Alumni profile: AGA graduate Jeremy Bensing works to build a career in animation
Monday, January 30th, 2023
When Jeremy Bensing was introduced to animation as a career possibility, it was love at first sight.
Since then the 2021 magna cum laude Animation & Game Art graduate has steadily worked to break into the field, continuing to keep in touch with mentors, and always in pursuit of refining and polishing his knowledge and skills.
Breaking into his chosen field is never simple or straightforward, so how does Bensing keep up his motivation? “Taking a motionless character on screen that just stares blankly into the void and giving them life is so exciting to me,” he says. That, plus encouragement from mentors, advisors, friends, and others from his PCA&D days, keeps him going.
If that kind of passion feels familiar to you, read on:
What was the deciding factor that drew you to PCA&D?
Jeremy Bensing: The biggest thing was the overall size of the school. I had been homeschooled my whole life at the time and was very used to small-group settings and more tight-knit communities that came with working with other homeschool groups and private schools. That is something that very much enticed me and that’s pretty much what I got when attending the school. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that the tuition was low compared to most other accredited art schools throughout the nation, so that was also a huge draw.
Did you know, starting out, that you’d be majoring in Digital Media/Animation/Game Art? What helped you make that decision?
JB: Yes and no. I had previously studied digital media at my local community college, and the focus there was just basic 3D generalist work and other digital media such as web design. At the time my main interest was 3D modeling so that is what I initially planned on pursuing when I first entered PCA&D. Then I had my first introduction into animation in the old computer animation course, and I instantly fell in love. Soon after we had a Disney veteran enter the school to teach dedicated animation courses and my love for the craft grew even more, as I had a knack for it. Between my instant connection with it, and teachers and classmates noticing and complimenting my natural talent for animation, it really cemented that I should move forward with it as a career.
Briefly, what has been your path since graduation?
JB: My path since graduation less than two years ago has been all over, and Covid especially has put a damper on things by making an already competitive field ten times more competitive due to remote work becoming a permanent option. For a while, I actually stopped animating altogether, unfortunately. But recently I’ve re-found my passion for animation had have delved back into it, continuing to build my portfolio, reel, and skills, and working towards landing that first job that leads to a long-lasting career.
Can you name a particular challenge you’ve faced in the Digital Media industry, and explain how PCA&D prepared you to overcome it?
JB: Probably just trying to learn and keep track of all the different software that is available and can be utilized. Thankfully, however, there is not one right or wrong program and there are various programs that do the same thing, so it’s basically up to the individual’s preference. Throughout my time at PCA&D I was able to learn a few of these different types of software, even at the most basic levels, (and that allowed) us to narrow down what worked for us and what didn’t, and how we could utilize them for our desired field — or even encouraging us and allowing us to use other programs if we were so inclined. For instance, some of my classmates didn’t like Autodesk Maya (the industry standard 3D software) and preferred to learn and utilize Blender for their 3D animation needs.
For you, what excites you about the field that you’re pursuing?
JB: Bringing characters to life. I’m not sure how else to explain it, but taking a motionless character on screen that just stares blankly into the void and giving them life is so exciting to me. Even just something as simple as making them walk is so fun, as you can add so much to a walk to make it unique and interesting. I often find myself creating personalities for the character as I animate as so much of a person can be expressed through body language alone. When I animate, I tend to tunnel vision into it and my mind races about all the different things I can do with said character, thinking up funny animations, backstories, or just random little scenarios to challenge and refine my skills. So being able to do that and have that ability is such a blessing. I look forward to one day seeing a character of mine I brought to life on a film screen or in a video game.
Who inspired you at PCA&D?
JB: A mix of both faculty and classmates really encouraged me throughout my time at PCA&D. My senior instructor and now chair of the department Natasha Warshawsky was and is always willing to lend a helping hand and encouragement. She always gave strong feedback during class critiques and constantly went out of her way to help me and others if they were struggling with projects or specific parts of their thesis. Emily Springer, a character animator from DreamWorks studios was a huge inspiration as well. If not for her dedication and time to mentor me, my animation skills would be nowhere near where they are today, and my thesis would also look entirely different. She took me back to the bare basics of animation and made sure I was able to reach my full potential. My entire class was also very tight-knit; we always relied on each other and helped one another while we worked through our theses. However, my classmate Jeff Maisonneuve was especially helpful, and he and I became friends for life. He helped me more than I can ever repay with my thesis and inspires me to this day to push myself with my art, and I probably would not have made the kind of work I did at PCA&D if not for him.
Who inspires you now?
JB: At this point in my life and career since being away from PCA&D, the main person who still inspires and encourages me is Jeff. If I need help or have questions, he’s always one text away and is always willing to lend a hand. I am still in touch with my mentor as well and, if she can make time, I can send her any animations I’m working on for quick feedback. However, I am very much inspired by other animators in general. Geeking out over the next DreamWorks or Pixar film solely so I can take in the animation and analyze it. Seeing what tricks or techniques were used or what shortcuts they took or how they broke a rig just to get that one shot JUST right for the final. So many things like that inspire me to push myself and to learn more to better myself with the hope of one day inspiring other up-and-coming artists to do the same.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of? How did what you learned at PCA&D impact that accomplishment?
JB: My senior thesis animation, without a doubt. That was the accumulation of all my knowledge and experiences from my entire time at PCA&D. Although not exactly from an official “career” position it is something I poured so much time, passion, and effort into and the end results speak for themselves. It takes everything I learned from specific courses, my mentorship, and my classmates, all coming to a head to be showcased in a single short film. At the time it was a struggle with a lot of ups and downs and late nights but, in the end, it was most definitely worth it.
Top art: Still from “The Thief,” by Jeremy Bensing.