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The Animation Workshop interview

Sound design, music and editing are specializations unto themselves. How are these handled and how much do students intervene in the process?

Vagabond

MN: It varies quite a bit, depending on the project. We work with Sonic College and they do sound design for a majority of our projects. We also work with external composers that we match to different projects based on what the director’s vision is.

The director and/or any other music-oriented person on the team will create a scratch sound for the film to give the sound designers and composers an idea of what they’re thinking. It gives the designers an idea of what kind of different tones they’re looking for. They’re of course also open to ideas and inputs from the designers and composers.

The school fosters creativity and risk-taking trough the production of original narratives as well as more experimental, edgier shorts – which have resulted in some excellent films. There is clearly no intention to produce decaffeinated films. Please tell us how the school decided to take this road.

MN: We really look to the students’ ambitions and goals and try to help them cultivate those through the film. At the end of the second year, we try to get an overview from the students of what kind of skill set they would like to cultivate during the year. That’s how we both choose the films and also support the students with various guest teachers to teach them those specific skill sets.

The Backwater Gospel

I think we’re trying to create a framework for the students’ ambitions to come through.

What programs and opportunities does the school offer to those wanting to study or work on animated film production and directing? Also, what is available to those who have already graduated from filmmaking programs?

MT: We have our artist residency, Open Workshop, where you can develop a project and also sometimes produce a whole project. Typically, if you want to make a more artistic project you can spend from one to two years producing it in the Open Workshop.

If you want to study animation film production, we also have a production master class, Animation Sans Frontières, which is excellent. The class runs one time a year and takes place in four different cities in Europe: Stuttgart, Paris, Budapest and Viborg. There’s also a 8-week course for producing animated film, television-series and games.

The Reward

We don’t have a master’s degree for animation directing but there are activities during the year where you can work within this field. Again, I want to highlight the artist residency at the Open Workshop – it’s really the best place to work with directing because you’ll sit with a bunch of other directors who are also working on their films. You’ll find yourself in a very good environment for the exchange of knowledge, ideas and methods.

TAW is 27 years old and you’ve been conducting it since its very beginning. What changes have you seen taking place in the animation industry and how has the school implemented changes to adjust to them?

MT: The main change over these last 27 years has been the technological evolution. The technology has enabled animation to move from a marginalized art form to a key-skill in the entertainment economy. It’s now a key-skill in the whole production of live action film.

Grandma’s Hero

Also, globally there are hundreds of thousands more people working with animation today in comparison to 27 years ago. Of course, this has a big impact on the activities we do at The Animation Workshop. We have to adjust to the fact that new technology and new ideas are constantly emerging in the production houses and companies all over the world. We have to have a structure where we can introduce new ideas to the students so they can keep up with what’s happening. We don’t want to live in a dream bubble where we are out of contact with what is happening in the world.

One of our most important tasks is making sure that if you want to work with animation – if you are crazy enough to want to work in animation – then we have to make sure that you get to a very high skill level at The Animation Workshop. It’s not a good business to work in if you’re not very skilled. We have a commitment to quality because there are many obstacles when working with animation. You have to be traveling a lot to get work and often you’re only employed in periods when certain productions run.

Welcome to The Animation Workshop

Also, animation today really is a business. There is so much money floating around in the world. Now we see companies with more than a thousand employees, so animation has moved from being this small sized entrepreneurial venture to being a world where you can start a small company but maybe in four or five years have a big company. It all depends on your ability to get good ideas and the skill level there is in the company.

Finally, what have been some of your greatest satisfactions as director of the school?

MT: It has been – and still is – an ongoing satisfaction to see how well former students are doing in the business. We are only here as long as the students have success.

Morten Thorning and Michelle Nardone

Also, now the institution has been running for 27 years, soon to be 28 years, but the bachelor education has only been around since 2003, and we’re already seeing how our students have moved onto the top of the hierarchy in many studios and companies – all over the world.

When I one day get my pension, I think I can travel most of the western world and in every town I visit, there’ll be an animation studio with one of my former students who’ll invite me to dinner and a cup of coffee. And that’s nice.

All images are Copyright © The Animation Workshop.

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The Animation Workshop


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The Animation Workshop degrees and courses


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Open Workshop for project development


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Animation Sans Frontières animation film production master class


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The Animation Workshop films on Filmnosis

Article published April 6, 2016

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