Both artist and scientist, Danielle Feinberg is the Director of Photography for Lighting at Pixar Animation Studios.
Her creations can be admired in masterpieces like Wall•E, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Incorporated, The Incredibles, Coco, and much more. Ms. Feinberg turns on the lights on a digital world that would otherwise be dark and invisible to the human eye, just like it would be in our reality. She uses digital photons and shadows to inform us about the beauty and the darkness present in Pixar’s fantastic, yet believable, stories. Harvard graduate and Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (she votes for the Oscars), Danielle worked herself on Academy Award winning movies like Brave: the first Pixar movie starring a female protagonist.
"Diversity of thought is really important to make the best thing possible."
— Danielle Feinberg
Danielle Feinberg (guest): You know, we make much stronger films because there’s different people figuring out how to solve problems and giving feedback and Pixar is sort of famous for anyone can give feedback on the movies and people read it. We’re not just pretending or something and we all understand that. A diversity of thought is really important to make the best thing possible. It’s like making these movies. I don’t know, our crews are 250 people or something and it’s all of these amazing people that are creative and tech and a lot of ways or really creative or really tech and all mixed together. It’s so fun to be around that. It’s a really beautiful thing and you know, a lot of times, a lot of what we get surrounded by and right now is people tearing each other down and it was, I’m so proud to have been a part of something that’s that’s celebrating AMC.
Simone Salis (host): Both artist and scientist, Danielle Feinberg is the Director of Photography for Lighting at Pixar Animation Studios. Her creations can be at admired in masterpieces like Wall•E, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Coco, and much more. Ms. Feinberg turns on the lights on a digital world that would otherwise be dark and invisible to the human eye, just like our reality would. She uses digital photons and shadows to inform us about the beauty and the darkness inside Pixar’s fantastic, yet believable, stories. Harvard graduate and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (she gets to vote for the Oscars), Danielle worked herself on Academy Award winning movies like Brave, the first Pixar movie starring a female protagonist. Danielle. So much creativity and also science and technology at the same time. I want to know, did you have any favorite games when you were growing up, something that stimulated you and you think maybe you, he put you on the path to do what you do now. I mean, I think that I was always into everything in school. I definitely liked school. I like learning things, but I was definitely into math and science quite a lot and I went to a really cool, kind of unusual elementary school that was private and so they just kinda did whatever they wanted and we had these awesome science teachers that would let us choose our own projects.
D. Feinberg: And um, you grew up in Colorado, in Boulder, Colorado. Yeah. Um, this place called bixby school and, and so that definitely was a huge influence. I had, I don’t know all kinds of toys. I’m a lifelong lover of Legos. So constructing things, um, I had some different sets that were sort of almost engineering based where you could put different things together and it had a motor and you could do different experiments but also sort of mechanical things. Legal, tech, no. Those way it’s more like Lego technic, but um, but some of it has a little more of a science element to a different experiments and stuff. And I had some chemistry set and you know, all kinds of funny stuff like that because I was super into that stuff. I think probably the most critical one was when I was in fourth grade, one of the dads at that elementary school said he would teach a programming class after afterschool and I don’t know that anyone’s really knew what programming was, but we had three computers at the school that I think were apple twos.
D. Feinberg: It was the first or second apple’s a computers that were made and I really was into the computers. And so I thought, well, anything else where I get to learn more about the computers and so learned a language called logo, which was a little icon of a turtle that I drove you the code, drove it around on the screen and everywhere it, when it left align. And so my first experience with programming actually made pictures. I was drawing and, uh, were your parents into the science or arts or like how did you have any guidance or reference? My parents are super artistic. They’re both architects. They both did a lot of kind of fine arts type stuff in college. My sister was a fine arts major and this now does all kinds of stuff in historic preservation and it was kind of one of the things where we grew up in a household where my parents threw us in art classes as the kind of thing to keep us entertained a lot of times and we had this giant sort of dining room size table in the basement that had gobs of art supplies and that was part of how we entertained ourselves, was sitting down there just making art.
D. Feinberg: And so definitely grew up with art all around but didn’t necessarily like any reference in the science field. That was just your passion there was born those machines. Certainly my parents as architects both had some science, but I’m not sure that that was necessarily exactly where they were coming from. Not that they didn’t have the talent there, but I think their love was sort of more the creation and, and art side of things. So, but I pretty quickly gravitated to the math and science of it all. And so you decided to go on with this let you, you had those interests that drove you and uh, that went on in high school and eventually college, you’re a Harvard graduate, but I studied computer science degree in computer science and when I applied I thought maybe I would do engineering. I thought mechanical engineering because I had gone to an engineering camp between his junior and senior year of high school and thought it was super fun.
