Max Howard ‘Up In The Air’ – Again!

I’m returning from two days spent teaching a program at The Animation Workshop on producing independent animated feature films and the particular challenges of doing so in Europe.

International Animation Consulting Group

I’m at 30,000 feet again……… and another flight.  What a perfect place to sit and write my blog for AWN.

Last time I sat and shared my thoughts, I was enroute back from a delightful trip to India.  This journey is a rather shorter one (thankfully); I’m heading to London from Viborg in Denmark, via Holland.  I’m returning from two days spent teaching a program at The Animation Workshop on producing independent animated feature films and the particular challenges of doing so in Europe. 

One of the buildings that houses The Animation Workshop

The Animation Workshop is an animation school housed in former military barracks in Viborg, Denmark. It forms a part of VIA University College. Since the late 1980s, The Animation Workshop has educated and trained animators for the Danish, as well as the international animation, computer game and visual effects industry. Teachers, as well as students, come from both Denmark and the rest of the world - as a result, all classes are conducted in English. The Animation Workshop attracts teachers from all over the world, including professional animation artists from well-known studios such as Pixar and DreamWorks.

Since 2007, The Animation Workshop has been organized as Centre for Animation, providing knowledge and competency development for the Danish animation industry through activities and development projects in the seven departments: Bachelor of Arts Department, Professional Training, Open Workshop, The Drawing Academy, Centre for Education and Animation, The Incubation House and Animation Hub.

Centre for Animation has access to the newest animation related research and development through an extended international network of companies and professionals. As a knowledge centre, The Animation Workshop handles dissemination of relevant information and acts as a link between interested parties and relevant contacts within the animation industry.

Based on strong professional animation competencies, the Centre for Animation initiates and implements a large number of activities and development projects within the core areas.

One of the strongest results of the Centre’s work is the foundation of, and entering into, three consortium co-operations that each, in their own way, has as an objective to promote the development of talent, competence, occupation and business within Danish animation-related media production. The three consortia will - over the next three to four years - support, inspire, develop, guide, match and strengthen Danish companies within computer games, cross-media and info-media.

The three consortia are:

CROSS MEDIA

THE COMPUTER GAME ZONE

THE ANIMATION HUB

CROSS MEDIA

Purpose

To strengthen and make use of the growth potential for audiovisual cross media products and projects in Region Midtjylland and Region Nordjylland.

THE COMPUTER GAME ZONE

Purpose

To develop the growing potential computer games industry into a healthy, internationally oriented business with viable companies that are prepared for growth.

THE ANIMATION HUB

Purpose

To explore, develop and promote the use of animation within the focus areas of Medico Animation, Science Animation, Animated User Interfaces, Animated News and Open Source Pipeline.

All in all, a fascinating vision and rightly named, The Animation Workshop!

This vision, and the driving force behind the whole set up, is founder and General Director, Morten Thorning.  His energy and passion is contagious and I am a willing and happy recipient of that contagion!

This was my third visit to The Animation Workshop in the last six months.  I love going there, whether it is working with the students or the industry professionals that are working within the ‘incubator’ set up for new projects.

On this latest trip, I spoke to industry professionals, providing a workshop to outline the journey of taking an idea from development through funding, production and distribution.   No simple answers, but together we discussed potential roadmaps, demystifying some of the more complex areas of producing animated features, especially within Europe.  My focus, no matter where a film is made, is always targeted towards the international marketplace.  A film can be locally produced and can celebrate inherent cultures and traditions but, if the underlying theme of the story is universal, then the film can travel outside of these perceived boundaries and resonate with audiences around the globe.

Much in the same way as Delhi Safari, the film from Krayon Studios in Pune, India that I discussed in my previous blog.

Dehli Safari

As I have digressed from The Animation Workshop, let me share with you other news regarding Delhi Safari.  It is scheduled to be screened at Annecy, within the ‘out of competition feature animation’ category.  Congratulations to producer, Nishith Takia and the rest of the team. 

If you’re heading to Annecy be sure to try and see it!

Back to The Animation Workshop…….

The facility is nestled away in the centre of Jutland, the largest landmass in Denmark.  To the south it shares a border with Germany.

Here’s a glimpse inside...

The red dot on this map indicates the exact location of the city…….. I believe, in centuries past, it was once the capital city of Denmark.  Now it is fast becoming a capital city for the world’s animation industry.  I was introduced by Alex Williams, my long-term friend and collaborator.  Alex is one of the pre-eminent working professionals who come here on a regular basis to share their skills with the next generation of animators.

A couple of days before my visit, Andreas Déjà had been sharing his immense knowledge with the students.    Having people like Alex and Andreas, underscores the commitment to bring the very best talents to impart their skills and provide real insight into the industry that these students are to join.  A truly unique training program, which is emerging as a pre-eminent place to receive the very finest animation education.

As I mentioned earlier, the Animation Workshop campus was once a military barracks but more recently it housed local government officials.  In the picture above, it used to be the local Mayor’s office – it was also the location for my talk!  Good to see buildings like this being repurposed and put to a creative use.

Now my plane is coming into land, the seatbelt sign has come on and we’re being asked to switch off all electronic equipment.   I’ll eek out a few more words once I am back on terra firma!

Now at my place in London……. Yes, I’m still based in Los Angeles, but I have been on an extended road trip. 

My next port-of-call will be the Cannes Film Festival and then onto Annecy.  After that I’m planning on being back in the US.  I’m pitching a couple of different film projects in Cannes and then, in Annecy, meeting up with clients and friends from within the industry.  I’ll plan on blogging about those two events in my next ‘post’…. So, until the next time I am, ‘up in the air’! 

Max Howard

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