“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me, and I understand.” Chinese Proverb
Inspiration: The above quotation captures my teaching philosophy and pedagogy markedly. People learn in different ways. Some people respond to auditory, others to visual and still others respond better to kinesthetic learning styles. I find my varied methods of content delivery increases the ability to retain the information.
I am Assistant Professor of Practice and an MFA Mentor at the University of Southern California for the John C Hench Animation Division of Animation & Digital Arts Program in the School of Cinematic Arts. This position provides me the opportunity to share my work experience and mentor the students on their discoveries in animation production and their thesis films. As a teacher, I aim to perpetuate knowledge and inspire learning. More specifically, as a mentor I introduce students to a pool of inspirational works and ask them to articulate their reactions guiding independent critical thought. I seek a balance in my courses between inspirational films, lecturing to students, hands on one on one application of exercise and asking for exploration and discovery.
My professional experience is in all forms of computer, and traditional output including film, games, and commercials. I have incorporated these techniques and research into my classes. I have a website and blog where I store additional learning resources for animation and information regarding internships. Through my classes, I generate an original syllabus and course assignments using my research and animation experience. My curriculum supports innovative filmmaking, developing a personal voice and a professional demo reel to obtain a position in the industry if so desired.
Experience: My experience working in the movie picture industry has afforded me an extensive, practical and theoretical knowledge of commercial animation development and production. My interest in all forms of animation has expanded my appreciation for animation as a vehicle for storytelling, outside of mainstream commercial venues. I continue my exploration of innovation in computer generated images through my graduate studies degree in painting at Laguna College of Art + Design. Digital color space, 3D printing, and digital processing are the basis for composing my paintings. My fine art work begins not in the digital and not in the physical, but in the mix that our minds make of the two. Combining the digital and physical world is the same challenge I pose to my students. Critical thought and unique expression of creativity at the highest level are my goals for my students.
Goals: My approach to instruction reflects two goals. First, the student is expected to master a body of core knowledge by demonstrating familiarity with software, principles, and concepts studied. Second, students are given the opportunity to reflect upon the material during class dailies and critiques and develop an eye for quality work. I require sketchbooks, blog journal updates and one oral presentation per semester on an inspirational master of their choosing. These assignments drive critical thought and development. While my standards are high, I help the students to meet expectations by providing office hours, review sessions, and the chance to submit revisions.
Artist First: I have taught at several institutions in the Los Angeles area including Dhima, Gnomon School of VFX and ianimate.net. One of the toughest obstacles for any artist or filmmaker is solving problems that are both creative and technical at the same time. In filmmaking and animation, the story and the art are intertwined. Using my 20+ years’ experience working in the movie picture industry, I bring problem-solving strategies that are conceptually sound and applicable. I have no desire to create a workforce. Instead, I mentor artists towards innovative thinking. My student’s demo reels are different, and I encourage students to have a unique, creative voice. I also value narrative, character and empathy even if the desire is experimental animation without linear storytelling. I view my instructor role as a sign post; steering my students towards original solutions. I also believe my role as instructor is submissive to the student’s growth, and I am quick to change my tactics if an approach is not coming across as I hoped. We all learn in different ways and art is a subjective topic to teach. It is rare to have all students operating at the same level. I like to switch things up to keep the students thinking and mold my instruction to work best for their needs.
Participation: Over the years, I have worked with industry professionals, and I use these contacts to incorporate class visits and guest lectures. I use classroom discussion, open critiques, guest speakers and Improv exercises to get the students interacting, sharing and discussing the work. I encourage communication among the students and the sharing of ideas. Animation is a collaborative art form, and I think students should get used to sharing with their peers.
I assist students in making contacts, internships and finding employment upon graduation. I have worked for a majority of the animation studios in the Los Angeles area, and my contacts at the studios come in handy closer to graduation. I also offer a Career Strategies lecture every semester. Career Strategies has been one of my most popular lectures. No matter if you plan on working in one of the top five studios, working independently, or for a small boutique, you have to have a plan of action.
My primary goal as a teacher is to foster critical thinking, facilitate creative thought and to prepare students to function effectively as a filmmaker and artist. I strive to create well-rounded artists that have mastered both the technical and artistic aspects of filmmaking, storytelling, and animation. I do all of this with an optimistic, positive atmosphere that is a nurturing place to share and grow. My classroom atmosphere allows students to feel safe making mistakes. I believe more learning occurs from failures than successes.
Nothing feels better than when you explain a complex concept and see a light go off. It is a reward in of itself. That light is the only reason to become a teacher, in my mind. I am at a time in my life where I want to give back. I have a genuine interest in making solid artists who, one day, win awards for their films. My work and research are richer because of my teaching experience. Connections with young artists keep me young and from going stale in my studio. It’s a great give and take. In summary, all of my pedagogical strategies are dedicated to teaching the principles of animation and filmmaking in dynamic, hands-on way that will remain with the student long after he or she leaves my classroom.