It's Raining Pegbars! A Profile Of Animation In Vancouver
(continued from page 5)

In the mid-1990s, the boom in the animation industry attracted the attention of many young people who had come of age in the digital era. This influenced a flurry of activity for local educators. ECIAD continued to churn out grads with a fine arts education and many of these animators moved right into the industry. Capilano College saw the future in their crystal ball and developed their Commercial Animation Program (CAP).

ECIAD and CAP are public schools that receive government subsidies, which keeps the high overhead of running their programs from trickling out of the pockets of their students. However, the private post-secondary schools compete for students, each one trying to offer the bigger bang for the buck. VanArts started its classical animation program with veteran animator/director Lee Mishkin, adding computer animation 2 years later. Vancouver Film School, already the big guy on the block, just kept getting bigger. CDIS, which started in audio production and engineering, rolled in the SGIs.

The result of so many schools is that the job market is now flooded with entry level animators, many of whom either have not received good training, or never had the creative talent with which to begin. This has made it more competitive for grads to find work. Says Freedman, "Five years ago, when our studios grew, we would take graduates and train them. Now, our studios run at full capacity with little room for entry level positions. What we look for now are more senior artists which the local schools can't provide." A recent and alarming trend is the growing number of unemployed classical animators who are eligible for government assistance to "upgrade" their skills to computer animation. Students need at least two years of production experience, if not more, to make it across the border. However, most graduates would prefer to work at home, considering that Vancouver was recently voted as one of the top cities to live in for "quality of life." Much the same as it is everywhere else, the gifted animator who has the passion to persist is bound to make it.

Indies And The NFB
In 1996, the NFB underwent major re-organization and cutbacks to trim the bureaucratic fat that had been accumulating for years. Since then, the dust has settled and production is in full swing again. Former animator and camera operator Svend-Erik Erikson emerged as Executive Producer of the Animation/Children/Multimedia stream in all of western Canada. That is, everything west of Ontario!

Martin Rose’s Trawna Tuh Belvul. © National Film Board of Canada.

Many of Hugh Fouldes' former students have formed the core of indie animators currently active in Vancouver. Carrying the torch for Hugh, animators Martin Rose and Marilyn Cherenko now lead ECIAD's animation department. Rose animated Trawna Tuh Belvul (1996) through the NFB and is now at work on a Canada Council funded piece called SLIP! Cherenko is working on About Face, a film about facing one's inner dragon. ECIAD instructor Ruben Moller is animating CG characters into a stop-motion background with his home-grown camera rig, the Rue-Bot. The next generation of ECIAD graduates is now starting to make inroads at the festivals.

When Svend-Erik Erikson moved to the top at the NFB Pacific Centre, he lead the way into digital scanning and post-production. Currently in production is Joe Fortes, the story of a local lifeguard who was a well-loved Vancouverite in the 1890s. Director Jill Haras and animator Tammy Knight (both ECIAD graduates from the Fouldes era) are scanning animated cut-outs which are then composited digitally, making elaborate multi-planing possible. Meanwhile, the NFB's Oxberry is being used to film off of computer monitors! With NFB "assistance" funding, Carol Halstead plunked her Amiga monitor under the camera for her autobiographical film Why? (1995), and Stephen Arthur used it for his NFB produced Transfigured (1998), about the work of local abstract painter Jack Shadbolt. Three other NFB productions are scheduled for completion this year.

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