Passion and Skill: A Powerful Equation
In 2000, the School of Animation and Visual Effects at the Academy caught Cramer’s interest. “Back then, there weren’t many schools that offered visual effects. The Academy put a lot of effort into showcasing the program, and it looked like they were passionate about it,” Cramer explains. “They have the knowledge, connections and successful industry professionals teaching classes.”
So he packed his bags and relocated to San Francisco, home to Academy of Art’s urban campus. A native of Dusseldorf, Germany, Cramer struggled with homesickness, culture shock and the language barrier: “I learned one thing about myself—that is, my sense of humor wasn’t a perfect transfer into English,” says Cramer. “But I think the Academy provides enough resources to make international students like me feel integrated.” He adds, “Once I started the program, I didn’t want to stop.”
Cramer says he was fortunate to have Academy mentors to help him shape his career path. As successful professionals working at top-tier animation and visual effects studios, his instructors offered invaluable advice, guidance and insight into the industry. “It was ultimately my Advanced Animation 1 teacher Victor Huang. I was one of his standout students and later joined and worked alongside him at Weta Digital,” says Cramer. “It was very exciting for me. That class changed my perspective on things. I learned in a big way how to animate.”
In 2004, Cramer graduated with a BFA and a stellar portfolio that helped him land that first position as a character animator at Sony Imageworks. “The only work I had was my portfolio from the Academy. That was the only reason I got a job. I am super thankful for that,” he says.
Looking back on his time at the Academy, Cramer adds, “I’m very happy I studied there, because it gave me a well-rounded perspective on art, not just visual effects. The experience grew me as an artist.”