Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

USC​ ​grad,​ ​Pixar​ ​cinematographer​ ​discusses success, offers advice ​

Adam Habib, a​ ​USC​ ​graduate​ ​and​ ​current​ ​member​ ​of​ ​the​ ​camera​ ​and​ ​staging​ ​team​ ​at​ ​Pixar,​ ​made​ ​a​ ​return​ ​to​ ​Columbia​ ​this​ ​past​ ​weekend​ ​to​ ​discuss​ ​his​ ​career​ ​and​ ​his​ ​guidance for​ ​burgeoning​ ​animators​ ​and​ ​artists.​ 

​He​ ​spoke​ ​at​ ​a​ ​workshop​ ​at​ ​McMaster​ College on Friday ​as​ ​part​ ​of the​ ​Visual​ ​and​ ​Performing​ ​Arts​ ​Living​ ​Learning​ ​Community.​ ​On​ ​Saturday​ ​morning,​ ​the Nickelodeon​, where​ ​Habib​ ​actually​ ​used​ ​to​ ​work​ ​as​ ​an​ ​usher,​ ​held​ ​a​ ​special​ ​screening​ ​of​ ​“Cars 3”​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Pixar​ ​short​ ​film​ ​“Lou,”​ ​with​ ​Habib​ ​appearing​ ​and​ ​answering​ ​questions​ ​from​ ​the crowd. 

Afterwards,​ ​in​ ​a​ ​bustling​ ​restaurant​ ​over​ ​biscuits​ ​and​ ​gravy,​ ​Habib​ ​shared​ ​his​ ​career experience, ​what​ ​he​ ​would​ ​say​ ​to​ ​students​ ​now and USC's role in his path to success. 

Habib​ ​didn’t​ ​start​ ​in ​film,​ ​but​ ​actually​ studied​ ​English​ ​at​ ​USC.​ ​But the​ ​similarities​ ​between​ ​film​ ​and​ ​English​ ​were​ ​too​ ​close​ ​to​ ​ignore​ ​for​ ​him. 

“It​ ​was​ ​still​ ​stories​ ​to​ ​me.​ ​It’s​ ​still​ ​about​ ​narrative.​ ​That’s​ ​what​ ​I​ ​first​ ​fell​ ​in​ ​love​ ​with​ ​and was interested​ in ​in​ ​English,”​ ​Habib​ ​said​ ​of ​his​ ​first​ ​passion. “Because​ ​the​ ​English​ ​department​ ​and​ ​the​ ​film​ ​department​ ​are​ ​pretty​ ​close​ ​and​ ​they​ ​had​ ​a lot​ ​of​ ​the​ ​same​ ​faculty,​ ​that’s​ ​how​ ​I​ ​started​ ​taking​ ​the​ ​film​ ​classes,​ ​and​ ​slowly​ ​started​ ​drifting more​ ​basically​ ​into​ ​film​ ​production.” 

Habib​ ​graduated​ ​from​ ​USC​ ​in​ ​2004​ ​and​ ​taught​ ​filmmaking​ ​in​ ​Singapore​ ​for​ ​a​ ​few​ ​years until​ ​he​ ​attended​ ​the​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Southern​ ​California​ ​Film​ ​School​ ​as​ ​a​ ​cinematographer.​ ​Whereas most​ ​people​ ​go​ ​to​ ​film​ ​school​ ​to​ ​be​ ​directors,​ ​Habib’s​ ​career​ ​divergence​ ​actually​ ​helped him​ ​thrive. 

“I​ ​shot​ ​all​ ​those​ ​director’s​ ​projects,”​ ​Habib​ ​said. “So​ ​I​ ​just​ ​shot​ ​and​ ​shot​ ​and​ ​shot​ ​and​ ​​shot,​ ​maybe​ ​12​ ​pieces​ ​films​ ​by​ ​the​ ​time​ ​I graduated.​ ​So​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​having​ ​one​ ​final​ ​project,​ ​I​ ​basically​ ​had​ ​12.” 

Even​ ​though​ ​Habib​ ​works​ ​mainly​ ​in​ ​animation​ ​now,​ ​he​ is still interested​ in ​live​-action filmmaking. 

“What​ ​I​ ​like​ ​most​ ​about​ ​live​ ​action​ ​is​ ​actors,”​ ​Habib​ ​said. ​​“The​ ​creativity that​ ​they​ ​bring​ ​to​ ​it,​ ​because​ ​the​ ​choices​ that ​you're​ ​making​ ​with​ ​the​ ​camera​ are sometimes a reaction to what they're doing ... they’ll​ ​give​ ​you​ ​a​ ​suggestion,​ ​a​ ​staging​ ​or​ ​something​ ​that​ ​really cracks​ ​open​ ​the​ ​scene.” 

