‘Pie’ in progress: two 3rd years discuss why Newport

As part of our on-going commitment towards providing students with an excellent learning experience, we thought we would share some of our student’s thoughts with you. Here we discuss with two final year students, Luke George and Alex Hancocks, their work, inspirations and aspirations.

Animation Newport: Hello both. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Luke George: I’m 22, originally from Redhill in Surrey, and there isn’t much else I’d rather do than use my creativity in some form or another. At school my first obsession was drawing uncontrollably doodling over every scrap of available paper. Alongside drawing was sculpture, I have always found translating my ideas and drawings into 3D objects very satisfying. After Santa bought me a small television for my room I would regularly get in trouble for staying up into the small hours watching anything and everything that the then four channels would throw at me. One year, my granddad bought himself a video camera which, naturally, I claimed as my own! I would often borrow it off him to make little films and very crude stop-motion animations with my toys, pressing the record button twice as quickly as possible to get my frame. With my love of film and art, animation was an inevitable choice.

Alex Hancocks: My first experiences of animation came while I was very young and I started making very crude short films using toy cars and bits of plasticine. When I got to school I decided to try and make a proper film called The Shed with sets and puppets etc. The film won first prize in the national competition BECTA Creativity in Digital Media Awards 2005. It was then that I decided this was what I wanted to do.

AN: What led you both to study animation at University of Wales, Newport?

AH: Having been down to visit Aardman I had asked about universities and the best ones to look at, I had also been looking at the Skillset website and their accredited courses which is where I saw Newport. I went to various open days and interviews and the one that stood out to me by far was Newport.

LG: I looked at many potential universities to continue my path to becoming an animator, and Newport stood out to me as the most exciting and interesting option. The reputation was strong and the freedom of creativity they seemed to offer was very appealing. I had decided after my interview that it was the right place for me, and luckily, I was offered a place.

AN: You are currently in your third year working on your graduation film. Can you tell us a little bit about that and why you chose to work together?

LG: Our graduation film is about an old couple who are retired, and happily married until the husband, John, grows un-justifiably suspicious of his wife, Betty, and events unfold to a dramatic conclusion. It is a stop-motion film with just two characters. After the initial idea pitching session at the start of year, it was brought to my attention that my film was ridiculously ambitious for one man to complete. I then decided to approach Alex and proposed the idea of us joining forces, to which he agreed. Our outlook, and vision for the film were similar, and we had briefly worked together before to good effect. His idea had a good plot, but lacked distinctive or believable characters, whereas mine was the exact opposite, so we put my character as the lead man in his film, and the rest is history. In reflection, it was certainly a good idea to work together, as it has not only enabled us to be more ambitious, but has richly improved the creative process, I would highly recommend to any future third years to seriously consider it.

AH: We started out working separately on different ideas. After the initial pitch however we saw a similarity between both of our ideas and our influences. We found our ideas would merge together really well, so we decided to team up and I can honestly say that so far it has been a fantastic decision and I can’t understand why more people haven’t done so! Like Luke says, I would highly recommend future third years do the same. It really helps in terms of the amount you can do as well, we can delegate tasks and each take responsibilities. I, for example, have taken responsibility for building the set while Luke has been focusing on making the puppets.

AN: Sounds great. So what do you hope to do when you graduate?

AH: I plan to try and get a job animating somewhere, try to gain some valuable industry experience so that one day I might direct some of my own films. I also plan to try and enter the film into as many festivals as possible to try and get myself noticed.

LG: After I graduate, I hope to find success in festivals and a career in model-making. The puppets for our grad film have been my responsibility, as this is the path I’d like to start on at least. Although I do enjoy writing, directing and animating, I feel my main strength and source of fulfillment is in character design and model-making.

AN: How do you think Newport has helped you so far?

LG: Newport has been instrumental in my development, as it has provided a place for me to develop my own ideas and skills in a free and creative environment. I have been pushed to improve and strive for perfection. Having such a diverse spectrum of peers has helped a lot also, as it has allowed me to see other styles and ways of doing things. Newport has also been great for preparing me for the big, bad world, as they tell you straight what the industry is like, and how to go about seeking employment.

AH: I think that Newport has really helped me to question the work that I do and the way that I work. I think over the three years I’ve really learnt to appreciate how difficult it is to create a successful film and I have constantly been encouraged to step outside my comfort zone when working and to create films in ways that I wouldn’t usually think about. This has, on some occasions, worked really well, on others it has resulted in failure but all of these situations have taught me something, and even the mistakes have been invaluable lessons. Also, the connection with Skillset Media Academy Wales and the location of Newport itself is a really positive aspect, which gives us loads of opportunities for work placements, studio visits and masterclasses etc.

AN: What’s the best thing about studying at Newport?

AH: I would have to say that the best thing would be the diversity and the focus on storytelling we have here, we’re not forced to study just one medium such as traditional drawn animation or computer-generated imagery for example. Instead we are encouraged to first develop an idea and then pick the style or technique that best supports that idea. This is certainly clear to see as we move into the third year and everybody is creating their graduation films, there seems to be a real variety of different styles and techniques, instead of thirty-odd people all creating the same thing. That might be what some people want but not what I want. I want to be telling great stories and entertaining people. Here at Newport everyone’s different, different stories, different techniques, different people.

LG: The best thing about studying in Newport is the sense of community spirit and diversity, especially within the animation course.

AN: Thanks for your time and good luck with your film!

Luke and Alex’s graduation film entitled Pie is currently in progress. To follow the action as it unfolds please visit lukeandalex.wordpress.com.


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