May 07, 2021
Fine Art Frame by Frame
By Elizabeth Speed
“I didn't know I wanted to become an editor; I didn't even know I wanted to work in animation."
Lauren Hecht, a 2009 Carnegie Mellon University graduate who holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the College of Fine Arts, now does both as an animatic editor with Netflix.
“I'd taken a few animation classes as part of my fine arts degree,” she says. “I loved it.”
That a successful career in animation has come to fruition is a testament to Lauren’s spunky gumption. As part of Netflix’s pool of high-end artists, she joins projects on a rotating slate of assignments. Animatic editors take still images from storyboards, dialogue and music into editing, creating a rough cut of an animated show. Her work is a critical step to lock in the story before the images are handed over to illustrators and animators to render thousands of frames for a finished show.
Lauren is wrapping up work on a new series called “The Cuphead Show!,” which is based on the hit video game of the same name. Her prior project for Netflix, “We Lost Our Human,” is what the service calls a branching narrative. Audiences can choose their own way through the film’s story, which makes Lauren’s work testing it all out in a rough cut all the more critical for a top-notch final product.
“I really enjoy getting to see a show for the first time, in its skeletal form,” she says. “I get to
put all the elements together and see it with fresh eyes. It's fun.”
She comes to Netflix from Cartoon Network, where she edited animatics for the popular show “Steven Universe.” It was the network’s first cartoon created solely by a woman and well known for its inclusive themes. Lauren’s voice was a natural fit for the team who wanted to create entertainment that also had bigger messages.
“I feel so proud to have worked on ‘Steven Universe.’ It’s the kind of show where the main message is that everyone deserves to be heard and loved,” she says.
“While I was growing up, I would always look forward to coming home from school to watch cartoons. No matter what was going on in my life, it was always a great comfort. If any of the shows I have worked on have provided that comfort to others, I feel like I have accomplished something amazing."
It’s a message that hits home.
“Having grown up with fairly severe learning disabilities, I think there is more work to do in dispelling the stigma that equates learning disabilities with being unable to achieve,” Lauren explains. “I was very lucky to have family and friends that helped and supported me. Art was always my outlet, and the foundation for building my self-confidence. The need to learn and create has always been with me and really helped me get to where I am today."
By high school, Lauren, her parents and her teachers had not just managed the barriers in her way as a young learner but ignited a voracious curiosity as well as a fiercely creative spirit. She went looking for a college that could match her own intensity and drive.
“Carnegie Mellon’s interdisciplinary approach to learning was really important to me,” she says. “Essentially everything is connected and finding the ways different subjects fit together is one of the many tools that has helped me to learn and experiment."
After four years of intense art study and with a drive for animation, Lauren headed to California to break into that competitive world. She credits intense networking, supported by CMU alumni meetup groups, and a strong group of college friends as elements of the mix that landed her the ultimate dream career.
“While I was growing up, I would always look forward to coming home from school to watch cartoons. No matter what was going on in my life, it was always a great comfort,” Lauren says. “If any of the shows I have worked on have provided that comfort to others, I feel like I have accomplished something amazing."