D. Feinberg: I thought I was going to do that and then started picking my classes and realized that some of the classes for engineering, we’re not really anything I was too interested in and. But there was two computer science classes that counted towards any engineering degree. And so I thought, well I’ll take those while I figured out what I want to do. And it really was maybe two weeks into the first semester. And I thought, well, why am I not studying computer science because I already know I love computer science. And I looked at the list of classes and it’s like, oh, I would be psyched to take all those classes, especially that computer graphics class. So okay. So then it became pretty obvious to me frequently. And which year was this because a computer graphics class or. So that would have been 1994 that I took it, I think a big sign he barely.
D. Feinberg: Because I think toy story is in between 1993. 90 four toy story came out in [inaudible] 95. [inaudible] 95. So when I was a senior in my first semester, my senior year toy story came out and we had a little graphics group and we all went to see it because for us it was, that was pretty magical to see an entire feature film made of the stuff that we were sort of devoting ourselves to. So you are looking towards something that didn’t exist yet. It came up. Did you have any, any, um, references in the science or arts? Uh, for, for women, that’s a stupid question. There was a few historical figures, but most of them you didn’t really hear that much about, you know, a sort of a passing thing. So I would say, you know, uh, in the elementary school we had something called the Einstein Society.
D. Feinberg: We learned a lot about Einstein and we have little hats that said the Einstein Society, it was sort of like this fun thing that one of the science teachers put together I think just to keep kids kind of excited about science and, and so I think there were probably a variety of influences. There were not a lot of female influences just because there weren’t a lot of obvious ones, but of course. And um, so you graduated from college and then you, did you, did you come to work here straight from college to pick some? I started at Pixar about eight months after I graduated. I had another job that I had an internship between junior and senior year in San Francisco and they were like, we want you to come back full time. And so it seemed very easy and I thought then I could kind of plot and plan and figure out a way to get into pixar because pixar was in the bay area so perfectly.
D. Feinberg: And were there, was it, when did you start doing here? When, as soon as you got a pixar started out as a, we call them render wranglers back then, now they’re called render technical directors, but because it’s a render farm, so you were the render wrangler that was actually sort of amusing. I’m sort of sad at went away. But um, so it was um, I was the first render wrangler, so when I came on it meant I got to do renders for the lighting tests that the, the woman who was directing the lighting did Sharon Callahan on a bug’s life. And so got to be friends with her and uh, sort of see what she was doing. And then in rendering, at least back then you did renders for all the departments. And so I got to see what the whole pipeline was like and what every department was doing and understand the technical underpinnings of the whole thing.
D. Feinberg: Because if there’s a problem, we’d have to either solve it or send it to the right department. Um, and so that was a pretty awesome way kind of come into this place and see what it was all about and understand the technical and what each department’s problems and sort of trials and tribulations. And then on a bug’s life they got about half of the rendering department to help out with lighting just because lightings last creative steps. So as every other department, Mrs. Third deadline, lighting, lighting, release date stays the same. Yeah. And so, so we helped out with that and so I got my first taste of lighting and then when a bug’s life ended, you know, it was kind of back then if you had done a good job on the movie, they said, well, what would you like to do next? And so I said, well, I’d like to try a modeling and I’d like to do lighting. And so I got to do a little modeling and a little lighting and then pretty soon I had done enough lighting and I loved it. And so that’s what I sort of specialized on. Yeah,
S. Salis: let me try it from my point of view understanding. I’m obviously, I’m not from here, I’m not in your field, so I’ll just try to understand as a listener might rendering, just to explain is when you have like a rough model and then eventually it’s the computer calculates all delights and materials and the final result of what everybody wants from each department and that’s how we see from a rough version of the movie to a final visually pleasant version. And that requires a lot of competition, right?
D. Feinberg: That’s what we build a whole three dimensional world inside the computer and the code is to some extent mimicking real life physics. And so the process of rendering as taking all those files that have, you know, numbers and letters in them and turning them into an image and what it’s doing is really taking that three dimensional world and with all those computations and doing things like the physics of how the light is falling from the. Where you place the lights in that three dimensional world sort of understanding what color is that? Each pixel on generating a flat two d image that can go onto film,
S. Salis: Big Sur had and probably still has their own software developing. How’s he was renderman
D. Feinberg: render man. Yeah. That’s still going on. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It’s. I’m running around. It’s awesome. It’s been, it’s been going for many, many years and used a lot of other places besides just
S. Salis: pixar, so that’s also licensed outside for you. So that kind of stuff and it’s a great social. You started with that and it’s just crazy to me that like through that software you can create something visually and Blake and do storytelling through that kind of those things. And you were talking about something that is also incredibly interesting because you know one thing about lighting and we have a classic setup like we’re in the Steve Jobs building right now and we have natural light that comes from outside through the windows and there is the artificial light inside a room, right? Then we have like that. It has like a specific temperature color handed as a way to diffuse through the room and reflects through us or faces and all of this is crazy. You also work with infinitely small objects like particles and particle effects, smoke, rain explosions and waterfall. See, we’re talking about a bug’s life, but also you worked on finding Nemo, right? If you, if you look at that, just just looking underwater. It’s, it’s, it’s beautiful. You can see those small things moving in the water.
