From the university chemistry lab to the video game classroom – for Fiona Jeeva, COVID-19 lockdowns provided all the incentive she needed to take a drastic turn in her educational journey in pursuit of her true calling.
“I was doing my PhD at the time I decided to change careers, and ended up graduating early with a Master’s degree instead,” said Jeeva, Toronto Film School’s Class of 2022 Video Game Design & Animation valedictorian.
“I still loved Chemistry, but ever since I was a child I was interested in both art and video games. During the pandemic, when I got a lot more time to spend with these, I realized that it was what I wanted to do.”
Now graduating at the top of her class, the 27-year-old Toronto native attributes TFS’s resources and instructors for her success as a President’s List graduate.
“I’d like to thank Toronto Film School, my fellow TFS graduates, and all of those that believed in us for the overwhelming support throughout this program,” she said.
“The times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic were unprecedented, but TFS still did an excellent job facilitating great learning experiences, while also encouraging us to work hard on our own and go beyond what is expected. Thank you for helping us grow into the artists we strive to be.”
Jeeva recently sat down to reflect on her time at Toronto Film School, her passion for video game design, and her plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say:
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 27, born and raised in Toronto. Before coming to TFS, I was a chemist pursuing my graduate studies. Science, just as much as art, is a huge part of my life, and in both fields, what drives me is creating. The great thing about video games is that I get to use both my artistic and technical abilities to make awesome stuff!
What brought you to Toronto Film School? Where were you in life when you decided to continue your studies with us?
I was doing my PhD at the time I decided to change careers, and ended up graduating early with a Master’s degree instead. I still loved Chemistry, but ever since I was a child I was interested in both art and video games. During the pandemic, when I got a lot more time to spend with these, I realized that it was what I wanted to do. Toronto Film School, in particular, stood out to me because of the diverse curriculum it offered – they had a bit of everything, and I wanted to learn about so many different parts of the art pipeline in games. I knew right after looking into it that TFS was perfect for me.
What made you decide to pursue your passion for video game design?
I was always very passionate about both art and video games, but back when I was deciding what I wanted my future to be, I never considered that making games could actually be my job. In my early 20s I didn’t have a lot of time to play games, so when I got back into them during the pandemic and thought about how much I’d love to create games that make others as happy as they make me, it suddenly hit me that this is what I could be doing as a career.
What is the most important thing you’re taking away from your studies at TFS?
The most important thing I took away from this program was the path I’ve forged as the artist I want to be. The school provided me with what I needed, but I was able to take that knowledge and turn it into a portfolio that I can be proud of. The overwhelming support from the school, my instructors and my peers allowed me to push myself further and further every time to continually improve.
What are your plans after graduation both immediate and long term?
After graduation, I’d definitely like to work for a AAA studio. I love the level of detail and new technologies being incorporated into games at such a huge scale. In the short term, I’ll spend some time building up my portfolio in order to get my dream job at a big company – one that allows me to use both my artistic and technical skillset.
If you offered one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would that be?
Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things. You might not know what your niche is until you experiment and find it. The school gives you the tools and the knowledge to do the work, but it’s really up to you how far you want to take it. If you’re curious about something or have a cool idea and you don’t know how to go about it, Google is your best friend! Also, definitely ask your teachers any questions you have – they’re here to help you, so there is no better time to ask.