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Justin Copeland

Affiliated Divisions:

John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts

I was born and raised in Chicago Illinois where I dreamed of making movies like my childhood idol Steven Spielberg. Having no way to actually shoot a film, I discovered comic books and concept art when an uncle mailed a box full of comics and “The Making of Batman (1989)” One thing that stuck out to me while reading this eye opening book was how much art actually went into a film! I made up my mind that I would draw and use those skills to break into filmmaking.

From here, I focused most of my creative time on drawing comics and visual storytelling. It was a major struggle. We grew up in poverty all over the Chicago area and high crime and violence was an obstacle that we had to overcome. We also learned about the power of community and the coming together of neighborhoods to make bad situations better. A lof of the time, we stayed in the house and played video games and drew a lot. After we graduated from high school, we tried college but after a few years, it become too expensive. This was a heartbreaker for me as I had for the first time ever, been able to learn and flex my skills as a filmmaker. 

After my college attempt, my brother and I would scrape together our last dimes and travel to different parts of the country attending comic conventions, and meeting tons of artists and different folks. We also entered tons of contests, just trying to put our names out there. At this time, social media became more prominent, and we found our small artist community, which helped us to hone our skills with like minded artists. However, after spending many years trying to break in, we could never gain a foothold into that industry, which actually ended up being for the best! 

After making tons of connections in our time as comic artists, I shifted towards animation when my brother Chris moved to LA and got a job at Warner Brothers. I moved out a short time later and took a job with Marvel at a studio called Film Roman. Film Roman(FR) was great because it wasn't an enormous studio that put a ton of pressure on me to succeed. However, they were also a union studio, which meant that they were in a network of studios that employed Animation Guild Members, so I was able to secure health insurance and other benefits for my young family. FR also had a contract to make animated shows for Marvel before they opened a studio of their own. This was a good time to work on anything related to Marvel and my stock as a board artist shot up. After Film Roman I worked my way through the industry, eventually making my directorial debut on “Batman: Hush.” After directing my follow up film “Wonder Woman: Bloodlines,” I moved on to be the Supervising Director on Amazon’s “invincible,” the first project that I got to co-direct with my brother Chris Copeland. From there, we moved on to Dreamworks Animation where we are currently in development on an unannounced animated feature film, as well as a few tv shows. 

Throughout the years, I have always thought of myself as a teacher. My goal is always to help artists and filmmakers navigate and break into the industry by showing the path that I took, while also helping to navigate their own. I taught a few online classes at the Oatley Academy, as well as Radhowtoclass. This was informative and eye opening for me because I was able to break down the foundational aspect of storytelling for students, as well as to help make the technical aspects a little less daunting.