LMU School of Film and Television’s (SFTV) Animation program ranked 7th among schools offering a Bachelor of Arts degree in Animation by Animation Career Review. In their 10th annual rankings published last month, some 195 schools around the country were judged based on criteria such as educational value, graduation rates, and employment data. The program also ranked #13 on the West Coast and #31 nationally amongst the Top 50 schools offering animation in any form.
According to Associate Professor and the current Chair of the Animation department, Adriana Jaroszewicz, a big part of the SFTV “secret sauce” is how adaptable the program is: students have ongoing flexibility to change and pursue specializations within animation as they progress in their degree.
“We’ve had students who specialize in storyboarding, visual effects, games, virtual production, and character animation, to name a few areas,” says Jaroszewicz, a top-notch visual effects artist and animator who served as the Senior Digital Trainer at Sony Pictures Imageworks before joining the LMU faculty in 2009. “The great thing is they don’t need to change majors when they change directions.”
In recent years, more and more upper-division elective courses are taught by SFTV’s Animation alumni. “These elective courses reflect cohort interests and we can vary those courses to address career goals from year to year. That specialization is then reflected in their thesis projects,” she explains. Agility is built into the program because LMU SFTV understands that interests can develop and change over time as each student is exposed to more aspects of the animation arts.
A pioneer of sorts in virtual filmmaking curriculum, the program is the first in the nation to offer a course on virtual cinematography, an aspect of motion-capture imaging. The technique was first used to capture virtual landscapes in the second highest-grossing film of all time–20th Century Fox’s mega-sci-fi-fantasy ‘Avatar.’ “Our mocap lab is best defined as a multi-use space,” says Jaroszewicz. “Traditional stop-motion animation and V/R development have also been done here. More recently, Associate Professor Shane Acker (‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’) has been teaching Previz courses as well.”
SFTV alumni from the Animation program include Previz/Engine artist Kate Gotfredson (‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘Ford v Ferrari’), production manager Elise Scanlan (‘Frozen II’ and ‘Big Hero 6’), and character designer Pete Oswald (‘Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’ and ‘Hotel Transylvania’).
In fact, the community within the Animation program, and SFTV in general, plays a key role in career success. Just this semester the department is holding a “Breaking into the Animation Industry” panel, featuring alumni currently working in Storyboarding, Character Animation, 3D, VFX, Production Management, and Gaming. Subject to scheduling changes, the alumni slated to join include the above-mentioned Scanlan and Gotfredson, VFX compositor Amanda Goad (‘Lucifer’ and ‘Westworld’), and Epic Games product specialist Greg Richardson.
Su Fang Tham is a story analyst and freelance writer specializing in filmed entertainment. Based in Los Angeles, she is also a contributing writer for Film Independent and CineMontage, Journal of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.