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September 4, 2016

Big Changes!

First Day, Last Day

This news is a few months old, but thought I should update the ol’ blog. Here’s the text from my most-liked Facebook post from May 20th, 2016:

“I can hardly believe it, but Friday was my last day at Pixar. Lemme tell you – it feels really weird to leave your dream job. But I’ve got a [stupidly ambitious] short film that needs finishing, and it seems like the only way to make that happen.

I’ve made so many lifelong friends at Pixar – and learned from some of the most talented people you could ever hope to meet. I was lucky enough to have worked on Monsters University, Toy Story of Terror, Inside Out, Lava, The Good Dinosaur, Piper, & Finding Dory. (Go see it next month!) Truly thankful for every day of the experience.

Back in 2011, I snapped a photo before I entered the gates for the first time. Thought I’d recreate the shot, driving the other way… outward and onward!”


It’s been an emotional transition, honestly – but it’s also felt like the right step, at the right time.

So… what now?

First off, my hands/arms are killing me so I’m trying to cool off a sec and reduce my time in front of the keyboard. Be careful, kids! Animation ain’t coal minin’ but it can still be dangerous. Don’t ignore pain, read up on RSI! Finally seeing a physical therapist and hopefully I’m turning a corner.

A lil excruciating pain hasn’t kept me from chipping away on the VFX for my sci-fi short, which is coming along slowly but surely. I thought I’d have more time to focus on that but… turns out:

I’m headed back to Amsterdam for a bit, to co-direct the Blender Institute’s current short, Agent 327! Like my sci-fi project, it’s a proof-of-concept for a potential feature. This one animated – in Blender! Scary thought. Hope we can make it happen!

And now, time to pack.


Posted By: Colin Levy @ 8:52 am
Categories: News,Projects

July 24, 2013

Monsters University

Welp, the movie has been out for over a month and my blog has been silent for nearly ten. So I thought I’d post a lil blurb on Monsters University — my first credit for Pixar!

I worked on Monsters University in the Camera & Staging department for nearly a year, and it was a pretty amazing experience. I’ve been working with some of the most welcoming and talented people I’ve ever met, and I’ve been doing my best to just absorb. I feel like I’ve learned a little bit about a whole lot of things, from storytelling to shot design, from studio management to how to best to mix six cereals together.

I contributed to several sequences in the film, and I’m definitely proud of the work I’ve done. One scene in particular was “shot” entirely by yours truly! And hundreds of thousands of theater-goers out in the real world have experienced it! The coolness still blows my mind.

Not sure at what point I’ll be able to show the work that I’ve done specifically, but I’ll be looking into that. I’d love to show a layout / final comparison…

Since finishing work on Monsters University, I’ve been bouncing between three other projects, including the next Pixar feature “The Good Dinosaur,” and the 22-minute TV Special, “Toy Story of Terror.”


What’s kinda cool about the above promo still is I got to be the one to frame it up. Looking at it now, I feel like I should’ve tilted down a bit more and lost some of Woody’s hat.

Ehhh, maybe. I don’t really know what I’m doing, actually. Pixar just hasn’t realized it yet!

Until the next update.

Posted By: Colin Levy @ 3:49 pm
Categories: Musings,News,Projects

When I was in highschool I spent like a year and a half working on a 5-minute short film. The movie was silly, starred my dad. I made it in my backyard. But somehow it went on to win a national contest called YoungArts, and soon found myself at an award ceremony in NYC, being told I had an appointment with Martin Scorsese. Uhhh… yes! Okay, awesome?



The unfortunate thing was, they gave me no more than a couple hours’ notice. At the time, I had not even seen Taxi Driver, or Goodfellas. Yet Scorsese, I was told, had watched my film already.

I was thoroughly unprepared.

Thelma Schoonmaker greeted me at the door. The woman who had edited practically every Scorsese film since Raging Bull. But I had no idea who she was. Nice lady, I thought. She gave me a little tour of his studio, his screening rooms, his [their] editing rooms. His impressive archive of films on laser disk. And then we stepped into his office.

Martin Scorsese was intimidating, to say the least. But very jovial, very talkative, and he took me seriously. (Or convinced me, at least.) I pretty much kept my mouth shut. Every 30 seconds he would mention an actor, producer, director or film title I had never heard of before. I was stunned just to be in his presence. He liked my film, he said. “How did you do the little creatures?” I tried to explain how I figured out the basics of 3D animation. His eyes lit up and he started talking about the digital effects in The Aviator.

The juxtaposition of scales was overpowering. I felt like I was in a movie. Why he spent so much time with me I do not know, but it was amazing just to be in his presence. A few weeks afterwards I labored over a thank-you card, in which I expressed the overwhelming impression I had gotten that I don’t know enough about anything. I specially don’t know enough about film history and foreign cinema. I asked if he had any suggestions for where to start.