D. Feinberg: Yeah. Yeah. Then that kind of, that kind of and, and,
S. Salis: and bouncing. What is the process of. What is the balance for you between real world physics apply through algorithms to the code that she worked with and the result. It’s still a cartoon. It’s still a story of Picsart is so do you go for the ultra realistic or do you. What do you go for? What is the process for you to decide the right balance?
D. Feinberg: Yeah. You know, are the business here as storytelling and so what we’re going for is, is a world to set our stories and then so what we really want is a believable world. We don’t want a physically correct world, we’re not making like, I don’t know, physics videos for courtrooms or something like that. And so what we want to do is, is create believable worlds because we also, you know, we have the ultimate luxury that we’re working in the computer and so we can create any world we want and we don’t want to take that away from ourselves. We want to be able to create art and stylize things and do all kinds of fun stuff without any bounds. And you know, like if you’re doing a live action movie, you’re bound by the physical stuff of this world unless you break into computer generated imagery. So, so, so we’re always shooting for a believable world.
S. Salis: Okay. That’s what you go for. And at the same time you do need some, like for the light part.
D. Feinberg: Yeah. And for lighting, for special effects, for Karen cloth, we need to, um, you know, for every part of this pipeline we have to harness the power of the computer. Like we want to use a physics simulator for how heroin cloth move or how particles move to makeup water. Say or enlightening how light bounces off of walls. I think the trap that you can fall into is thinking that that gets you the best result that can get you to a believable play or to an authentic sort of scientific place within the bounds of what humans can do to mimic reality. You can’t mimic reality. Exactly. Yeah. The important thing is you want to use the computer up until the point it fails your storytelling and your artistic vision and then you need an artist to be able to take over and break that physics as the artists. We have to understand what is a thing where you can break the physics to make better storytelling and a stylized wonderful artistic world and what’s breaking physics and it’s going to pull the audience out of it and look not believable or um, you know, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the term uncanny valley for humans. If you, you make, um, humans and say computer animated movie and you get them really close but not close enough. It’s really disorienting to the audience and can give you this sort of feeling. It
S. Salis: starts a comparison. Is like, oh, it’s close enough, but why isn’t the same? It gets creepy. Yeah. So is that why the incredibles, for example, are human. They’re like, they’re stylized. It’s like, well, the incredibles is like retro futuristic, but yeah. And, and that’s also falls under the decision of making it. They’re human like, but not realistically human.
D. Feinberg: Yeah. And that whole movie has a really fun stylization to it and so it falls right in line with that and I think with each movie, especially where we have humans, because as human beings we’re so familiar with how humans look and move and act and stuff, but on each movie we have to decide which elements are going to be more towards the realistic side and which ones are gonna be more stylized. For example, when you do skin, do you want pores and the skin or does that look gross? Right? Like so perfectly visible. Well, yeah,
S. Salis: sued in some three d. that’s, that’s true too. If you look like not just on youtube but also in our other companies working on computer animation, it gets to the point where it’s a little bit disgusting.
D. Feinberg: IMC, Mona, Sally’s some business humans with today’s guest, Danielle Feinberg, director of photography for lighting. Epic. Sir, How can light tell a story? Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Lots of ways. So let’s say here’s a very simple way on wally. While it was a super challenging film because there’s no traditional dialogue in the first, I don’t know, 30 minutes of that film because while he doesn’t speak, he makes robot noises and so in any movie or setting up what the world is in the very beginning and usually that’s done through dialogue to characters speaking to each other. What we have is a robot who doesn’t speak on a planet. We have to tell the audience that it’s earth that it’s polluted. That 700 years have gone by, that all humans are in space, in a spaceship and we have to do it all without dialogue. And so we had to.
D. Feinberg: We had to figure out a lot of ways to do visual storytelling. So. So one thing we realized really early on, we did a series of test shots. I let the test shots get kind of on the reddish side of things. And the funny thing we learned is that as humans, when anything looks science fiction, if it goes red, you think it’s Mars because that’s what we’ve been told. That’s an architectural language, right? And I, we’re controlling like what the color is. So I had to be really careful, especially in that beginning part, not to let anything get to read because otherwise the audience immediately thinks it’s Mars and you’re going to have to get them disassociated from that to tell them that it’s earth. And it certainly resonate the same if, if the audience thinks it’s Mars, like they have to understand it’s earth, it’s their home. It’s what’s happened to it as it’s been diluted over time. And so that’s, that’s a very simple sort of way that, that just colored does that for us. No, that’s just a, a subtle
S. Salis: the season that you have to make because the audience is never going to be. I mean, unless they are very well educated in the matter of like your work, but nobody’s every going to be conscious of that. And yeah, that’s going to influence most of the perception of the general perception of the movie. So you were constantly with this kind of like subtle decisions that influence the story in itself.
