A look inside the UTS Animal Logic Academy
Walking into the UTS Animal Logic Academy is an experience like no other. The black walls and grey couches create a mood reserved only for expensive cocktail bars with exclusive postcodes. The dim workspace is broken up by bright computer screens, eyes fixated on colourful projects and quiet chatter happening between what can only be described as colleagues. I feel prepared to do an interview for an internship in some spiffy agency which has work drinks on the regular and deems vodka an appropriate morning beverage. Yet, this is none of those things. In fact, the UTS Animal Logic Academy is university.
I sit down for my first interview, Nakul Umashankar, and it soon becomes clear that my interpretation that this is a professional workplace is correct. "It actually feels like you're going to work" Nakul says. "You're meeting your supervisors, or you're asking them for advice, or mentoring, and they come around, and they focus on you... It feels like you're working in a big production."
It's not just the professional nature of the studio that struck me, it's the attitudes of the students, the clear lust for learning. Felipe Fabrette, a 34-year-old man who has already worked in the industry as a director, has come back to brush up on his skills.
"When I got the director job, I couldn't use 10% of what I learned in visual effects courses, because [my job] was aimed towards directing. I couldn't play with software at all."
Although Felipe's experience differs from some of the other students', his attitude towards the degree is uncanny. "Being among people that are in the industry is quite exciting, and it really motivates you to move forward…this course has been pretty good to help me rekindle my passion towards animation."
Through chatting to some of the students, it becomes clear that they come from a breadth of different experiences. Nakul and Julian Beiboer are both graduates of the media arts degree at UNSW whilst Adelaine Baltazar has spent the last few years working in retail and Felipe comes from the industry itself. Although their backgrounds vary, their reasons for being here are all quite similar. Julian summarises it perfectly when he says, "It's what it's going to be like in the industry."
With industry experience comes industry maturity. It becomes apparent very quickly that I am not just interviewing regular university students. These people are driven, smart, quick and outrageously motivated. Better than any of this, they are incredibly supportive of each other.
It became evident early on that I was sitting amongst some of the best in the industry. When I asked Nakul if he found the amount of talent intimidating or inspiring, he responded honestly. "Definitely inspiring, because we're all just one big team. There's no reason to try to one up someone, or put them down. We're all working towards the same goal and we're constantly lifting each other up and helping each other…it's a really positive, really strong environment here."
Perhaps one of the greatest things about the Academy is the size. The ratio of tutors to students means students can't hide. There is no choice but to be recognised and your talents to be nurtured. The creative leads keep a close eye on the students. Chris Ebeling, one of the creative leads, picked up on Adelaine's skills and quickly encouraged her to look into the producer role. After two months, Adelaine has no regrets.
"It's been really eye opening, because I am good at this," Adelaine says. "It's not exactly a creative role…but without them pushing me, I probably wouldn't have noticed that this is what I should be doing."
The ratio of staff to students mirrors the style of teaching, Julian explains. "There's a lot of support amongst the group and you get to know everyone. The teaching is very personal because there are only thirty of us so you get a lot of one on one time with daily's and reviews… You get a lot of feedback straight away."
This one-on-one style learning was something that everyone I interviewed spoke positively about. Adelaine reinforced it when she stated, "I'd often have Matt or Chris come around and I'd ask a question… they would sit down next to you for ten minutes trying to help you out. Although it's not a traditional form of teaching, we are still learning. We are learning by having all these tasks."
It is difficult to describe such an innovative learning space. It's a proper studio with the added benefits of experts who are paid to help you. In Julian's words, "It's self-driven learning but you're in an environment where if you need help with something, you can ask."
So, what is UTS Animal Logic Academy? According to Adelaine, it's "the perfect step to fill the gap of study and the industry."