But​ ​there​ ​are​ ​advantages​ ​to​ ​his​ ​altered​ ​medium. 

“I​ ​can​ ​constantly​ ​adjust​ ​shots​ ​in​ ​relation​ ​to​ ​each​ ​other, so​ ​I​ ​love​ ​that​ ​aspect,​" he said. ​"It​ ​feels​ ​like​ ​a very​ ​forgiving​ ​medium,​ ​especially​ ​if​ ​while you're​ ​still​ ​learning."

Pixar hired Habib​​ ​in​ ​2010,​ ​and​ he ​has​ ​worked​ ​on​​ ​films​ ​such​ ​as​ ​“Inside​ ​Out” and​ ​“Finding​ ​Dory."​ ​Working​ ​on​ ​animation​ ​wasn’t​ ​his​ ​original​ ​focus,​ ​but​ ​he​ ​has​ ​adapted​ ​it as a big​ ​part​ ​of​ ​his​ ​growth​ ​as​ ​a​ ​cinematographer. 

“The​ ​biggest​ ​difference​ ​to​ ​me​ ​is that​ ​camera​ ​and​ ​lighting​ ​are​ ​two​ ​separate​ ​parts," "he said.​ ​In​ ​animation those are actually​ ​two​ ​different​ ​departments ... ​We​ ​kinda​ ​have​ ​to​ ​work​ ​together​ ​to​ ​create​ ​the​ ​images​ ​you're​ ​seeing on​ ​screen."   

Besides​ ​working​ ​on​ ​Pixar​ ​films,​ ​Habib​ ​also​ ​teaches​ ​interns​ ​for​ ​the​ ​studio.​ ​This​ ​where​ ​he sees​ ​the​ ​true​ ​fruits​ ​of​ ​his​ ​labor​ ​come​ ​out. 

“I​ ​love​ ​seeing​ ​my​ ​work​ ​and​ ​my​ ​colleagues​' [work] ​through​ ​their​ ​eyes,”​ ​Habib​ ​said. “Sometimes​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​appreciate​ ​just quite​ ​how​ ​amazing​ ​these​ ​people​ ​are​ ​at​ ​what​ ​they​ ​do​ ​or just​ ​how​ ​fun​ ​they​ ​are​ ​to​ ​work​ ​with.” 

Habib​ ​thinks​ ​that​ ​teamwork​ ​aspect​ ​is​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​consistent​ ​keys​ ​to​ ​success​ ​in​ ​animation, especially​ ​in​ ​a​ ​field​ ​that​ ​constantly​ ​evolves. 

“Helping​ ​lift​ ​up​ ​the​ ​people​ ​around​ ​you​ ​will​ ​actually​ ​pay off​ ​in​ ​your​ ​own​ ​work​ ​because​ ​now​ ​you​ ​have​ ​a​ ​crew​ ​base​ ​you​ ​can​ ​draw​ ​from,​ ​you​ ​have​ ​people who​ ​might​ ​recommend​ ​you​ ​for​ ​jobs,”​ ​Habib​ ​said. 

Even after ​the​ ​success​ ​Habib​ ​has​ ​had​ ​since​ ​graduating​,​​ ​he​ ​still comes​ ​back​ ​to​ ​his​ ​roots​ ​to ​seek​ ​out​ ​those​ ​willing to listen. 

Kobe​ ​Little,​ ​a​ ​second-year​ ​studio​ ​art​ ​and​ ​media​ ​art​ student​ ​who​ ​came​ ​out​ ​to​ ​the Nickelodeon​ ​screenings,​ ​loved ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​seek​ ​out​ ​those​ ​who​ ​can​ ​help​ ​him​ ​in​ ​the field.    

“I think ​it’s​ ​huge​ ​being​ ​able​ ​to​ ​talk​ ​from​ ​just​ ​about​ ​anyone from​ ​Pixar​ ​is​ ​a​ ​really​ ​good​ ​opportunity ... You​ really get to ​understand​ ​what​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​person​ ​that​ ​they’re looking​ ​for​ ​and​ you get to ​ask​ ​personal​ ​questions,”​ ​Little​ ​said. 

After​ ​all​ ​these​ ​years,​ ​Habib​ ​knows​ ​what​ ​has​ ​been​ ​the​ ​source​ ​of​ ​his​ ​entire​ ​successful career:​ ​the​ ​University​ ​of​ ​South​ ​Carolina​ ​faculty. 

“They​ ​really​ ​ignited​ ​my​ ​passion​ ​for​ ​film,​ ​and​ ​being​ ​in​ ​those​ ​classes​ ​was​ ​what​ ​made​ ​me fall​ ​in​ ​love​ ​with​ ​film,”​ ​Habib​ ​said. 



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