Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Animation Workshop - a student's view - by Mikkel Brøns-Frandsen

Kwaidan - 2nd year trailer project - animation by Mikkel Brøns-Frandsen
Mikkel Brøns-Frandsen is a third-year student at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. He is graduating this summer, having spent three years studying animation at one of the leading animation schools in Europe. FLIP asked him what life had been like at TAW, and how well his studies have prepared him for finding work in the animation industry.

FLIP: You are graduating from TAW this summer. How was the experience?

Mikkel: I got into The Animation Workshop largely because because I really, really wanted it, and not necessarily because I was especially good at drawing. In the end it was my dedication to the craft that helped me to get in. Just as in most other competitive industries, a willingness to work hard and to learn can be just as important as natural talent. 

This is one of the main principles that The Animation Workshop is founded on. Taking a step back and recognizing animation for the back-breaking work which it is - is a healthy thing to do. I don't consider myself an artist exactly, but rather just a guy who wants to entertain and who has been given the tools to do it.
Animal drawings
FLIP: What is it about The Animation Workshop that sets it apart?

Mikkel: Something that really makes The Animation Workshop stand out, is that the school doesn't try to make all the students fit into the exact same criteria. TAW recognises that different talents go up to make an animator or a CG artist. Everyone is different and this is something that the school appreciates and indeed encourages. 

Although the education has a strong core of traditional principles, the school is incredibly helpful to students who are interested in aspects that are outside of the curriculum. The school tries to accommodate all the students' wishes and allows room for swapping classes and periods for self study. Of course, this is something that the students have to seek out themselves if the school is to do anything about it.
Still image from "Interview", Mikkel's batchelor year film
This leads me to another point on how The Animation Workshop stands out. The first thing you are told when you arrive at the school is to "be the buffalo". This is based on an old piece of folk wisdom, which goes something like this: 

"When a storm is coming, the cows run away from it. This prolongs their suffering, as the storm will eventually catch up with and overtake the cows. But the buffalo charges head-first through the storm and gets out on the other side much faster". 

The Animation Workshop puts great effort into teaching self reliance and a good work ethic. The level of professionalism of each student is very high.
Life drawings, or "croquis" - as they say in Denmark
FLIP: What were some of the highlights of studying there?

Mikkel: One of the really big benefits of attending this education is that every teacher who is brought in to teach is a professional expert in the subject being taught. Say for example, a student (with his or her head full of dreams of going to work for a certain studio) comes to TAW and the animation lead of that particular studio is teaching there that week. This provides an extraordinary opportunity to be taught by professional artists and animators and, after class, to talk to them and pick their brains over a drink. 

On top of that, every teacher is genuinely interested in helping the students and to be friends with them. Even before the students are done with the education, they will already have a network of higly talented people and this can really make a huge difference.

FLIP: What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of applying to The Animation Workshop?

Mikkel: If I were to give advice to anyone who wanted to attend either one of the bachelor programs, it would be to just start doing what you want to end up doing. There is no point in waiting until you get into the school to start making your project. 

Ultimately, ever student's goal is to create something marvelous, and there really is no other way to learn to do this other than by doing it. Start flipping drawings, start making 3d models, start designing characters, start writing scripts, start sculpting, start painting - start doing what you like to do. You are going to fail and you are going to learn from your failures and get better at your craft.
A still image from "Evolve", commercial project for Green Footsteps

FLIP: Good luck! We wish you every success with your career!

Mikkel: Thanks!

(Editor's Note: You can see Mikkel Brøns-Frandsen's blog and animation demo reel here. For more on The Animation Workshop, read our interview with tutor and VFX artist Marc Stevenson here, explore their new TAW graphic storytelling course, and find out about how TAW graduates set up their own company here.)

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