Thursday, 17 July 2014

Meet our tutors - Alex Williams

Alex Williams
Alex Williams has been teaching at Bucks since September 2012 when he first joined the animation team. Alex has spent 25 years working in the animation industry, and his arrival at Bucks has led to an increased emphasis on the art and craft of animation at Bucks - hence the change of title of the course from "Animation, Games and Interactive Media" to "Animation and Visual Effects". We asked Alex to talk about the changes going on at Bucks, and what students can look forward to.

Bucks: What did you do before coming to Bucks?

Alex: I spent twenty five years working on animated films, from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" to "The Lion King", The Iron Giant", and the last three Harry Potter films.
Design for Patronus Doe, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Bucks: What made you want to go into teaching?

Alex: I have been teaching animation part-time since 1996 when I first started to teach at CalArts in Los Angeles. Later I taught at Gnomon in Hollywood, The Animation Workshop in Denmark, and Escape Studios in London. I was always doing my teaching around the edges of my work on production, in fits and starts, so I wanted to see what I could do if I really committed to it full time.

I love to teach and I want to make our new course a centre for animation excellence in the UK, so that our graduates have the best possible training, and can go out and have employers competing to hire our best students. That's a big ambition, but I think we can do it if we really focus on the important things.

Bucks: Why come to Bucks?

Alex: Bucks offered the chance to set up a new animation course from scratch, and run it. Such opportunities don't come along that often in life. Of course, there has been animation at Bucks for some time, so I share the leadership of the new course with Dave Creighton, who has been at Bcuks for many years, and between the two of us we designed the new Animation & VFX Course. Our new course incorporates many elements of the old AGIM course, but now there is much more of a focus on character and creature animation.

Bucks: What's new about the new course?

It is much more focused on animation. The animation and visual effects industry in the UK has been complaining for years that there are too few schools in Britain which offer a really thorough animation training on the level of, say, CalArts in LA or Gobbelins in France. I wanted to see if we could do something at Bucks that would aim really high, and train our animators to be ready to work in the animation industry from the day they graduate.

That's why we brought in Kevin Spruce, head of animation at Framestore, to be the external validator of our course. Kevin took a close look at what we are doing, and helpfully supplied us with a lot of material that Frame store use in-house to train their own animators.

Animation Apprentice:

Bucks: What about your online course? How does that fit in?

Alex: In September 2012 I launched Animation Apprentice, an online school which teaches animation to students all over the world. It is a distillation of everything I have learned on production and in the classroom over the years. It's a 30 week course which aims to teach animation from the very basics all the way to sophisticated character and creature animation.

Bucks: Will the students at Bucks have access to the same materials?

Alex: Absolutely. All my digital content has been licensed to the university for use in the new Animation and VFX Course. The beauty of learning online is this: if you miss a class, or didn't understand something, you get to go to the online videos and catch up. It means that no student should ever fall behind, as long as they put in the hours.

What can we look forward to?

Alex: As the course unfolds, I think we are going to see students doing really strong personal projects, making films, and winning prizes. One of our first students, Anton Alfimenko, has already won a prize for a short film he did about Sir Alex Ferguson, former chairman of Manchester United. Anton is passionate about football; it is my job as a tutor to find what students are passionate about and support them with that, so that they do work that they love and are proud of.

You can see Alex's film credits at the IMDB here, and also see his Wikipedia page here. You can also see an interview with Alex at Skwigly Magazine here, and a Skype interview with BabyBarista author Tim Kevan here. To find out about the other animation and visual effects tutors at Bucks, see more about Rob Kelly, who teaches Broadcast Graphics, and co-course leader David Creighton, who teaches a broad range of VFX skills.

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