When I first decided to go back to school I really only had one school in mind: Cal Arts. It seems to be the be all and end all of animation education; partially because of the faculty and networking available to students there. One thing I learned from a year at film school is that it's all about who you know. Now I was delighted to find out my government can provide financial aid for Cal Arts, but heart broken when I found out they would only provide a certain amount, not nearly enough to cover even the most modest living situations.
So I went to what I considered was second best: Academy of Art. Why? Because they have an online program, which I can afford to take. I've been here for a little over one school year, pursuing my degree off and on part-time and full-time. But I'm always trying to figure out how I can transfer to Cal Arts. It's pretty hard doing it all on your own. I think the creative environment helps you absorb so much more. Especially when I read Mario Furmanczyk's four year Cal Arts journal. Mario has chronicled the ultimate success story in my eyes. His journal is filled with all the things we students go through: enthusiasm, passion, insecurity, epiphanies, inspiration, the list goes on. I recently read the entire thing, and I honestly feel like I've got a good idea what four years at Cal Arts is like. This only wets my appetite even more. I have got to find a way to get down there!
Here's a little taste of his journal, some of these quotes really speak to me. If they do the same for you, then I would highly recommend giving his whole journal a read. After all, the end result is that he got into Disney. I'm sure you can learn something...
"The artist places time, money, and people at risk because his ambition has life-defining force."
"The measure of the value of a character's desire is in direct proportion to the risk he's willing to take to achieve it; the greater the value, the greater the risk."
I'm beginning to realize that becoming an artist isn't all about how well you can draw. Sure you have to master your medium but you should also express something in your work that you feel passionate about. You must bring your experiences into your art instead of trying desperately to copy something someone else has done. The same films are being done over and over again. There are so many untapped possibilties in animation and I'm hoping that some of us at Calarts will be brave enough to do something about it and get people interested again. I feel really inspired and motivated to do something cool with my career but I have a hell of a lot to learn.
Another good tip that David talked about was to have confidence in yourself as an artist whenever you're drawing. If you have doubts about the way you draw when you're animating, the drawings WILL turn out to be crap. You need to believe, at least while you're animating or drawing, that you're Glenn Keane.
Ok. Just so you know, it's not easy to make a short film. You'll go crazy and your friends and family will hate you because you'll never call them. When you do, all you talk about is animation and they'll hang up midway through the conversation.
Being a student at this school can be pretty frustrating because the minute you start thinking that you're actually any good, you see something five times more amazing from one of your buddies.
I would say that if you can't boil your story idea down to three images your story is most likely way too much to handle for a student film. So for all of you who are thinking about ideas right now do this and save your ass!
But hell, she said that it still could be pushed a bit more! Wow, I really just gotta let loose. So everytime I think of a story idea or gag, instead of questioning whether it's good enough I gotta ask myself if there's any way of taking it further. I wrote down a bunch of quotes and stuck them to my animation desk to remind me that I need to push and pull and squash and stretch more. I need to let loose dammit!
The more I learn about animation and the art making process the more I realize that you need to find your own process and path othewise you'll just be a cheap rip off. I'm constantly fighting with my self confidence. I gues it's all part of becoming an artist.
Confidence is huge when you're an artist. The flow of creativiity is completely shut down if you don't believe in yourself. It can almost seem like you're going backwards when you don't have the right mindset. It's like anything in life. Confidence is key. Always believe in yourself. And when you're not feeling well one day whether it's emotionally, physically or if it has to do with confidence, just take a break. Treat yourself to a movie or take your girlfriend out on a date. Drink some wine. Just live life again and soon you'll put things back into perspective and realize it's not the end of the world if you don't get the overlap right on a particular scene! You'll get it sooner or later. Just remember there's a life out there that's full of experiences for you to go through. Without those life experiences, we can't produce art.
We were talking about how stressful our films were. He told us to "just do it". Stop thinking so damn much about it and just do it. And if somebody tells you otherwise, fuck'm. If anybody sees that you're slightly questioning something about your film, they're all like sharks waiting for a kill.
Whenever you have a doubt that crosses your mind about your art, just think of it as the devil trying to convince you that you suck!!! Ignore it and just go with your instincts!
We shouldn't try to achieve such high standards to the point where it becomes stressful. Shoot for high standards by all means but just keep your sights set on a standard that won't stress you out to the point where it all stops being fun. For God's sake we're making freakin' cartoons! We should be having a blast!So that was like music to my ears because it's one of the struggles I've had to go through all year. I've tried to shoot for standards so high that it completely messed up my self confidence when I realized where I was really at. Wow, what a lesson!
"An Animator's job is to be a decision maker" Basically make a decision and move on. From my experiences, I've encountered so many situations where I would let indecision drive my life. Ultimately, you have to pick something (acting choices) and just do it. If you overthink it it'll drive you crazy and you'll never get anything done! Of course spend time planning the shot but just be a decision maker when it comes down to it.
Sometimes it's so easy to dive right into rendering volumes or forms in the torso before you get the gesture down first. A good teacher will come by and smack you upside the head with one of those rulers and yell, "Gesture first!". So it's kind of a principle, I'd say. Just tatoo it on your hand or something.
If anyone reads this blog, you'll notice I've touched on a few of these areas. Most recently the last one about gestures. It's always refreshing to hear someone else drone on about the same things, especially when they've made it somewhere like Disney in the end.
Another GEM I found, or rediscovered rather, through this journal, was another Cal Arts alumni named JG Quintel. I remember Spine Doctors posting about him a long time ago regarding a student film he did called the The Naive Man from Lolliland. At the time I didn't get it, I didn't see the entertainment in it. I guess I have learned a bit since then, because this is a totally refreshing and original story idea. CLICK. I get it now! But Quintel's best work wasn't even mentioned. Check out 2 in the AM PM. It's absolutely hilarious, and so original. I couldn't stop laughing. You can find it here.
Well that's enough for now, I have my own storyboards and animatic work on. And I sure have enough inspiration now.