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After finishing his work on the Oscar-award-winning short film, The Lost Thing, Leo Baker went on a world tour as part of a Winston Churchill Fellowship.

This is the third and final part of Ozanimate’s special three-part interview with Leo where we talk about the state of animation education in Australia.

Plus we cover some advice for would-be animators and directors.

We started by discussing the different approaches to animation education around the world.

Ozanimate: Is there room in Australia to support both a vocational style as well as an academic model for animation education?

Leo Baker: Yes. But more importantly the Bachelor degrees need to be structured more towards portfolio and artist development than criteria for a qualification, because the only thing that qualifies as animator is their ability shown through the material they have created.

Oz: What do you think Australia needs more: vocational, or academic?

LB: Either the academic or vocational avenues could cater for more specialisation. Specialising caters for the focus and interests of students, certainly at a more high level.

Oz: How did you find the difference between say the French model of a very few specialized schools, such as Supinfocom and Gobelins versus the British model of having many general animation schools?

LB: My knowledge of the UK schools is not great, but based on what Damian Gascoigne suggested in the Winston Churchill Fellowsihp report, the specialisation and honed animation disciplines of the French schools seems to output higher skilled artists with more appeal.

Oz: Any thoughts on the benefits of online education, such as Animation Mentor and iAnimate versus bricks-and-mortar schools?

LB: I think they both have merits, it just depends on where your interests lay and what resources are available to you. I’m self taught, so I believe the motivation will always come from within, no matter how you are learning.

Leo Baker at the Tokyo Animation College

Leo Baker at the Tokyo Animation College

Oz: What can students and prospective students do to maximize their employability?

LB: I think it’s always good to be inquisitive about other methods and the inspiration and influence from other artists. The danger of working in isolation is the lack of richer ideas from collaboration. So if you are working in isolation you need to substitute this with other creative endeavours or interests that stimulate your thinking in different ways. Even if that is something seemingly unrelated: sports or hobbies, anything that is of recreational interest, adds to the richness of your creative being!

Oz: You mention in your report that other countries have a history of bringing a group of directors together to provide a number of artistic voices to a particular studio. Is that a model you can see working here in Australia?

LB: Most definitely. It means single studios can accommodate more versatility in style. Directors can just be represented by a company, which essentially expands the umbrella of talent for the company. It also means that directors need not be in house all the time, but if work comes in that is suited to their style, they get called upon.

Oz: Do you have any advice for independent animtors, artists and directors looking to further their career in Australia?

LB: I would certainly encourage investigating screenwriting, and area that I think Australia need to expand. Other than that; watch films and make films.

Be bold, try new ideas.

Be ambitious, but with a manageable workload.

Start small, and prove the small concepts really well. It is more important that an idea is executed well, not the size or complexity. Pieces that are well made get due attention, which leads on to bigger and better things!

That completes our interview series with Leo. To find out more about him, visit Leo Baker’s blog.

If the interview whet your appetite for more, check out Leo’s full Winston Churchill Fellowship report into animation.

And in case you missed it:

Thanks very much to Leo Baker for his time.

  • I visited and studied at Gobelins in Paris in 2009 for the summer school. It was a great look around inside the school and how students are selected and taught. An international group of animators from 42 countries worked with Gobelins teachers and we have maintained connections since. Ithink the prestige and tough entry requirements for the school producers a vocational environment of very motivated animators. My observation is that it is more of a finishing school for talented animators than a general university or institute program in Australia.

    From there I have moved on to studying online at iAnimate and the interactions, once again with an international community, and a whole bunch of DreamWorks animators as instructors has been a boon for an animation education.

    From my personal experiences, starting in a TAFE course and then experiencing Gobelins and iAnimate, I would recommend all 3 to aspiring animators. The order of events would be TAFE to added skills online (iAnimate or Animation Mentor, my bias for iAnimate) and then learn some French and try out for studying in Paris for a few years. What a beautiful central city and environment to study animation.

  • Great work Phil and Leo thanks for the series of articles

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