As a gaming journalist, Elena Schulz has spent most of her waking hours the last few years living and breathing video games – so it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone when she decided it was time to start creating her own.
“I basically talk about games the whole day, which is awesome, but I want to make my own games in the future,” said the Munich-based freelance illustrator, concept artist and character designer, who was recently selected as the 2021 valedictorian for Online Video Game Animation program.
“After I discovered games were my true passion, I then decided to further my studies at Toronto Film School…because the online Video Game Animation program sounded perfect for me, with its focus on art rather than programming.”
While studying at TFS, Schulz completed several illustration projects for CD covers, websites and children’s books, and also started her own YouTube channel, The Last Pixel, where she talks about art and games.
She recently sat down to reflect on her time at Toronto Film School, her passion for video games, and her plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say:
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Elena, I am 27 years old, and I am from Germany. I love birds (chickens are so cute), the ocean and coffee – I drink way too much. And of course, I really love art and games. I work as a gaming journalist, so I basically talk about games the whole day, which is awesome, but I want to make my own games in the future and work as an artist full time, because this is something I loved for my whole life.
What brought you to Toronto Film School? Where were you in life when you decided to continue your studies with us?
I was eating pizza with a friend and talking about the future. I’d just finished my communication design studies in Germany and was working as a freelance gaming journalist. I told him that I wanted to study something with games, and he encouraged me to look further into it. That very day I just Googled, found Toronto Film School and applied, because the online Video Game Animation program sounded perfect for me, with its focus on art rather than programming.
What made you decide to pursue your passion for gaming?
As a child I played games like Pokémon, Mario Kart and The Sims, but I wasn’t allowed to spend much time in front of my Game Boy or PC. I didn’t even own a console. So, I wasn’t really able to explore my passion for gaming then.
When I grew older a friend introduced me to Deus Ex, which is still my favorite game today. I loved it so much and realized that games are so much more than simple entertainment. I started to catch up with all the games I missed and had an urge to talk about them – that’s why I applied for a job as a gaming journalist. But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to combine my passions for art and gaming, and create my own games with all that knowledge I built up from analyzing them.
What is the most important thing you’re taking away from your studies at TFS?
My time at TFS taught me how great it is to have someone to believe in you and to help you on your way. I am more of a lone wolf than a team player, working on most of my projects alone, which is a hard way to get started. But all the feedback I got from other students and the teachers helped me to get out of my shell and get better. To accept help and feedback is an important skill!
What are your plans after graduation both immediate and long term?
I want to work at a studio in the foreseeable future, in order to learn more about what making games is really like. After that, I would love to start my own studio with games that incorporate more of my own vision and ideas. But I could also imagine myself as an Art Director or Lead Artist in another studio. The only thing I am sure about is that I want to work with games for my whole life! I’m also thinking about doing the online Bachelor of Creative Arts degree through Toronto Film School’s affiliate, Yorkville University, to further my studies.
If you offered one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would that be?
Be open and listen! We can be very protective about our way of doing things or our ideas, but it is important to get feedback in order to grow, even if it can be discouraging. But it isn’t bad to fail, it’s an opportunity to change and learn something. You will get better this way and one day you will be right there where you want to be.