Animation is an increasingly popular subject, with films such as The Hobbit spurring interest in the field. But what is really involved in studying the subject at Postgraduate level? To get a better idea, we spoke to Professor Paul Ward, the course leader of the MA Animation Production at the Arts University Bournemouth.
What is your background in animation production?
My background is in Film and Media Studies, but I became interested in Animation specifically around 20 years ago and subsequently did my PhD on Animation Studies as a discipline. I am currently the President of the Society for Animation Studies, the only international scholarly society devoted to the study of animation, which includes academics, historians, producers, animators. My main research is into animation ‘communities of practice’ and how we can understand animation from a ‘production studies’ perspective – so I have a range of interests in animation production: how it is made, how it is taught, where it is going next. These research interests underpin my approach to teaching on the MA Animation Production course and the work I am doing with PhD students in Animation. I also have research interests in how the animation industry is changing due to the challenges of multi-platform delivery; animation and documentary; and animation and memory.
What about the rest of the teaching staff? How can students benefit from the experience and expertise of the staff?
My colleagues are all experienced teachers with a range of expertise – some have worked in the industry for companies like Disney, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Framestore and Aardman, or have their own animation company making TV commercials. Other staff have specific interests in Fine Art and more experimental work. You will benefit from this rich mix of experience and expertise, through mentoring and our ability to connect you with the right people in the business of animation.
How do your animation courses prepare students for a career in the industry?
Simply put, we prepare you by taking you the ‘extra mile’ and getting you to think about the ways in which your practical work – whether animation, concept work, layouts – fits into the business side of animation. The AUB approach to animation is studio-based, industry-modelled, collaborative – all things that our industry partners tell us are vital in making you stand out from the crowd. On the MA Animation Production course you will look at animation from practical, theoretical and professional perspectives and be asked to think about a ‘synthesis’ between these three approaches. This will give be excellent preparation for a career in the industry – whatever your specialism.
Does the university have good links with industry? What does that mean in practice?
AUB has excellent industry links – in the UK and overseas. All subject areas have strong ‘industry liaison groups’ and expert practitioners act as advisors on all courses as they are written and go through validation, and then often come back as Visiting Tutors. These strong links are further proved by our alumni presence: many of them come back and advise, teach and mentor students. AUB is also building a profile for industry-focused research and knowledge transfer, where we work with partners on specific projects; being a postgraduate Animation student at AUB means you are working in this context. You will be at the cutting edge.
Does it make a noticeable difference to students’ career prospects?
Absolutely. The AUB has an exceptional track record (in the top 5 in the country) for getting our graduates into employment, and the Animation team are proud of many of our students going on to work in studios, win awards, and shape the creative industries of the future.
What are your tips for students to help them get the most out of their contact with industry, whatever that may be?
Be prepared. Research your ‘target’ studios or companies. Know what they do, and what you can do to improve it. The Animation industry is looking for good, strong-minded, creative thinkers – so be clear on what skills you have, what you offer and look for ways that you can ‘connect’ with the right people. This is where the research at MA level can be vital – it allows you the space to build not only a stronger portfolio but also develop your thinking skills in relation to industry liaison.
What facilities does the institution offer students?
Animation at AUB has a strong track record and excellent facilities. We have studio spaces with light boxes, line-testers and related software, plus various production spaces and suites. The institution is an excellent, specialist university, with plenty of scope for cross-course collaboration with students from Film, Modelmaking, Acting, Costume, Photography, and the range of other programmes we offer.
What do you look for in prospective students?
You should ideally have a good BA degree in Animation or a related subject like Illustration, Graphics, Fine Art or Digital Media. But there is scope for people to join the course with equivalent professional experience – we also encourage applications from professional Animators (or other artists) who want to return to education and explore their practice. The key thing is for you to have a passion for animation, be committed, organised and willing to challenge and develop your ideas. You should have an interesting visual style, or a desire to find out more about the animation industry – and change it for the better!
Arts University Bournemouth also has a limited number of MA Scholarship Awards (up to £3000), which are available to successful international applicants who meet the following criteria:
The above criteria must be demonstrated in the combination of:
To apply for a scholarship, you’ll need to complete the Application for MA Scholarship Award form.
The scholarships are awarded as a partial waiver of the tuition fee, not as a payment to the student. Please note, the scholarship does not contradict with early payment discount of 10%, which means if you are awarded scholarship and pay the full tuition fees by 01st August 2013, you are still entitled to a further 10% deduction from the fee once the scholarship has been deducted.
The deadline for MA student scholarships application is 12th July and the decision for award will be made on 26th July 2013.
For further details on the Animation degrees on offer at AUB, take a look at the MA Animation Production course and see the other Research degrees (MPhil/PhD) in Animation that are supervised by Professor Paul Ward.
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