Lecturing at CTN Expo: "I don't want to see your degree - I want to see what you can do!"
I've been shocked and dismayed at the feedback I've received since my recent workshop presentation at the CTN Expo, entitled "I don't want to see your degree - I want to see what you can do!" It appears that so many students, past and current, are entirely dissatisfied with the education they are receiving... especially in terms of the huge fees they are paying to their schools to give them that education! The main criticism seems to be the fact that some animation teachers do not do, or even know, what they are teaching - and therefore students are being turned out totally unprepared for the industry of today.
I don't so much blame the schools for this entirely but I do find the accreditation requirements they are subject to a problem. The core issue is that many of the top industry professionals who want to teach (and are totally capable of teaching) are prevented from doing so because they don't have a degree. Conversely, a graduate who barely scrapes through a slack degree program and is subsequently totally incapable of getting a job in the industry is embraced as a teacher because they have a piece of paper to their name! I even know of experienced Disney and Pixar level artists/animators who can't teach at most schools because they don't have a degree... because they have never needed one, as progress in the industry is measured by demonstrable skills not pieces of paper.
I began to learn of this issue when I researched my book, "JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS: The Animation Job Coach". However, I had no idea of the scale of the problem until after my talk at CTNX, since when so many students shared their tales of woe with me. I do believe that it is necessary to insist on academic degrees for the sciences, for math, for medicine, for engineering, etc. but it is totally inappropriate to insist on these in a creative, 'other-side-of-the brain' disciplines such as art and animation. In these fields it is what you can practically do that measures you, not what you know intellectually.
Consequently, I jumped at the chance of developing my own 2-year, 'Advanced Degree' program at AIE-Seattle, where I believe it perfectly possible to prepare students well for the industry in that amount of time without the other distractions that longer degree courses are required to offer. I am also currently developing an exciting animation degree program for AIE-Seattle too - but that will be totally focused on preparing students properly for the industry of their choice and not just throwing a number of inessential classes at them to make up the numbers.
For me the best animation school in the world is Gobelins in France, where they don't have the same degree/accreditation requirements to fulfill - they are essentially funded by the government and the industry itself. Hopefully we can get close to that in Seattle, despite the challenges the US educational system offers the betterment of the animation industry. Luckily, by having the Bad Penguin apprenticeship option to offer my AIE students in the future I can supplement the program with that most difficult qualification any school might ever provide... 'industry experience'!
For the record, here's a recent Gobelins student film... 'Oktapodi'! This example is not alone in the level of competence displayed by their films, as any search on YouTube will reveal.
Time for us in the USA to fight back I'd say!