Imagine that it’s your job to make imaginary worlds come alive. It is your pencil and your hand that illustrates a character or a scene. Such an assignment requires a tremendous amount of creativity and perseverance. Such an assignment is perfect for Episcopal graduate Miguel Jiron ’02.
Jiron is a storyboard artist in Los Angeles, California. He says a storyboard artist’s job is to “visually interpret a movie scene, sometimes before a script is even finalized.” Jiron draws out any given scene through hundreds of drawings, figuring out staging, camera, acting, sometimes even the writing, which then gets cut to music and dialogue to get a rough idea of how the scene will play out in the movie. An entire team of artists spends countless hours working together frame by frame to get every detail just right. There are constant edits and revisions along the way. Jiron says the process generally takes three to four years before the final product is ready for theaters. While the process is long and intense, he says “it’s incredibly satisfying.”
Recently, Jiron had the satisfaction of being a part of the team that put together the Oscar-winning film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Jiron says the team never expected the film to win such acclaim. “We were trying just to finish the film and make it as good as we could,” he says. Jiron says the team was working right up to the last minute. Ultimately, that work paid off. “It’s incredible to be a part of this so early in my career,” says Jiron. “I learned so much.”
Spending so much time working on the project truly became a family affair for Jiron. His wife, Katie Baron, worked on the project as a junior executive and his now one and a half year old daughter, Lucia Jiron, was born during production. All three have credits in the film. The movie premiere was also a family affair for Jiron as he invited his mom to celebrate with him. The experience is something he won’t soon forget. “She could see so much of me in the movie,” he says.
Jiron has been creating art for as long as he can remember. “I’ve been drawing since I was two,” he says. He began attending Episcopal in the fourth grade and cultivated his artistic talents throughout his time on campus as a member of the film club, the art club and the thespians. Jiron also remembers designing numerous Episcopal t-shirts as a student. In fact, if you’re a graduate with a Valentine or Sadie Hawkins shirt from the late 90’s or early 2000’s, he was likely the designer.
Jiron knew early on what type of career he wanted to pursue. “At Episcopal I was very clear in saying I wanted to be an animator,” he says. In fact, the 2002 yearbook includes a somewhat foreshadowing quote. “My favorite part about film club was getting together and coming up with story ideas and working scripts.”
Jiron says Episcopal played a large role in making him the man he is today. He credits the school with helping him develop critical thinking skills and with encouraging him to think independently. As a member of the Honors program, he remembers discussing a range of topics with his classmates and teachers and how those discussions helped him think for himself and find his own voice. He says the future-oriented, ambitious Episcopal experience also gave him the confidence he needed to eventually be successful in a career such as animation.
Episcopal Arts Department Chair Paige Gagliano is not at all surprised with Jiron’s success. She remembers working with Jiron and his classmates on the production of Peter Pan, which was one of the first large performances in the VPAC. “Miguel was a fearless actor,” she says. “If you’re a fearless actor then you’re a fearless human being.” Gagliano says whether it was working with other students, participating in a theater retreat at the Solomon Center or running lines for a play, Jiron always had a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. She says he was also always willing to take risks. “Miguel always wanted to stay true to the authenticity of what he was doing,” says Gagliano. “He was a great storyteller.”
All of these traits have served Jiron well throughout his career, which included a stint in New York working with contemporary artist Takashi Murakami. After realizing that his own paintings and art were moving toward motion, Jiron returned to animation. Now, when he thinks about current Episcopal students, he encourages them to pursue their dreams, even while they are still in school. “Just do it,” he says. “Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you or give you the perfect job.” Jiron says that is especially true for students who are interested in a career similar to his own. He says the tools to create are readily available for young artists. “Start making stuff,” he says. “The more you make, the faster you’ll grow.”
No doubt, with Jiron’s early success, his career will continue to grow. Already, he has credits as a director, editor and producer in addition to his work as a storyboard artist. He is also taking on leadership roles in the art department, serving as the Head of Story. Recently, he directed and wrote an animated short entitled “Spider-Ham: Into the Spider-Verse.” Spider-Ham demands “full screen treatment” in the film, which is something that Jiron certainly deserves for his talents.
Congratulations on your success, Miguel. We can’t wait to see what you create next!