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Kyoung Lee Swearingen

Assistant Professor, Design

Kyoung Lee Swearingen, an assistant professor in the Department of Design, has worked in the film industry for the last decade as a technical director of lighting at Pixar Animation Studios and DNA Productions. She has worked on features and shorts including Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Cars 2, Toy Story 3, Brave, Monsters University, Presto, La Luna, The Blue Umbrella, Mater’s Tall Tales, Partly Cloudy, Ant Bully and the Jimmy Neutron TV series. Her work has claimed numerous awards from the Academy Awards, BAFTA, Visual Effects Society, The American Film Institute and many others.

How did your graduate degree in Art and Technology from Ohio State help you in your career?

My classes really helped. My classes consisted of critiques, visiting artists and a classroom that was open to new ideas. Classes were intellectually stimulating because teachers let you think of your own answers to questions. Teachers would point you in the direction of solving a specific problem. It was a way to motivate students and allow students to take ownership of their ideas. I try now to incorporate this into my own classroom.

How did your studies at ACCAD help you land a job at Pixar/DNA Productions?

ACCAD has a tight-knit community. Everyone is very supportive and friendly. The alumni are willing to help people out, so there were many resources for me. There are many strengths to ACCAD. It is such an interdisciplinary environment, with faculty from art, design, dance and theatre. I was able to gain feedback and advice from all these people with different areas of expertise. ACCAD taught me how to communicate with people from different backgrounds and interests.

What was your experience like working for Pixar?

Pixar and ACCAD have similarities. They both are intellectually stimulating and community-driven. They make you feel as if you need to go the extra mile. Everyone is motivated, and you’re working with some of the best artists. It makes you want to accomplish more. Pixar offers classes outside of just creating and animating. For example, they offer improv and acting as a way to learn about performing and bringing emotion into creations.

How did you end up back at Ohio State?

I’ve always been interested in teaching. While I was working for DNA Productions in Dallas, I was also teaching at UT Dallas, but Ohio feels like home.

How has your experience with Pixar and DNA Productions helped you teach in the classroom?

After a few years in the industry, I started to understand what really matters. I learned about communicating, organizing scenes, pipelines and working with others with different agendas. These are things I wouldn’t have fully understood without work experience. I try to bring these ideas into the classroom and teach the broader picture of it all.

Hear from @OhioStateDesign prof. on her experience as an ACCAD student and working for @PixarAnimation #ASCDaily

Do you have any advice to aspiring animators or students in general?

Do something you’re passionate about. Something where you can sit down and forget about the weather, that phone call, lunch — and then suddenly it’s 4 p.m., but you didn’t realize because you were so immersed in your work. That’s when you know you’re passionate about something.

by Samantha Ruwe, ASC Communications student