UT-Austin alum lands among stars with her work in ‘Lightyear’

Ryan Ranc, Life & Arts Reporter

In 2021, Stephanie Martinez-Arndt was hired by Pixar after graduating from UT in 2017. The highly anticipated movie “Lightyear,” which releases June 17, is the alumna’s first ever film credit, and her passion for filmmaking and storytelling shine through in how she details her experience. The Daily Texan spoke with Martinez-Arndt about her role as production coordinator for the effects team behind “Lightyear.” 

The Daily Texan: What was it like to oversee a group of effects artists?

Stephanie Martinez-Arndt: It was a ton of fun. The group of effects artists at Pixar love what they do. They’re dedicated to it, and you can see that in their passion for their work. That made it so fun to show up every day.

DT: “Lightyear” is a movie about learning from your mistakes, but it’s also a movie about teamwork. What would you say as a team, you all did best, and where do you feel that the cooperation felt strongest?

SMA: The effects team was so incredibly good at finding creative solutions. If we got a hard note and a review, the team came together (to find a solution). Maybe there was a new piece of technology that hasn’t really been explored a lot. Maybe we try (effects in different ways). They were so innovative and willing to take the time to work through problems with both the artists and us on the production side. It helps that there was so much collaboration (and) innovation as a team from everywhere, coming from all sides. It really helped (create) that bond as a team and create, in my opinion, some of the coolest animated effects I’ve seen hit the screen.

DT: How does it feel now knowing that this movie is about to be released to the world, and all the work you and your team have done will finally be seen?

SMA: Just pure joy and excitement? It takes years for an animated movie to come to life. My family and friends (knew I was) working on this the minute the title was announced, and to finally be able to go see it, (they) can see what I did because not everyone understands (what) effects artists do. For them to be able to see the full movie, that’s really special. It’s my first Pixar credit, so that’s even more special to be able to share with friends, family and everyone who’s like, “I can’t wait to see your name come on screen.” 

DT: What advice would you give UT students looking to do what you do?

SMA: Don’t be discouraged, and don’t (be set on the idea) that there’s only one path or one way to do things. I was a history major. Who would have thought that I would’ve ended up at Pixar? Not me! There’s always multiple paths and multiple ways to get to something if you love something and you’re passionate about it. Keep applying to those internships (and) reach out to people on LinkedIn. Ask for information or ask questions. (Employers) will be able to read that passion and that desire. That is what has helped me get to where I am — that passion and desire and just the love for the creativity in the film industry itself. It’s so wild that I get to do these things. Have fun, share your passions, ask questions and don’t be discouraged. Keep going.