'TOWNS LIKE THIS GET OVERLOOKED'

Meet Bill Green, the track coach who wants to start a video game animation school

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 11/4/20

BENNETT — Bill Green has seen a lot of bad portfolios.

In his 20 years as a video game artist, they’ve come up a lot, whether he’s giving direct feedback on a potential hire or simply …

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'TOWNS LIKE THIS GET OVERLOOKED'

Meet Bill Green, the track coach who wants to start a video game animation school

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BENNETT — Bill Green has seen a lot of bad portfolios.

In his 20 years as a video game artist, they’ve come up a lot, whether he’s giving direct feedback on a potential hire or simply networking with a college student. The pitfalls are frequent: poor animation, poor texturing and very few “props” — think crates, buildings, weapons or any other object you might encounter roaming around a standard video game world — to showcase to employers.

And he doesn’t blame the animators themselves. He blames the schools educating them.

“It just bothers me so much to see kids applying for jobs when they have horrible portfolios,” Green, 43, said last week. “And what bothers me the most is they owe $100,000 back and they can’t get a job.”

Early next year, though, the Chatham Central assistant track and field coach is hoping to a launch a program to correct that trend: an accessible, hyper-focused video game animation class, created and taught by him in downtown Siler City, for local teens ages 13 to 19.

“It’s my way of getting back at those schools that are taking those kids’ money,” Green said.

In that vein, the program is less of a money-maker and more of a public service to Green, who has previously worked for Sony and Cary-based Epic Games on major titles such as Fortnite and the Gears of Wars franchise. (His current employer, another major video game production studio in the Triangle, requested anonymity as to not imply any endorsement of Green’s project, which is an independent venture.)

Come January, if everything goes smoothly, Green will be using those two decades of expertise and hands-on work to teach an inaugural class of 10 to 15 students the “right ways” to model, texture and create open worlds. And he’ll be doing it right here in Chatham County, for Chatham County kids in Siler City and beyond.

“Towns like this get overlooked,” he said.

Green dotted all around the country before settling down in Bennett, where he’s lived for eight years with his wife, Janet, and daughter, Kailey, a sophomore at Chatham Central.

Adopted by his grandparents in middle school, he grew up in Clinton, Arkansas, and was a record-breaking, all-state high jumper in high school despite standing at just 5-foot-9. He walked onto to the varsity track and field team at Division I Missouri State and caught on there, too, again earning all-conference high jump honors for the Bears.

When Green graduated from Missouri State in 2000 with a bachelor of arts, he wanted to work in movies — not video games. He was so dead set on making it to Hollywood that he skipped walking the stage on graduation day in Springfield to search for work instead.

“I figured no one was going be looking for a job that day,” Green said, laughing.

A couple of résumés posted on walls later, he and his roommate moved out to California to work for an internet startup company; it folded and laid off its entire staff after six months. That’s when a desperate Green stumbled upon Page 44 Studios, a San Francisco-based video game developer.

The company offered to train him. That’s all he needed to hear.

“I’ve been doing games ever since,” Green said. “And it wasn’t the plan. It just landed in my lap.”

Building and animating a video game, he said, is liking building a Lego set. To create an excellent final product — an interactive world for a character to roam around in — there are countless tiny steps.

Every object, or prop, must be modeled. The same goes for the characters, their accessories, their vehicles and anything weather-related: a beaming sun, a steady downpour, clouds. Concept artists generate the ideas and designs, but prop artists create models for them and environment artists — that’s what Green does right now — are responsible for taking those individual elements and working them together seamlessly into a richly detailed environment.

And that brings him to the main thing he’ll teach his potential students: specialization.

“When you’re applying for a job, you need to have some strength,” Green said, “because you’re going to either be a modeler, or you’re going to do animation, or level propping. You’re not going to do all of it.”

Other logistics for his vision remain up in the air. He’s strategizing a marketing plan, negotiating a downtown space in Siler City and seeking out myriad grants to fund the project, which he estimated will cost around $10,000, with most of that money going toward computers.

Still, he remains steadfast in accessibility. His class will use the Unreal Engine from Epic Games (software free to students) and, in a perfect world, pay $0 in sign-up fees. Green, who will continue to work full-time and help out the Bears’ track and field team as a volunteer assistant for a third season, isn’t taking a “for-profit” mindset here.

“If I can get enough money raised to where I don’t have to charge these kids, and it comes from grants, I’d prefer that even if I bring less money in (personally),” he said. “Because if the kids come in and they don’t have to pay a cent? Oh my God, there could be a kid down the street who’s super hyper talented but doesn’t have the money to pay for it. And that’s the kid I want.”

Specialization. Affordability. Plus, no homework. That’s the pitch to Chatham County teenagers from Green: an all-conference high jumper turned video game animator who’s determined to help the young professionals in his field — locally, and one improved portfolio at a time.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

 

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