A few weeks later, I got a reply — he had his assistant send me several books and DVDs (including “A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies“)… and also the list of 39 Foreign Films to watch!

In the following months and years I wanted to be able to write Scorsese back and be able to say, “Yes sir, I’ve gone out and watched every film on your list. They’ve changed my life, they’ve made me a better filmmaker, thank you so much.” But this was nearly six years ago, and I’m more than a little ashamed to admit that I have only seen a few of those films on his list.

I have done a piss-poor job of educating myself, and I wanted to do something about it. Starting three months ago, I began going through the list. Methodically. From the top-down. I had see a few films already, but I was going to make a point to watch them all — in order, to finally rid myself of the guilt.

When it came time to see NAPOLEON, the six-hour-long silent black-and-white Epic of 1927, directed by Abel Gance, I decided to share a quick version of this story, in 5 tweets:

Well, within 3 hours it was on the front page of reddit, and since then it has popped up on a dozen other websites. The image itself has gone viral, with over 250,000 views in the first day:



And it’s nearly twice that now!

This morning a story was posted on The Huffington Post about the list.

I’ve been pretty blown away by the exposure! Anyway, meeting with Martin Scorsese was pretty much the highlight of my life, and thought I’d at least share the full story here on my rarely-updated blog.


Posted By: Colin Levy @ 1:53 pm
Categories: News,Ramblings

Wanted to post a different sort of VFX breakdown which shows a bit more *process*.

Over a year ago I spent a few weeks on the logo for my not-quite-real production company “Lightning Hill Pictures”, which I’ve branded a few of my films with.

Going through my drives, looking for stuff to clear off, I came across a lot of renders and elements for the logo that showed how this thing evolved. I thought some folks might find it interesting!

Lightning Hill Pictures – Logo Progression Reel from Colin Levy on Vimeo.

Still a few things I would change about the logo, but overall I think it came together quite nicely!

Let me know what you think.

Posted By: Colin Levy @ 6:02 pm
Categories: News,Projects

Finally got around to cutting a trailer for my short, treatment The Secret Number! The film is nearly done.

Trailer music cue is “Redemption” by Zack Hemsey, doctor used with permission.

For most folks, this is the first glimpse of any of the actual footage from the film. Let me know what you think!

Posted By: Colin Levy @ 1:56 pm
Categories: News,Projects

July 13, 2011

Well well well!

It’s been 7 months since my last post.

SEVEN. MONTHS. I’m hanging my head in shame…

Let me update you on what’s going on in my life! Because there’s a lot that’s transpired since last December! We’re going to talk about three things.

  1. Work on “The Secret Number” continues.
  2. My short film “En Route” has been released online.
  3. I’m going to Pixar!

1. The Secret Number is coming along! It’s been a tiresome production and post-production has been grueling, but we’re really in the home stretch now. Although I’m making last-minute editing tweaks, that’s the most complete part of the puzzle. Right now we’ve just got tons of music, sound design, color grading, and visual effects work still to do!

Until recently, I’ve been pretty good at keeping my vlogs up-to-date on the The Secret Number site.

Thus far unreported: Last month we showcased a work-in-progress version of the film for my school, and it got a great reaction! We ended up winning several school awards:

  1. Best Undergraduate Narrative
  2. Best Visual Effects
  3. Best Cinematography
  4. Best Sound Design
  5. Best Editing
  6. Best Original Score

Crazy, huh? It’s funny because so little is actually finished. 😛

2. Yesterday, I finally released my short film “En Route” online! Check it out:

This has been a long time coming, but I’m very proud to finally be able to show it off.

Also, check out the revamped site! We’ve got the full film available for download, a VFX breakdown, as well as stills and set photography. The comments are starting to stream in on YouTube, and so far the reactions are positive!

En Route Site

3. I’m going to Pixar! Yup, I can barely believe it. I was lucky enough to have been offered a 12-month residency position in the Camera & Staging Department at my favorite animation studio in the world.

This news got a pretty huge response from the Blender community. When a blurb was posted on BlenderNation, over 130 people commented on the story! I’m pretty blown away, honestly.

I clearly owe this opportunity in large part to Blender and “Sintel”.

So, I’m excited to be moving to Emeryville in early September. I don’t know quite what to expect but I’m of course super super psyched! But I have a lot to accomplish before then…

Back to work!

Posted By: Colin Levy @ 2:40 am

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Welcome to the online portfolio of Colin Levy - filmmaker, visual effects artist, storyteller... occasional blogger.

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