D. Feinberg: Exactly. And stuff you would never think of that we spend all our time thinking about what I think you were talking about in one of your Ted talks,
S. Salis: you’ve done different. You’re very active with girls who code made with code
D. Feinberg: a project at Google and also Ted talks and you explain
S. Salis: your work and I’m thinking one of them, you were explaining how the forest in brave, uh, I found it such a beautiful contrast. You were explaining the difference between the, the lights in the castle, which is pretty classic setup and how the forest in itself is dark and that’s also in fairytales, although they are not so feminists. And the message is not towards like the protagonist sled like meredith, I think that’s the name taking control of her own life and decision understanding herself. But we do have the same kind of duality like the passage into adulthood. And I think the darkness of the forest was your choice. And it was exactly that, a step into the unknown and funding oneself,
D. Feinberg: right? Exactly. Yeah. The castle, we left sort of lighting of the time period as a because that’s what visually made sense, but also as, I dunno, for me, a team being a teenager was like one foot being a kid and one foot in being an adult and having no idea where you’re going or who you’re becoming. And so it felt really natural to have this, this very natural, traditional light in the castle. And then that the other kind of lighting out in the forest where it goes off in the darkness of the great unknown all over
S. Salis: it. It’s uh, it’s a joy to see the silhouettes and the contrast from the background. A character itself, like it’s just playing a beautiful. It reminded me, you know, this is a, this is, you also are doing almost the work of, well you are the director of photography for lighting, but it’s almost as classic as the work of a director because I think in Black Swan, if you have seen the movie, the beginning scene, it’s just a dance between the two main characters. It was just slight and dark and that’s the whole movie. Summarize in two minutes and there is so much storytelling in that kind of work too. I watched Coco I think. I think I almost because when I was at the movie theater it was an explosion of color from the land of the dead and it’s a conscious that we would want pictures of the after life. How did that decision come to la? When did you guys do to come to that decision and this visual language?
D. Feinberg: Yeah, I mean I think the land of the dead was one of the hardest design problems for the movie because it’s one of those things where what does that world look like? Like how do you, what do you base it on? So if we make a movie, maybe like monsters incorporated, you’re fairly sure that the monster world is gonna. It probably feels right for it to look like the human world, but kind of monster eyes and you can do a lot of fun stuff that way. The same is not true for the land of the dead. So what is it going to look like? We’ve had multiple movies that were sort of like that, like inside out what does the inside of the mind look like or something. And so trying to figure that out. But one thing we knew is, you know, you could oversimplify and say, well it’s sort of a representation of the afterlife and you know, that’s like heaven and white and blurry.
D. Feinberg: And it was like that was the antithesis of what we wanted. This is a movie about a DNA Muertos, Mexico, and it needed to be colorful and vibrant and lively. This was not, you know, a sad model in place that people were hanging out. This is the Dia de Muertos is like a celebration of life and family and an ancestors. And so we knew it needed to be colorful and vibrant and lively. Now figuring out what that world actually looked like was its whole own challenge. But we knew from the beginning it was going to be super colorful
S. Salis: and it is with millions of lights, like the first opening shot. You look at all of this building, it’s that each one has, I don’t know how many.
D. Feinberg: Eight and a half million. Eight and a half. Yeah. Yeah. How do you render that? Yeah, this is awesome. So, um, this Guy Tim Bab on the good dinosaur came up with this slight for. There’s a scene with fireflies and it’s basically through essentially some fancy math and code puts a point of light at each one of the fireflies. And the computer considers it as one expensive light instead of thousands of, of lights at each firefly. And so we took that and extended a little bit. And, and so each street lamp in that world is one that they, all of them together, say there’s a million street lights in that shot it, the computer considers that one light through some very fancy math and code. And then there’s another light that’s all of the blue lights that could run along the trolley tracks and there’s another one that’s. And so you end up with actually probably 12 of these we call particle lights that account for, I don’t know, maybe 8 million of the lights on that.
S. Salis: So you’re going to have to compress unfamiliar optimizing like us warm light.
D. Feinberg: Yeah. And it’s sort of fancy I’m sampling to get where the light would hit because you know, certain things. And so you can be very smart about it.
S. Salis: Uh, well. So the, the uh, the miracle bridge. Yeah. That’s, it’s millions of pedals. Luminescent bridge. Yeah. It’s just, it’s just great. I think like if you need to watch coco, you need to watch it in hd.
