07 November 2007


A break in the shooting schedule today: We are invited to the AnimeFX NZ conference student day, held at the Film Archive. The Film School has kindly arranged free entry for us, and since we are not filming today due to scheduling issues on Ice, I figured I might as well see what happens in the world of animation. you never know when you need an animator for a film.

The first thing I noticed was how every lecturer was using a Powerbook, except for the BBC Children’s TV presenter, who was running a very inadequate Windows PC, which had trouble playing his PR films. This is probably part of their Windows-only policies.

Most of the attendees were from Massey University’s animation course, so the questions were very job-seeking oriented and I could feel the atmosphere of wanting to look professional in the room.

There were some pretty cool speakers, but none so popular as Matt Aitken from Weta Digital, who gave an interesting talk on the workflow of animated shots through from pre-production to post.

My favourite speaker was Rita Street, a producer from Radar Cartoons. She told us to “Try the impossible, there’s less competition.” A brilliant conceit, and she was a very inspiring speaker. Her approach is to just contact people, not being afraid of them if they are famous or very senior in the industry or busy. “Swimming in the Impossible pond”, she called it.

The first speaker of the day, Tim Johnson from Dreamworks, probably had the most useful things to say to students, his talk was entitled “Mistakes Student's make and How to Avoid Them”.

These included:
 • Not showing work until it is finished,
 • bad sound,
• Tired themes: ninjas, suicide
• not following up on contacts
• Not being able to communicate your ideas,
• Being too focussed. Get a life outside animation.
• Demo reels that are too long and don’t put the best stuff first.
• Not finishing work. Better a short finished than a feature that never gets done.

The coolest guy there, in the end, was Dan Curry, Star Trek Visual Effects Producer for 18 years, including Deep Space Nine, The Next Generation and Enterprise. Wow. He told us all sorts of cool stories about low-tech effects he made. He used to live in Thailand and learnt about shadow puppets there, so when he had an episode where giant insects take over the Enterprise, he made movable puppets out of foam board; he spoke very fondly of a glitter-dispensing pompom which he used to create star clusters. Apparently he used it in every single episode of Next Generation. His favourite special effects films are: Sindbad the Sailor Forbidden Planet Quo Vadis - for matte painting King Kong - the original The Thief of Baghdad

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