by Angela Bronner Helm
“Once I decided what I wanted to do, doors started opening. So there was intention but also a lot of luck along the way,” says Peter Ramsey, on becoming a director. The quote, which almost sounds like a refrain from a children’s book, is quite apropos, given that Ramsey is the first African-American to direct a feature-length animated film, Rise of the Guardians, a cheeky twist on beloved childhood characters, out this November.
The self-taught artist always had a knack for drawing. In his early 20s, one of his friends got him a gig on a movie set painting a mural, the first step in a long, winding road to the director’s chair. “That’s when I started getting an inkling that I could work in this business and make a living by using something I actually had a skill for,” says Ramsey.
That job led to becoming a storyboard artist for live action movies, planting him at the feet of some of the best directors of our era, including David Fincher, John Singleton, Francis Ford Coppola, and Steven Spielberg. “It was the best possible film school you could have,” he says.