D. Feinberg: The are pork.
S. Salis: The few cases that been like, oh, I really tried this technology here. What is, do you have a favorite project that you worked with pixer that also made you happy from what I see are so passionate that most of what your work, what makes you satisfied on a personal level? So for some, you know, it’s, it’s a great ability to be able to harvest this kind of job and understanding of oneself. But yeah, do you have a specific one they youth look back and think like, oh this influenced me as an artist, as a, it was, it was a clear turning point for you and made you very satisfying throughout all the projects that you had with
D. Feinberg: sir. You know, I think it’s funny because each film has its own sort of things. You learn its own hardships, it’s own joys and sort of glories to it. And so I’ve always had a really hard time answering this sort of the more simplified version of like, what’s your favorite movie? I think the thing that’s been interesting is, is as we got to the end of cocoa, I was giving a talk to a girls group and they wanted to know what my favorite movie is and I started to try and explain how each movie has these different associations with each one. And I, I love all of them. It’s like which kid is your favorite or something like that. And then all of a sudden I stopped and I was like, no, coco is my favorite. And it’s like because I think per partially because I had the most creative input that I’ve ever had on that film.
D. Feinberg: The topic I think is something that I’ve always been fascinated by, the holiday and thing. It’s just like this kind of magical thing, especially after going through the research trips and really understanding the holiday and what it’s about. Mexican. Yeah. A couple times for, for day of the dead and having a movie that’s about chasing your dreams even when sometimes the other people in the room don’t believe in your dreams is, is obviously very poignant for me. Themes of the importance of family and ancestors is something that I care deeply about. And I think also the thing for me that kind of puts it over the top also is that they got to be this celebration of Mexico and its people and its culture and on this holiday. And it’s a really beautiful thing. And you know, a lot of times a lot of what we get surrounded by right now is people tearing each other down and it was, I’m so proud to have been a part of something that’s, that’s celebrating.
S. Salis: I want to say a little bit more on the tech of what you’re working in. Does this Vr excites you?
D. Feinberg: I think mutual respect is so fascinating in terms of how often do you get to. It’s almost, it’s like creating a new art form. Like that doesn’t really happen. I mean, how many times has that happened in our lifetimes? Like movies and it’s like three D computer animation feels a little bit like that. Like there was an animation and there was movies. Vr feels like this whole other thing. It isn’t obvious to me how you tell stories in Vr the same way that we do like we are such crazy people about giving the audience exactly the sort of experience we hope for where we’d set the camera. Exactly. So to tell the story, we set the lighting for that camera. Exactly.
S. Salis: Tell the story of shared experience, because that’s the same vision for everyone. Turns into the subjective
D. Feinberg: science and I think the discovery side of vr where you are controlling what you see is really exciting. It’s so different than what we do that um, I think that’s part of the excitement, but it also feels like a really different thing. And even just a, we had someone give a demo of sort of doing almost like painting in Vr.
S. Salis: Yeah, like the htc vive, those kinds of feel like with those controllers that you can paint.
D. Feinberg: Yeah. And this was another thing called quill that I think was born out of maybe facebook’s Vr oculus and um, it was the coolest thing they were painting, but it was creating geometry that is a three dimensional world and you could all of a sudden you had conjured up a world and in this very quick sort of easy way. And I don’t know, I think all that stuff is really fascinating. So you keep an open mind about how I will eventually. Okay. So you said we cannot simulate physics. Exactly. Like in reality. And we started them. And do you think the world is well rendered? Is it a good rendering? Sometimes went to correct the lines. This funny thing does happen. We spent so much time on the eyes and lighting, um, because they’re really important at that. When I’m in the midst of a movie, I’ll be having a conversation with someone and there’s this voice, oh, the eye highlight should move.
D. Feinberg: Oh, the whites of their eyes should be brighter, the irs should be brighter, and it’s like a little bit of crazy making, but when that’s your job, then you start to over analyze. It loses a little bit of magic, but also the result is always a friend who you get more and more accurate in what you’re doing. Like the IMC, Mona, Sally’s seven visits, humans. You can listen to every episode on your favorite podcast app or with a full transcript are available on humans. Don’t Org. Today’s guest is Danielle Feinberg, lighting artists and code crafter at peak. Sir, you said growing up you were in a computer science class and probably growing up, what is your experience as a woman? Because obviously I don’t have that and obviously I’m not in the tech field. How was it for you? You know, I got to college and it was maybe 10 or 15 percent women in my computer science and math classes and I took a couple of engineering and statistics classes and it was all a very small percentage of women and so you walk into that room and no matter what you feel like you don’t belong and so you have to get over this feeling of being an outsider and like you’re weird for being there or that you’re not going to be accepted for being there and then you just actually even have to do the work which has its own challenge in itself.
D. Feinberg: So it was not easy. Like, thankfully I played softball in college and so I had, I had my sort of almost family that had nothing to do with the people in my classes. And so it felt like, well, you know, this, I can feel like an outsider. Here are, these guys can be jerks to me, but I have the people I care about somewhere else. Like I have the people that matter to me kind of. Um, and if I hadn’t had that though, I’m not sure what I would’ve done because it would’ve felt really lonely. So a support was fundamental, really, really fundamental. Your family’s seems to be very supportive. We’ll see your chosen family. People were, you could, you could actually spend time with them or you go hang out with them and when you remember there’s other things in life than the people that are sitting in the classroom, kind of, you know.
