Rebekah Ross’ path to her position as lighting production coordinator at DreamWorks Animation began with her interest in theater at Baton Rouge Magnet High School.
“I’ve always gravitated to working with artists,” she said last week from DreamWorks’ office in Glendale, Calif.
Ross, 27, joined DreamWorks in February 2010. She spent much of her two years and four months at the studio working on the new Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.
Animated features take years to complete and involve hundreds of crew members. After reviewing thousands of tiny pieces of Madagascar 3 and seeing rough cuts of the film, Ross and other crew members finally got to see the finished film two weeks ago.
Naturally, she watched for her name in the final credits. And because she performed multiple jobs for the production — lighting production coordinator and producer’s and directors’ assistant — her name appears in the credits twice.
“That was really exciting to have two credits for my first film,” she said. “It feels like an acknowledgement of a lot of days and a lot of ups and downs. Especially as an assistant. I assisted the producer but I also took on two of the directors. Managing their three schedules was intense.”
Ross’ subsequent Madagascar 3 job as lighting production coordinator was also more an administrative than artistic position.
“A lot of it’s day-to-day scheduling, like looking at when artists are coming onto the movie or going off, and seeing how we can fit them into teams and accomplish goals. It’s figuring out who needs to be in what meetings. There’s a massive pipeline and so much communication has to happen between departments. We’re the facilitators of that.”
Working as an assistant early in Madagascar 3 production and later as a production coordinator allowed Ross to watch the film progress from its writing and story-development stages to its ready-for-theaters culmination.
“The position I have now deals with the end of production, making everything look the way it’s supposed to look, adding those final touches and details,” she said.
In Madagascar 3, returning characters Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo and Melman the giraffe join a traveling circus in Europe. They hope to blend in with the circus’ animals and escape detection by Capitaine Chantel DuBois, a French animal control officer whose voice is provided by Frances McDormand.
“There are a ton of new characters,” Ross said. “That was fun.”
Ross didn’t meet the stars who speak the animal characters’ lines — such as Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer — but she did schedule their recording sessions through their people.
“Ben Stiller in Georgia, if he’s filming there, or Sacha Baron Cohen in London,” she said. “We’d worked out times and travel.”
A resident of South Pasadena, Calif., Ross moved to Baton Rouge at 13 from Berkeley, Calif. Her father, Steven Ross, is professor of ancient history at LSU.
“That was a big change, moving from one of the most liberal places to an extremely conservative place,” she recalled. “But I love Baton Rouge and I love the South, especially southern Louisiana. I’d be a different person if I hadn’t moved there.”
Ross left Louisiana at 18 to attend St. John’s College, a traditional liberal arts college in Annapolis, Md., and Santa Fe, N.M. The school prepared her well for post-graduate life, she said.
“The point of St. John’s College is to learn to ask the right questions, no matter what field you end up pursuing.”
Echoing her theater experience at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Ross enjoys the creative atmosphere at DreamWorks. “There’s an energy and a fresh way of looking at things,” she said. “It’s seeing something new about how we can tell a story through this color, this object, this movement.”
She describes the artistry in Madagascar 3 in a single word: beautiful.