Billy Burger

Media Arts & Animation

Media Arts & Animation Instructor
The Art Institute of California—San Francisco, a campus of Argosy University

Media Arts & Animation Instructor Billy Burger

Create your own style, your own brand. Billy Burger , Media Arts & Animation Instructor , The Art Institute of California—San Francisco, a campus of Argosy University

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I’ve always been driven to create things. While I was running a neon studio here in San Francisco in 1992, I had lunch with a producer from Colossal Pictures. Just sitting there talking to him, realized I was destined for a career in animation.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

I share all of my professional experience, including creating 2D special effects for films, in every class I teach. In my Portfolio classes, I translate all the studio expectations into rubrics that foster the best work possible.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I teach a class called Animation Studio, where, in the past, students had basically worked on material for their show reel. I reached out to Chris Ayers, a character designer whose creations have included characters for the film Men in Black.

I asked him if my students could animate some of the characters a book of sketches he’d published, called The Daily Zoo. The idea was to help students build their reels, and potentially forge a professional relationship with him. It’s been a mainstay—and a great, real-world opportunity—for my Animation students ever since.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Create your own style, your own brand. I tell my students that the real world isn’t a textbook exercise or an online example. Out there, the stage is blank and it's time to create something completely new—on their own, from scratch—and make it industry-quality. That’s why I stress the need to create work that’s unique—to develop a strong style and a solid reel to help them join the next generation of commercial artists.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Recently, I chose two students and two graduates to work on a story idea for a short film I came up with a few years ago. They’re beginning work on the model pack, storyboards, and initial principle animation. It’s something they can add to their resume and their reel.