D. Feinberg: And, and my junior year, uh, we, I took the computer graphics class, which I loved, but we are in the science center basement where the computers were that we had to do the homework on. Previously I had been able to be in my dorm room by now we’re in the basement together and the guys were all ganging up together to do the homework and there’s always twists in the homework and they’re figuring them out and telling each other. And then the girls are sort of scattered in the corners and you’re the sort of lens here on devices. And the couple times I asked the most basic questions because I didn’t even know the operating system, like I was just sort of left out of the blue. Yeah. And so I’d asked some simple question. They just stare at me and like it was, it was not, it wasn’t fun.
D. Feinberg: Um, and it’s much better now at least where I went to school, there’s many more women at least. And so that has a way of changing things. But I got here and first of all you’ve already made it through that so you have some amount of thick skin and ways to deal with it. And I played sports also and so I think that has a way of making you understand toughness and persevering and stuff. And I got here and this is a pretty wonderful place on a lot of really nice people and it’s the bay area, so everybody’s pretty open and accepting of, of everyone because that’s just kind of almost the culture in the bay area. It’s a pretty supportive place now. It’s still like, you know, any kind of unconscious bias that you have anywhere. It’s not like it’s, I’m the Holy Land where that doesn’t happen, that’s impossible and everything was amazing.
D. Feinberg: So, but I think also what helped a lot is that I became friends early on with Sharon Callahan who is directing lighting for a bug’s life as I mentioned, and she kind of took me under her wing and mentored me and taught me about lighting, but also has the whole. I’ve been here 21 years, so the whole 21 years has been the person that I can go into her office and shut the door and say this is what’s happening, what do I do? And she’ll help me and give me advice and stuff. And, and, um, and so that’s been super helpful. So I think, you know, it’s not always an easy path for sure. Uh, and I think the important thing is to have the people around you that can give you the straight talk but also cheer you on and be supportive. And that isn’t always women.
D. Feinberg: That’s men too. Like I have, I’ve had some wonderful male mentors that, that, that can be even more powerful because it feels like, you know, it isn’t like I don’t know, all men are against you or something, which I think is an easy, easy thing that lumping together that happens sometimes and it’s just not true. Like there’s jerks out there of any sex. So. So diversity is important regardless of the gender, the orientation, the ethnicity or anything else. Absolutely. You know, it’s like making these movies. It’s a, I don’t know, our crews are 250 people or something and you know, we make much stronger films because there’s different people figuring out how to solve problems and giving feedback and pixar sort of famous for anyone can give feedback on the movies and it’s. And people read it. It’s not just, we’re not just pretending or something and we all understand that a diversity of thought is really important to make the best thing possible. Why is for the future diversity important in the tech field? I’ll tell
S. Salis: you, I’m honestly concerned with lots of new technologies are facing like facial recognition and that kind of stuff, and b corporations working with governments towards those. I’m sort of afraid of the lack of diversity because the bias might be incorporated into the technologists and I don’t want that to happen. So that’s one of my personal concerns. Yeah. Why, why is diversity important for the future in the tech field?
D. Feinberg: I think it’s totally reasonable concern that you have because it’s proven to be true. So, um, I’ll use the, the sort of example that everyone uses of, you know, it was all male engineers working on airbags for cars and when an airbag deployed and it was a kid or a woman, you know, it’s a different workforce, right? And so, so that’s a really just simple example of how if you don’t have diversity, um, at those levels, then you, you’re going to run into problems. It’s really important. And, and I think people like to think of it, well, diversity is, it’s doing the right thing and so we’ll sort of pay lip service to it and check off the box. But the truth is like, you know, the companies that are going to figure out that they’re actually going to make better products to appeal to more people in, they’re actually gonna make more money if they really embrace diversity.
D. Feinberg: We live in the u s so that’s capitalism through and through. And it’s like, I don’t know why everyone’s so slow to catch on that they’re actually gonna make more money when they have better. I think that’s a great point. You know, it’s just like as a, as a gay man. Um, I’m always impressed. I’m a little bit thrown off. And also surprise to go to walk into a target around the pride weekend in Chicago 30 is a pride aisle with lots of law and also the I’m like, oh, that’s great. And then I go like it. Oh, we go, we got turned into an initial. We’ve been commercialized as well. Yeah. And the apple pride band for them. Um, but yeah, but, so that’s, that’s a very good point. It’s like profitability will save us a diverse on some level in the US, the thing that people respond to. So, but what, what, what
S. Salis: I think is the way to improve diversity in, into the field, how do you think we should, what is a good step that we should take right now and how can we try to, to do our best to, to where do we start?
