21/02/23 • News & Happenings

The Lightbulb Moment

With Sara Coca!

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Sara Coca, Production Manager

For a lot of people, working long hours may seem far removed from their dream job. Yet for Production Manager, Sara Coca, that’s exactly what it led to.

In this month’s Lightbulb Moment, Sara explains to us what it was that appealed so much to her about her first role in the industry, and which animated heroes have been inspiring her since childhood.

Over to you, Sara!

I grew up in the 90s, and always loved the animated movies that formed part of my childhood. Two of my favourites were Hercules and Mulan. Those two heroes gave me the feeling that I could do anything that I wanted to do, if I focused and dedicated myself to my work. Both Mulan and Hercules had to work hard to become the best, but they never renounced their kindness, their compassion or their nobility. At the end of the movies, they are at the top, but they are still themselves. All their hard work paid off.

Although these movies both inspired me, my ‘Lightbulb Moment’ actually happened when I was already working in animation. I had landed a job as a production trainee for a small studio in a super small town in Spain that was creating a very ambitious hand drawn feature film. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t even know what kind of an industry I was getting into, but once I started working, I knew the job was a great fit – even though everything was new, and I had to learn so many new skills! Not only that, but I was working very long hours while constantly trying to improve whatever I had learned so far.

Despite all of that, my working environment constantly motivated me. I made lots of friends and connections and met so many cool people, some of whom I now consider to be my closest friends. They showed me their passion for animation and shared that feeling with me. My fellow crew members lived, ate and breathed animation. They would always carry something to draw with and something to draw on, and their favourite topic of conversation was (guess what?) … animated movies, series and video games! When I found myself surrounded by all these animation geniuses, all talking about the golden era of Disney, I could not resist the call of animation!

The message contained within Hercules and Mulan to keep on grinding and working hard is really one of my core values. It is tough sometimes, work (and life) can be challenging, but I believe it is important to define your final goal and your values and to always keep both in mind, using them as a shield against everything else getting in the way. When things start getting difficult, or I have a lot that I want to do and I don’t know where to start, I remember how, in the movies, they began with the simplest of things. For Hercules, it was going to the Pantheon to seek advice. For Mulan, it was changing her hair and dressing as a man to be able to join the army. Compared to all that both heroes achieved, these first steps may seem small, but if you look at them in perspective, they were the first steps to much bigger stories. I therefore try not to underestimate the small tasks, they can really make a difference in the long run.

Looking back now, I see my first job in the industry was worth it, regardless of the long hours. I learned so much, professionally and personally.

As for recommended watching, I would say try any of the documentaries about how early animation studios used to work (Hanna Barbera, Walt Disney, Pixar in their beginning, etc). They are so inspiring for me. They wanted to make movies and, since they didn’t have the tools or the technical advances we have today, they had to invent lots of interesting and clever ways to get their work done. This, for example, is how Walt Disney invented the multiplane camera in 1957:

If you, reader, are struggling a bit now because you have just started, please know it does get better, and we can always learn a few lessons from our hard times, so don’t give up!

Sara Coca kick started her career in animation in 2017, working on the Goya-award-winning feature Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles. From there, she moved on to SPA Studios, working as first assistant to the producer on the Oscar-nominated hit, Klaus, before joining Lighthouse Studios for several months in 2020 as production coordinator. Since then, Sara has worked for several other studios including Skydance Animation and, most recently, Mano Animation Studios, where she took on the role of associate producer. Sara rejoined Lighthouse Studios, where she works today, in 2023 as production manager.

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