Searching for a job post graduation

Hello! My name is Lindsey and I will be graduating with my Mechanical Engineering degree in August. As I'm currently looking for jobs, I came across your profile on EngineerGirl. I never even considered doing something like working for LucasFilms until I read your profile. That sounds absolutely amazing! Plus, being a big Star Wars fan doesn't hurt :)

I was looking around on their careers page and noticed that they only had openings for Engineer II and III.

What advice do you have for getting your first engineering job right out of college? Especially in less-traditional jobs like yours? I've been sending my resume out to any job opening that looks remotely interesting, and I'm sure you've been there with how frustrating it may be!


Best,
Lindsey
posted by Lindsey, Knoxville on June 14, 2014

Answer by Selma Sabera

Hi Lindsey,

Yes, most folks do not consider entertainment and media as traditional engineering roles and do not even look for jobs in this industry. I encourage any new graduate to look at the Disney job site (Lucasfilm is part of this). Within Disney, there are numerous engineering positions with varying levels of experience and education requirements. Given that, you should consider the job descriptions true to what is needed, including the amount of previous work experience and level of education. 

Mechanical engineers can do a number of different positions in film. Depending on what you like better you could work in what we call physical production or post production.

Physical production refers to what happens on the actual set with actors, directors, camera crews, etc. You could help physical production by doing one of the following:

-Work for a manufacturer designing cameras or other filming rigs. Consider that a camera is a mechanical system, you could go design cameras and lenses for a manufacturer. Besides cameras, we use a lot of motion control systems, like robotic arms, dollies, drones, etc to get smooth camera movement on set or to film hard to get to places. 

-Some films use mechanical and robotic film props on set. For this a model shop might be hired to build the robotic prop and the model shop will have mechanical engineers on staff to help with this.  If you are more creative, you could work for a model shop, designing robotic props. 

-Another option for building robotic props or even rides is to work for Disney's Imagineering; they design all the rides and props in the Disneylands and Disney Worlds. 

Post production refers to what happens to the film footage after it was shot. This process would involve editing, motion capture, visual effects, sound effects, color finishing, etc. Within visual effects and animation we have a few different roles that a mechanical engineer can do depending on their skill level and interest. These roles can be:

-Hard surface modeler: a CG artist that models in software things like cars, planes, robots, spaceships, etc. This is an artistic position and often hard to find. It requires knowledge of 3D modeling software and mechanical engineering or industrial design.

-Tools or RnD engineer: an engineer, usually with a higher degree, that can program computer simulations specific for mechanical systems. For example, in the Transformers movie series, most of the Autobots and Desepticons have over 20,000 moveable parts. Instead of an animator having to animate how every gear, plate or slider on an robot's arm moves, an engineer will make a program that defines how that arm moves, which parts interact with each other to make a natural arm movement for that creature. This usually requires some good coding skills as well as experience with simulation and mathematical modeling.

-Generalist or pipeline engineer: these folks usually work in the background, developing and automating processes that make help the above teams work more effectively. 

I hope this helps! Best, Selma