D. Feinberg: Yeah. It was funny. I was at the lesbians who Tech Conference there is. Okay. I love that. Yeah, it’s really fabulous. It’s like one of my favorite things. I’m like, Oh, these are my people. It’s the lesbians and they do and it’s like a whole room full of my people. And um, but this woman, uh, this very powerful woman of color was on stage talking and she said something at the end of her speech that was like, you know, you want to know how to hire women of color, hire women of color, right? Like, it’s not like they’re nowhere, just like Megan efforts and decide to do it. And
D. Feinberg: if you stick to the same thing that has been hiring your white men, you’re going to hire white men, right? Like if like, if you want diversity, then goes to seek diversity and hire those people. And so a little bit of a as it is, it’s just laziness and the like, well they don’t apply so they must not be out there. Thing is like, no. If you care, look, if, if a company realize that having diversity made them more money, do you think they wouldn’t go find the people, like they would go to the ends of the earth to find the very best people. And so it’s rare. That’s really what it’s about. Yeah.
S. Salis: Okay. So let’s start campaigning with that is like a companies you’re going to make more money if you’re a little bit less shitty and selecting like that. I think in um, in Pixar movies at some point, I don’t remember which one was maybe finding dory. Maybe Finding Nemo. There was like in the background, the first, what was assumed to be the first lesbian couple. Have you ever heard about this? I have, yes. Was that, can you confirm?
D. Feinberg: I didn’t work on that movie, so I don’t, I don’t even have the, the back door, the back room conversations, but I enjoyed the
S. Salis: rumors. Right. We live for those. No, I, um, although at this point and female, again we decided it’s not because it’s the janitor in itself is just because it’s important in diversity and so for the lack of this representation of diversity growing up and not having a specific role model, I got to tell you, you are one now because that’s the, you know that. But you, I think it’s a pretty conscious decision on your side. Like I can see that most of the worker you have been doing with girls who code made with code and you just mentioned lesbians in Tech. It’s like at some point of your career did you realize that you were like advanced enough that you also had the opportunity to add a voice with your experience and so sharing that. Do you want to inspire other people? Do you want to inspire boys and girls like growing up and be themselves?
D. Feinberg: Yeah. About 15 or 16 years ago, someone mailed out here at Pixar about this girls math and science camp and they were fundraising for something and I looked it up and I sent the people, uh, the camp and email and said, I can, I see that camps next week so it’s too late for next year, but I wish I had had a camp like this growing up. And so if there’s an error any ever, ever anything I can do, you know, and I gave them my, my why I might be legitimate. I’m like, I studied computer science at Harvard and I work at Pixar now. And um, I think it was within an hour I got an email back from the woman who started the camps, was just this like powerhouse. And uh, she’s like, I’ve scheduled to do teach two classes next week at the camp. And I thought, oh my goodness, what am I going to do?
D. Feinberg: And so, um, that first camp I drove down there was happening at Stanford and it was girls in the summer between seventh and eighth grade math and science camp. And I drove down with a vhs tape from finding Nemo and we’ve had a paper and a pen and that was how I started talking to girls and I just remember that first time talking to them and I talked all about how we make our movies but, but relating at all to the math, science code and of course I can’t help but talk about the art and storytelling. Seeing their eyes light up reminded me of when I was in that computer graphics class and saw the Pixar short films and became so inspired about what math science and code can do. And then those girls, they wanted my autograph and they just wanted to talk to me.
D. Feinberg: And it became really obvious that, um, the impact that pixar movies have and, and what I could do if I was willing to spend my time going out and talking about this, what it could do for girls. And now I’m underrepresented minorities and all these groups that I go out and speak to. That it could change it so that there weren’t rooms anymore. Like I experienced where I just like computer science and I want to study it in college and I walk into almost every one of my classes and I feel like an outsider and that’s a pretty crummy feeling in general in life, but when you’re just trying to survive college, you know, and work really hard and that I, I might be able to have some small impact on that. That felt really important to me. Is heartwarming to see that, uh, you know, fixers.
D. Feinberg: Storytelling is famous icon. I cannot add anything. Even if I wanted to even to rumors and legit if you read about the culture did was Ed catmull and John Lasseter. We’re trying to, if you read a little about those, it’s, it clearly shows that the openness and open minded and, and, and the results are so incredibly strong both on, on, on the financial and business success and storytelling wise it, it’s great to see that it comes from people like hugh because it shows a path that I think is the most important to me that mixes up tech and arts and that’s why they’re fundamental. That’s why, at least to me, the coolest thing is that this company is an entire company full of people like that like it is. It’s all of these amazing people that are creative and tech in a lot of ways or really creative or really tech and all mixed together.
