Citlali Vazquez grew up playing with her stuffed animals, pretending they were on a TV show.
Now, she’s working in the film and television industry through a prestigious internship program managed by the Television Academy Foundation (EMMYS).
“I’ve been interested in film and television since I was a kid, and I guess I never gave up on it,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez, a 2018 Cathedral City High graduate, was one of just 40 students chosen from across the country for the summer 2022 Television Academy Foundation internship program. She is currently enrolled at Cal State University, Fullerton.
She grew up watching cartoons, and now she’s taking animation to another level.
Her work focuses on virtual and augmented reality for visual effects at Scanline VFX, a global visual effects and animation studio.
“I’ve always been drawn to seeing people using their imaginations to create something that doesn’t exist, and I wanted to do the same thing,” Vazquez said.
Years ago at Cathedral City High, Vazquez enrolled in the school’s Digital Arts and Technology Academy, a unique opportunity for high school students to gain dual enrollment college credit and practice photography, filmmaking, animation, visual effects, 3D printing and other media.
“I was not interested in photography,” Vazquez said. “That was a no-go. But I was interested in the animation side of it, graphic design, filmmaking, and so I took up animation there and I learned a lot about Adobe Animate (an industry software program).”
With that class as her springboard, Vazquez taught herself more about that program and other popular industry software. She ended up creating an animation that made it into a film festival and helped land her a small scholarship to Cal State Fullerton.
“From there, I was like, you know what? I want to keep doing this; I think this is pretty cool,” Vazquez said.
She says working with virtual and augmented reality requires a totally different process from the animation she’s used to, but she enjoys the challenge.
“It’s a very advanced process. I mean, animation has advanced as well, but this is like extremely advanced from what I’m noticing,” she said.
Learning the new techniques and technologies — she’s seen colleagues use 10 or more computer programs for some effects — has been “really difficult” but also enriching, she said.
“Seeing all the process laid out — I’m like, wow, this is very amazing,” Vazquez said. “I like to see how technology is used to bring somebody’s imagination to life.”
So, what’s next for her?
“After this internship, I am going to work towards finishing school,” she said. Her goal is to graduate in the next year. “From there, I’m gonna branch out and see what jobs are available for me. It could be within the field that I’m in right now, it could be in animation. I’m looking for production assistant roles because in those kind of jobs you get to see everything move in front of you.”
“I want to learn more about how productions work and be able to get myself into that,” Vazquez added. “I can’t just go in and say I want to do this and expect everything to fall in place. I need to learn the process. I need to learn how things work.”
All the while, she’s working on her own pet projects towards her long-term goal of becoming a cartoon creator. It’s a goal she’s held onto since she was a 6-year-old kid watching Cartoon Network.
“Right now, I’m drawing a comic book series,” Vazquez said.
The series is about 3D-printed copies trying to “live” a normal life despite coming out of the printer not looking like they’d hoped.
“I’ve been wanting to do this since high school, but I held it off for five years because of school,” Vazquez said. “I’ve learned to draw better, in general, so I feel like I’m ready to take on this project.”
In addition, the ambitious go-getter is also working on a couple of animations, including reworking the one she did in high school that got into a film festival and led to a scholarship.
“I wanted to redo the animation I did back in high school because there are a lot of things I did wrong and a lot of shots that I don’t agree with.”
Jonathan Horwitz covers education for The Desert Sun. Reach him at [email protected] or @Writes_Jonathan.