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Getting to know Kim White

Kim White, Pixar's director of photography for lighting, shares her journey from loving art and horses to working on animated films. She emphasizes following your passion, being flexible, and seizing opportunities. Kim's story highlights the importance of hard work, dedication, and pursuing dreams in the ever-changing world of technology.

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Video transcript

- I've been the director of photography for lighting on Toy Story 3, Inside Out, and Cars 3. When I was in middle school and high school, I was very interested in art. I drew all the time. My friends looked to me for drawings for the fronts of their book reports, so I was kind of known for that. Most of my drawings are horses from that time, and that was what I liked to read about, you know, Black Beauty and Black Stallion and whatnot, and I had a horse. I was lucky we lived in an area where people had big, huge yards, and one of our neighbors let us keep my horse in the yard, so that was my childhood. Actually, I can only speak for myself about why I think I was into horses. I think there's a couple of reasons. One is they represent a kind of freedom in a way. You know, I could take the horse out, and I could ride anywhere I wanted to, and my horse was my friend. You know, I had a relationship with that horse, and like, he really loved me. I would come up to the pasture and whistle for him, and he'd neigh and come running, and you know, so as a girl, you know, at that age, you know, there's not a lot of ways to have control and freedom in your life. So you know, going up and putting the bridle on my horse and then getting to ride out where I wanted to, you know, was really cool. So I suspect that might be part of it, at least for some girls, and he was beautiful. I mean, they're beautiful animals, right, and they're powerful. Some of my earliest memories are drawing memories, so I think I've always loved to draw, and I've always loved art since forever. As I was growing up, my father was very practical, and he was like, "Well, you can minor in art, but you should major "in something like veterinary medicine. "You know, you love animals and horses, "so you can do that and minor in art "or maybe major in business and minor in art," but my high school teacher was like, "Oh, Kim, you're passionate about art. "You love art. "You know, you should pursue that," and my mom was also very much the same, of the same mind, and my dad wasn't pushy or anything. He was just practical, and so I realized when I was in high school... I had taken some courses in terms of like going out and doing night stuff with a veterinarian where we were doing dissections on animals and stuff, and I realized, you know, I love animals, but I don't want to work inside of them and actually really do love art. I'm just gonna go for it. I'm gonna not worry about how I'm gonna make a living. I'm passionate about it. I'll make it work, and I also loved photography. You know, so I thought, well, I can be an illustrator. I could be a photographer. I'm just gonna study it and figure out where it leads, and actually, it's a good thing for kids now to think about because when I was in school, even in college, the job that I have now did not exist. So it's not like I could have said, "I want to be a director of photography for lighting, "you know, on CG movies." That wasn't even an idea for anybody, so it wasn't until I was well out of college that this role actually became something. So I think if you're passionate about something, just, you know, do your best at it, work hard at it, and then take the opportunities that come to you. I mean, I was flexible, so you know, I learned about computer graphics in college because I loved animation. I wasn't crazy about computers, but I really loved animation, so I took that course and then found that I actually loved computer animation. So I think, I mean, really, truly, the through line is art, but I feel fortunate to be where I am. When I got out of grad school, I went to work at a post-production house, freelanced for a little while, maybe about six months, and then from there, I got a call from a company called Sierra On-Line, and they make adventure games, and they called me up, and they said, "Hey, we need somebody that can do graphics "for our adventure games. "Can you come out to California?" And I was like, "Okay." I was young, you know, and adventurous, and I looked into what adventure games were, and I thought these are interesting. Like, the possibilities for narrative and storytelling were really cool and that I could see that there was a lot for me to learn. So I went to Sierra On-Line, and then, I had been there maybe about a year and a half, and I went to SIGGRAPH, which is a computer graphics conference, and they were having a party. There was a party that, I think, it was Disney was throwing at the automobile museum, and they were showing a little piece of Toy Story 'cause Toy Story was in production at that time, and I went to see it, and when I watched that little clip, it broke my heart. I mean, I can't explain to you what that felt like. I knew that's where I belonged. I knew that's exactly what I should be doing, and I was sick that I wasn't there, and so the moment that Toy Story came out and Pixar put out a call for people to apply, I immediately applied. I mean, I just can't tell you how much I knew that that's where I should go. Oh, they're very proud of me. (laughing) My parents are so excited. I mean, the other thing about it is that my mother used to take us to see all the Disney movies when I was a little girl. Whenever they came in the theater, we would go to see them, and so in my family, there was a love of animation, and I would come home, and I would draw the Dalmatians from 101 Dalmatians or Lady from Lady and the Tramp, and then, you know, back then, you could only see those movies if you went to the theater. So it was an event for us. So the fact that I'm working on things that my parents really enjoyed watching anyway is very cool to them. You know, they loved Disney. We would go to Disney World when I was a girl, so anyways, I think it makes sense to them.