Lighting Technical Director
"News gives facts; fiction gives life, it gives wisdom. To me, that’s something that I’m really proud of to be able to be a part of."
"In school I always had the teachers that would be like 'Stop doodling all over everything,' and I'm so glad I didn’t listen to them," Jeremy Vickery says.
Let that be a lesson to all budding artists, as Jeremy's quiet rebellion laid the foundation for what's become a 15-year career in the professional animation industry. His list of credits alone make for a genre fan's dream, but the real accomplishment is the organic way his inspirations, talents, and career choices have come together since he first chose to pursue a life in entertainment.
"Toy Story came out in 1995, and I remember sitting in the theater just in awe, I was like 'This is what I want to do – I want to find this Pixar company and go work for them,'" he says. "I realized the power of television and movies in informing culture, and encouraging people to do greater things, so I set my goal."
Jeremy came to Full Sail to study computer graphics in our Digital Media program, and after graduating in 1997 spent his first few years in the industry honing his professional chops on the Veggie Tales TV series, and later the animated feature Delgo. Pixar Animation Studios continued to be his dream, however, and after many applications, the strength of his growing demo reel eventually landed him an interview with the industry pioneers.
"The interviewing process was tough," he says. "They had already figured out that I had the skills for the job, but they're really just want to know whether you’re a cool person. So I interviewed with 25 people over the period of three hours. It was intimidating for sure, but now a lot of these people that interviewed me are great friends."
Jeremy was hired as lighting technical director for Pixar's 2004 superhero hit The Incredibles, a critical and commercial hit that would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was a career high, and Jeremy would continue on to craft the light and shadows for other studio classics like Cars, Ratatouille, and WALL•E.
"My first day driving in was very intimidating and exciting – butterflies in the stomach," he says. "And then starting in on The Incredibles was just unreal, a dream come true for sure, and also very challenging. As a lighting artist, we are the last ones to touch a film before it goes out. We make it look pretty, and look like a believable world – really refine it to the level that it’s worthy of putting the Pixar brand on it."
In 2007, Jeremy took a break from feature development to work as a freelance artist, where he built a client list that included LEGO, Disney, Sony, and video game developers Ubisoft. It was an impressive run for a one-man team, but he started missing the collaboration of a studio environment, and was able to rejoin Pixar in 2011.
Since being back, he’s completed their Oscar-nominated feature Brave and the short film The Blue Umbrella (as master lighting lead), and admits the same sense of excitement with the release of each new project.
"When I see the film in its final form, that’s when it overwhelms me," he says. "I spend all my time focusing on those little pixels that I push around and in the end it makes this moving story that becomes a part of the culture. Even though I know it’s a Pixar film and millions of people are going to see it, you just don’t realize that these subtle choices that we’re making on a whim are going to stick in history."
That inspiration guides Jeremy as he continues to work on future projects at the company that first pushed him to pursue a life in motion picture animation. It’s a great story in itself, and all the better when you hear that his dream job turned out to be fulfilling in ways he couldn’t have even imagined.
"I've realized the power of television and movies in informing culture, and encouraging people to do greater things and to live life," he says. "If you find hope and happiness and inspiration from The Incredibles or Brave that it moves you to tears, I think that’s a pretty awesome thing. News gives facts; fiction gives life, it gives wisdom. To me, that’s something that I’m really proud of to be able to be a part of."