Female Filmmaker Friday with Production Technology TD Sally Kong

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Hi Sally! Thank you for joining us today! To kick things off, what is your role here at Blue Sky?

My name is Sally Kong and I am a Production Technology TD at Blue Sky Studios!

Right on! And how does your department influence the production pipeline?

Every movie has a different style and comes with unexpected artistic and technical challenges. We write custom software to solve these challenges and reach the artistic vision of the film.

That seems incredibly rewarding, to be able to find ways to open doors for artists, and essentially, films as a whole! Before you were at Blue Sky making movie magic, where did you go to school? Did you always know you wanted to work for a major feature animation studio?

I went to the University of Pennsylvania where I got my bachelor’s in engineering in Digital Media Design, a computer science program focusing on computer graphics. I also got a master’s in engineering in Robotics.

No, I honestly didn’t realize there were engineering roles in animated film studios until my sophomore year in college! But, I always enjoyed making things, so when I realized I could build tools to help make beautiful art that tells stories that matter, I knew that’s what I wanted to do!

Who are some of your female role models? Why do you feel it's important for young girls to see more female representation in technology?

So many! To name a few:

Katherine Kuchenbecker (@kjkhaptics) : Current director of Max Planck Institute’s Haptics Intelligence Department and my former robotics professor! She is an amazing researcher and teacher with so much love for her work and students, and I aspire to be like her!

Camille Cellucci: Head of Production for Void. I loved her panel in Game Developers Conference (GDC) where she talked about how she transitioned to Void from a VFX background, and her vision of creating procedural narrative frameworks that allow people to live through a story and have unique memories, and thus changing immersive experiences to be more story-living than story-telling.

Masha Shugrina: Researcher who led the Playful Palette project at Adobe her talk was one of my favorites at SIGGRAPH 2017. Her team identified what people use palettes for (selecting, blending, exploring, organizing, and keeping a history of colors), how different digital and physical palettes support these use cases, then designed the Playful Palette that fulfills these needs, and evaluated it through both quantitative metrics and qualitative feedback from the artists. I really admired how thorough her user studies were and how that led to her team building a delightful art tool.

Merrit Moore (@physicsonpointe): Quantum physicist and professional ballet dancer. It is insane that she is excelling in both fields, given the time and expertise they demand. I admire her discipline, grit, and ability to make the most of her time.

Rebecca Hallac: Production Engineer at Blue Sky Studios, who is also a friend and mentor of mine since my first day at Blue Sky Studios! She has always been very supportive in guiding me through learning more about the studio's technology and pipeline, and getting to know more people in the studio.

It's important for young girls to see more female representation in technology so that they don’t feel out of place if they want to pursue a career in technology.

What are some of the biggest challenges in your role and how do you break through them? 

Deciding priorities and deliverables is one of the biggest challenges in my role. There are often times when compromises have to be made to reach a tight deadline!

What makes you excited to come to Blue Sky every day? What makes this place such a special place to work?

I love my coworkers! I am so happy that I get to see and work with some of my favorite people on a daily basis! The studio is filled with very supportive and talented people, and it is truly a delight to work with them. You can tell this is true by how mentorship comes so naturally to people here. Especially as a recent graduate, I feel so grateful that I’m surrounded by people who care a lot about each other’s personal growth and well-being.

What advice do you have for young women trying to break into feature animation or a technology based role in general?

Be confident about talking about your projects! You should always be able to identify and elaborate on things you learned and things you could have done better. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback or clarifications!

Thank you Sally for taking the time to chat with us today. We can't wait to see your incredible work displayed in Blue Sky's next feature film Spies in Disguise (Christmas 2019) and in Blue Sky's following feature films!

Be sure to follow @blueskystudios for more behind the scenes updates and for our next #FemaleFilmmakerFriday.

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