired by from everyone, in a home full of artists who shared a love of animation. It was a really enriching experience to interact and grow with so many creative people both through success and hardship,” Romero explained.

During his first year at CalArts, Romero completed his first animated project, “Leonardo’s Chase.”

“I learned a lot making that film, but it was an extremely rewarding experience,” noted Romero, as the short-film showcased a cat stealing a boy’s fish — ultimately resulting in a big chase around town.

First Year Film – “Leonardo’s Chase”

He had finally made his first animated film, but it wasn’t immediately smooth sailing for Romero.

He admits he bit off more than he could chew.

“I’d plan out these elaborate, grandiose films only to not end up finishing it. So in other words, I failed to make it to the finish line.”

Despite the downside, he turned it into a positive. Romero realized the experience allowed him to test his limits, to fail, and then reflect on his artistic process.

“While I wouldn’t be happy about not being able to complete my more complicated films, the value of going through the film-making process, failing, succeeding, and learning from is so much more important,” he said.

Third Year Film – “Sky Waltz”

As the years of academia wore on, his student-made animated films continued, growing increasingly longer and more complex.

Even though Romero attended a well-respected school, he confesses he still considered it a “gamble,” though, one he believed was worth taking.

“I feel like it has definitely paid off, but I will say there are many other schools out there with animation programs that are definitely worth any animation student’s consideration. It’s all about your needs and wants,” Romero added.

Fourth Year Film – “Cylinder Six”

And the experience was indeed worth it. He landed his first job as a freelancer for Illumination, developing storyboards.

Romero helped develop the storyboards for the upcoming “Minions” movie, which is set for a July 2015 release date, featuring the star of “Mad Men” Jon Hamm and Academy Award-winner Sandra Bullock.

During the down time for “Minions,” Romero sketched and designed some concept weapons for “Despicable Me 2.” Despite the role, he still labels himself as a storyboard artist, first and foremost.

“Despicable Me: Minion Rush” Intro

In the business, familiarity with certain software is needed. Romero started with Flash in early 2000s.

“[Flash is] a very easy to pick up and play program, to just mess around with sequential visuals and animation,” said Romero. “Nowadays it seems like Flash might be left behind with the advent of HTML5, but it’s still a valuable learning tool for a casual intro to film-making.”

Recently, Romero became acquainted with TV Paint, a paperless animation and drawing tool that features traditional techniques such as Airbrush, Gouache, Pen Brush, Pencil and Watercolor, to name a few.

“While it has a steeper learning curve, [TV Paint] is extremely versatile and affordable for any animation student’s home studio.”

In regards to what he wants to achieve in the industry, Romero said he’s still getting a grip of who he is as an artist in the animation business.

“I’ve got a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I hope to take all of that I’ve one day learned and use that to continue making my own short films, to either pitch or make for myself,” Romero said. “I’ll keep developing my skills.”

Carlos Romero – Animation Demo Reel 2012

For the next generation of animators or storyboard artists, Romero’s advice is simple: you have to be passionate.

“Animation is hard, laborious and time-consuming. But if you have a passion for it, those words won’t deter you.”

Romero said the best thing for aspiring storyboard artists to do is to find people that inspire you and keep them close.

“Whether they are a friend or a legend, try to learn what it is they do that inspires you and learn from it,” he said.

“Also, draw draw draw! It’s the only way to improve!”

To check out more of Carlos Romero’s portfolio, click here. Romero can be contacted at CarlosRomero328@gmail.com.

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