Art school paved Martin Grebing's unusual path to success. The 37-year-old from Bradenton parlayed a temporary job into an eventual partnership and a dream job as creative director of Digital Tap, a Wesley Chapel digital production and animation firm. The Times talked to him about a career that stretched from an international bridge to the Zap Squad, a cartoon about a "group of super kids that protects the world from evil."
How did you get into digital animation?
I've always wanted to be a cartoonist since I could hold a pencil. I love the Sunday morning comic strips, and that's what I wanted to do.
Where did you go to school?
I went to the Ringling School of Art and Design. That's what it was called then. Now it's called the Ringling College of Art and Design. It was just starting to get known for the program back when I started in the early '90s. I always had a knack for creative stuff as well as computers, and it was the only place I had ever heard of at the time that offered a four-year bachelor's in creative animation.
Was it a good program?
Oh, yeah. It's hard to see a major movie anymore that doesn't have a couple of Ringling people in the credits.
How did you get started in the job you have now?
For the last four years, almost five years, I've been working at American Consulting Engineers. They hired me initially to work on a fly-through for a client, for a firm that wanted to build a bridge from Buffalo, N.Y., to Fort Erie, Ontario (Canada).
What's a fly-through?
It's a three- or four-minute video that acts like a camera flying through this virtual environment.
But that was just a temporary job.
It was about six or eight months before I became full time, and they offered me the position.
What does the company do?
We started out with civil engineering as the bread and butter of the company. Now, we cover several different areas, like permitting, environmental scientists, and GIS experts.
How did you move up?
When I started at the company, there were probably only 30 or 40 people. Within a year or two, we almost doubled the size of the company. As the company grew, our need for graphics grew.
And Digital Tap is now a division of American Consulting Engineers?
The demand for our services started growing outside our immediate company. As this demand started growing, that created the need for us to have our own graphics entity, our own identity, so we could market our services.
Digital Tap made this new animated movie, Zap Squad, and The Sands of Time. What is that about?
There's time travel. There's kids with super powers. They go back in time to ancient Egypt. It's a fun romp. Were getting a lot of favorites for Bad Breath Lucas. His super power is that he has corrosively bad breath. Another guy's power is, he's called Earthquake and if he eats too much junk food he blows up as big as a balloon and turns into huge wrecking ball.
A cartoon about super kids seems pretty far from engineering.
One benefit of producing this cartoon was to show that we can do it. In addition to being a product we can sell, it functions as a really nice marketing piece. In a perfect world, that's where I want to be. I want to be writing and producing our own stuff, and be the hotshot studio that produces other people's ideas.
It sounds like the temp job really worked out for you.
It's been pretty crazy. I was very fortunate to find a company that's very forward thinking and aggressive. The owners in the company like to invest in people and not just resumes.
Asjylyn Loder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3117.