Thursday, 25 July 2013

What's the point of an animation degree?

What price a piece of paper?
What should universities teach on their animation courses? Academic theory, art skills, or tech skills? Or a combination of all three? The answer isn't as obvious as you might think. Yesterday, in a piece titled "Degrees of Talent", Steve Moore, co-author of the animation blog FLIP (and an Oscar-nominated director), kicked off a lively debate by criticising the many animation schools which fail to prepare their graduates adequately for the job market.

The article produced a passionate response. What is a university education for, and what do those magic letters BA actually stand for? Should students be taught technical skills which will help them to get a job? Or should they be taught academic theory, the kind of thing that (in principle at least) leads to critical analysis - the traditional hallmark of a Liberal Arts education? In this second piece at FLIP, animation professionals Sterling Sheehy and David Davis face off on what, exactly, animation schools should be teaching.

Here at Bucks we come down firmly in favour of practical and artistic skills. I want every student who graduates from Bucks to have the kind of killer demo reel that will help them get a job. Jobs in the arts are competitive - just ask your friends who went to drama school, and are now working as waiters. I think we do our students a huge dis-service if we don't help them to develop a demo reel that is of a professional standard.

That is not to say that we have no academic content in our course. It's there, and it's important, and we make sure that academic theory is "embedded", meaning that it is relevant to the practical skills being taught alongside it. After all, tech skills are in the end only as good as the imagination of the user. The digital arts are an art form, and if you have nothing to say, your work will never entertain an audience.

And entertaining audiences is what we do for a living. That, and keeping clients happy.


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