D. Feinberg: It’s so fun to be around that took a loan, can be alienating. You see that especially in a different corporate environments and just woke it inside here. You feel that it’s the total opposite or looking around or the people. It is just great and I’m good enough compliments to picture what matters to you know, I want to see as a person, strip away the the picture part and let me ask you what this matter to you in life. Like at the end of the day, you look at Becca, this journey that you had the Neil Feinberg ahead and you’ll go like, you know, I’m really glad that I cared mostly about this things. What are those things? Working hard is really important to me and I think being a good person is really important to me and I think a lot of that focuses around being good to the people around me and also being able to do stuff like go out and talk to girls and stuff and sort of contribute to society as well as be good to the people around me and I think those are things that I learned from my parents and have just really helped me in my life to get to where I am and I think, you know, being happy as is the other thing.
D. Feinberg: And so it’s like kind of those three things are the most important things to me is finding a balance between those. Are you a spiritual person or. I mean these are perfectly great values to have as a humanist or just as that, but are you a spiritual person? I’m a spiritual person. I didn’t grow up with any real religion of any kind and I think organized religion is not really my thing, but I, I absolutely spiritual. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. What is some advice that you would give to young aspiring artists and developers, code crafters and artists? I think one of the most important things to know is that for the majority of people, as you go down these paths, that there are going to be days where you feel like you’re terrible at it or you feel like other people feel like you’re terrible at it, or you make mistakes or things happen or you don’t get the job that you really want, or these things that if you take them to deeply to heart, can take you off of the path that you really want to be on an end.
D. Feinberg: Sort of chase your dreams away and the thing is that on the path to achieving your dreams, you are going to have all kinds of those days and so if you go into it knowing I’m going to have bad days, I’m going to feel dumb. I’m going to feel like I can’t do this and I need to just prepare myself for that so that when it comes, you just go, oh yeah, there it is. Okay, tomorrow will be better than. I think you’re much better equipped for it because I think otherwise no one tells you that and you go in and you have those days and you think maybe I’m not smart enough to do this. Maybe I’m not good enough to do this. Maybe this isn’t the path set out for me because I think we give kids this false sense of like, well, when you find the thing that you’re really good at, it will be easy somehow.
D. Feinberg: We don’t tell them that like, you feel like you’re going to have bad days and you’re going to feel dumb about stuff. Like I still feel dumb about stuff. I still feel like, you know, whenever I do something new, like when are people going to figure out I don’t know what I’m doing. You know, and it’s. I think the thing that’s been most powerful for me is to understand that, that, that isn’t going away. Like that’s part of the experience of being a not completely conceded human and you know, and that, that what the best thing you can do is find a way to have that voice. And sideline and just keep putting one foot in front of the other so that you get to the days where everything feels really awesome and you’re pretty, pretty happy and you get to to like live your dreams.
D. Feinberg: So look at the greater picture to follow and find yourself in what you like. Yeah. And you can’t expect that the is going to be an easy one. You just arm yourself for the days when it isn’t. Well there are some projects that we should check out. A girls who code that code is doing great work. Oh Man. There’s so many. This is the great thing now with diversity behind such an important issue is that there’s so many great organizations doing so many great things. So it’s almost like in every community there’s great stuff. So girls who code is isn’t a lot of cities across the US and they do these summer immersion programs for girls, but also clubs afterschool that, that communities can put together themselves instead of having an organized by girls who code. I’m little. So the stem program. So there’s tons of stem programs.
D. Feinberg: So there’s tons of summer programs and it’s like each community seems to have its own sort of uprising of awesome stuff going on. There’s all kinds of stuff online now like um, like pixar has been doing this pixar and a box for a Khan Academy and so it’s this series of classes for Khan Academy. And so if you can get online and get into Khan Academy, the Khan Academy classes, there’s one that’s all kinds of math based about pixar does their films. There’s a storytelling one. We’re working on a lighting, there’s all kinds of great stuff. And so that’s really fun. We have a museum exhibit that’s traveling around to different science museums. That’s all the science behind Pixar and it’s so awesome. It has all these hands on exhibits that you can learn about how we do do our work and the kind of math science and code behind it.
D. Feinberg: But also some of the artwork too. And so there’s all kinds of different ways to get it. And, and not just focusing on the, the kind of national ones. Because I think that sometimes you miss out on the really awesome grassroots stuff that’s happening in each community to thank you so much for joining today, Danielle Feinberg, director of photography for lighting that fixer. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you. Danielle Feinberg is a storyteller using light has their narrative tool with over two decades of experience at Pixar animation studios, Ms Dot Feinberg inspires younger generations of old genders and communities to become artists through technology. Her work can be admired in academy award nominated movies and winners like Coco and brave support. For this show comes from you. I don’t drink coffee or beer, so I want to ask you to just donate some money to buy me one, but I will ask you to support the days and nights I spent working as an independent creator because producing humans is an incredibly rewarding experience that really brings me joy, but also takes hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars each month. I take care of recording, writing, editing, creating graphics, coding for your website, publishing, promoting and reaching out for the amazing guests that I’m lucky enough to be able to talk to and we love. If you would like to keep enjoying new episodes in articles regularly, please show your support now at hoomans.org/donate.