Hey! I’m Ken. I helped develop the Diploma in Advanced 3D Graphics and teach the programme here at ACG Yoobee Auckland. I also run my own freelance boutique, Kenworx Digital.

Tell us a bit about yourself Ken.
I’m 29, with two kids, born and raised in South Auckland. I’m half Samoan on my father’s side and NZ Maori on my mother’s side. Before ACG Yoobee I was an animator at Oktober for the Kung Fu Panda TV show and Monsters vs Aliens TV show. During my time at ACG Yoobee I have directed a few online adverts including this one for Rio Tinto
I’ve always got multiple personal projects on the go at any given time – I’m known for being a tad mad! I’m also passionate about helping Maori/PI like myself. I love the idea of integrating my culture and showing stories of my culture and upbringing.

What sparked your interest in animation and 3D graphics?
Walt Disney Animation! Growing up I knew nothing about it, but I knew I wanted to do it. Drawing was the closest thing I had to animation back then, so I drew. And drew. And drew. It was hard – my old man wanted me to become a boxer or a rugby player. So I played. And played. But the only thing I really loved was drawing. I drew my way through all of life’s battles, and it opened a whole new world for me. I loved the creativity. Shows and movies really flowed into me and I couldn’t stop imagining what could be. In fact I’ve never stopped. To this day, I’d choose a drawing session over anything else. Hands down.

What formal training have you had?
I was fortunate enough to train in classical hand drawn animation for the first four years of my studies. I was lucky. I started without computers and the influence of the internet. I was driven, and practiced 40 – 50 hours a week just drawing and creating. I referenced books and movies, not computers – I think it was quite a nice and authentic start. I studied at Freelance Animation School and Media Design School and graduated with a bunch of animation awards. I worked in studios as an animator and a graphic designer throughout my studies to maximise my opportunities.

What’s the best part about being a tutor?
Developing cool ideas. Making stories come to life. It’s really exciting to see the production pipeline develop. At Level 7 you can really see where students shine and where they’ll want to work. Seeing students get jobs, and following them in their careers is always really cool.

Have you won any awards recently?
Our film ‘Papa Taniwha’ just won Best Animation Award at Tropfest 2016. We also won that category at last year’s Tropfest for our film ‘Egg’ which was directed by my student Steven McNicholl.

What were some of the biggest hurdles you faced trying to launch your career? How did you overcome them?
Persistence and realising that I could never stop learning. It dawned on me early on that there was a gigantic world out there and if I wanted to keep up, I had to not just learn what was being taught - I had to learn more. I had my personal struggles, but what saw me through was my passion, my dream. Staying focussed on my dream made a lot of decisions easier. Like whether to play a game, or practice – once I listened to my heart, the answer was simple.

What do you think are some of the biggest hurdles for people starting out in the industry today?
Opportunities are hard to come by. I work my butt off all year contacting studios to try and get my students a foot in the door. To give them a chance to gain experience, to grow and develop. It’s something I did heaps during my studies but it’s not quite as easy these days. Talent can be another hurdle. You gotta have talent! That’s something studio heads are always looking for, and it’s something you can’t teach.