Continuing our series on Ben Juwono, Physicist turned Disney Supervising Director, we hear Ben elaborate on other topics, such as the role of unofficial mentors, a leap of faith they took on him, and his journey pivoting from Physicist to Supervising Director and Co-Producer on Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur at Disney TVA.
When asked how Ben got his footing in the animation industry, he attributed a large role to the unofficial mentors who guided him throughout his journey within the field.
“Someone took a chance on me, and this is the only reason I’ve been able to have a sustainable career…because I’ve had sort of unofficial mentors along the way, people who give me advice and give me opportunities, to show that I am excited, and I have been able to do that for other people. I mentored with directors, I mentored with storyboard artists, I’m using this in a way that is to set them up for success. Again, going about the whole community thing, to me, it’s not just about the individual success right, it’s about community success as a whole, and to me that is one of the things that I am very strongly about, I’ve been able to do that on this show. Thanks of course to leadership and Marvel’s studio.”
Given this sentiment, Ben’s journey goes to show how far connecting, networking, and learning from others can help create new opportunities for one’s own life. Although a shift in career is never easy, with some dedication, talent, the right support and community, Ben shows anything is possible.
“I have always loved drawing. I have always done comics on the side. Back then I used to sell fan art at an expo, I’d go to Anime Expo all the time. And I had built a community among the artist there, I think around 2011, one of them was like hey, I just got a job at Warner Brothers, in the animation industry, and for me it’s like, what’s the animation industry? I did not realize that was something you could make a career out of.”
He continues, “Basically my friends were like, you should try, you should try. Because you’ve always been drawing, you love drawing. And this might be something that can work out for you. Because clearly physics was not working out for you. So, I took some classes, I got a portfolio, and in a year I managed to get a job as a Storyboard Revisionist on Spiderman. Someone was willing to take a chance on me. And I got my first job, that’s where it started.”
When asked about advice for aspiring young animators trying to break into the industry, Juwono talked about the importance of specializing in a specific skill to stand out from other applicants within that skill. At the beginning of his journey, Juwono mentioned how specializing for a certain job within the animation industry is integral in putting your efforts to the right place.
“I think the most important thing is to kind of know what you want to do. Because there are a lot of jobs in this industry. Like I said, it’s a pipeline, everyone has one specific job, and the thing that not a lot of people know, is that you have to specialize in something, either you become a designer, or a storyboard artist, or an animator, or a writer, or a prop designer, or an environment designer, you pick a specialized field, and you craft a portfolio for that specific field. Because what you want to do is become the best at that specific field…the studios can’t make storyboard artists design backgrounds, that is not possible, they have to hire background designers to do that. So, the jobs are very specialized”
“And I think a lot of the students, of lot of the younger generation make the mistake of, ‘I have to be good at everything, I have to know how to color, draw backgrounds, animate, draw characters,’ when in reality if you kind of spread yourself thin among all those things, you will always get passed on for someone who is better at the specific field.”
“So to me, what I always say is: Pick one that you like, pick one you enjoy, pick one that you will still like when things get hard, and then stick with that and become really good at it. I can’t draw backgrounds, I can’t color, but I can storyboard, I’m really good at storyboarding.”
In addition, he mentions how important your portfolio is to landing a job within the animation industry, as studios prioritize “what you can do”. Regardless of your degree and other credentials, if employers feel your portfolio fits what is needed at the studio, your chances of getting hired increase substantially.
Ben shares, “I never went to an art school, I didn’t have a degree in art, my degree was in physics, and then this is why, I was very fortunate that my first director took a chance on me. It’s, who’s this guy? He doesn’t have an art degree, he never went to an art school, but he can draw. I like his portfolio, and that’s how I got hired. So, yeah, this industry is about what you can do. This is why I always say, pick one path, pick one specialization, and do that, because that will get you hired, over like I have three PhDs in Art.”
His insight contributes significantly to the discussion of whether art school is necessary for young artists to land a job at major studios. In an age where college tuition is increasing dramatically, and prospective students are debating the necessity of taking on student loans, Ben helps young artists focus their efforts in the right direction. Although, college may assist with networking – as seen in Ben’s journey – Art events such as Anime Expo are also great places to network and promote your portfolio.
Overall, Ben shares integral information that could help young artists and animators break into the field. Given his background and journey, his story inspires others to follow suit. Although luck may have played a part in him landing his role, the dedication, preparation, and talent needed for preparing his portfolio and executing his work is unmatched. Aside from representing Indonesia and our creative talent, Ben also exemplifies what hard work and the right opportunity can do for you. Here’s to seeing Ben in more creative projects in the future!