[-empyre-] Christopher Sullivan thoughts

Melanie Beisswenger (Asst Prof) Melanie at ntu.edu.sg
Sun Feb 21 20:14:41 EST 2010

Hi Chris,

You brought up a very interesting question, if ‘animation is really a good tool to teach artists how to think.’ I do quite agree with you that the tediousness and slow moving process is a handicap in the learning process. Other art forms are more immediate and provide a faster turnaround with quicker feedback. Even more so when we enter the digital realm, particularly with 3D animation, as the animation process becomes a bit abstract and harder to grasp, control and master. Yet these are attributes largely affecting the ‘craft aspect’ (I know many people in academia just hate the word craft, yet it just comes with the business of doing art). On the other hand the long development and production cycles for animation force the students to rethink and reiterate their work. The thought process itself, I find, gets drawn out and questioned by students (including myself) over and over again while creating, even while still putting the finishing touches on a work. What animation thus requires from the students – and teaches them - is a well thought out concept that survives throughout the amount of time required to complete a piece of work, an idea which motives through hours of slaving away. Surely, this is not a way to learn thinking for everyone, but still effective.
To link this up with another thread on the notion of ‘space’ in animation, I think the ‘everything is possible idea’ in animation requires the creator / students to think even further. As an animator you are challenged with making your abstract ideas and concepts, often expressed with the help of strange new creatures and environments, understandable to your audience: To what extent do you explore and push new, fantastic, abstract, visually different concepts, spaces and characters? What are the rules of your universe and when do you break the willing suspension of disbelieve. And - most importantly - what is the essence of your idea and is it communicated understandably to the audience?
On a practical note, animation reaches over such a wide range of fields in its creation process, from storytelling through film making, to art creation and communication; it’s a pretty complex process, so nothing better to challenge oneself :-)


From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of christopher sullivan [csulli at saic.edu]
Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2010 10:40 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: [-empyre-] Christopher Sullivan thoughts

Hi everyone, as the week draws to the end, It has been an interesting mix of
thoughts and ideas. One thing that I wanted to talk about before things draw to
a close is my hopes for animation, and my thoughts on a pedagogical side.
             I feel that the independent animated feature is going to increase
exponentially in years to come (just hope I get my film to screen before it is
a infinite pool) I do hope that these new films will not be plagued with the
remakes and adaptations that are now overtaking Hollywood. Besides Charley
Kaufman, who is getting original scripts produced?  Even Wes Anderson’s
(another script writer) Incredible Mr. Fox, is an adaptation, again Charley
Kaufman prophetic, in the writing of Adaptation.
             So the thing that we independent animators have to do is create
works that really take advantage of the qualities of animation that set it
apart from live action film, and particular for the west to catch up with some
of the cinematic chances taken in the east “for instance, Paprika” or the
highly disturbing Mindgame. Fringe feature anime is politically very
conservative in particular with gender politics, and I am not even talking
about being queer enough, I am referring to the heterosexually conservative,
and completely fraternal in the sense of the internal mind; men imagining
fantasies of women.   But these films are very sophisticated in regards to
filmmaking. How they play with time, how they create and destroy characters, in
constant sates of death and resurrection. So I hope that We as filmmakers can
get the backing to create innovative films that challenge audiences not as
people going to see animation, but going to see demanding cinema. See you in
the trenches.

         One other thought I wanted to bring up is whether you think that
animation is really a good tool to teach artists how to think. I have debated
this for years because of its very slow turn around, and the literal amount of
idea stuff that a student can handle during their studies. Every successful
student I have had, has had other outlets to plow through and discard ideas, be
it photography, comics, performance, live action films, writing. I have never
had an exclusive animator that I feel really used their time in school fully.
I learned more about making art in my early twenties in school doing
performance than doing animation, though my artistic identity as an animation
artist via grants awards, employment, solidified at this time as well.  I am
pondering these questions; Is animation a medium that condenses other artistic
experiences into a less temporal vision, but not the best generative medium? Is
it a good intellectual teaching medium? Of course this is about matters of
degrees, as I do believe my students grow in my classes, but they do grow
What are people’s thoughts?

Christopher Sullivan
Dept. of Film/Video/New Media
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 so michigan
Chicago Ill 60603
csulli at saic.edu
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

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