Student Title Sequence Heads to SXSW

Digital Design student Christopher Harrell is heading to Austin – and he’s in some very good company.

Christopher’s Term 3 title sequence, Ladybird, is both gorgeous and incredibly unsettling. It’s also a finalist in the South by Southwest Title Design Competition, alongside such films as Up in the Air, Where the Wild Things Are, and Zombieland. Here’s the New York Times’ take on the competition, which specifically makes reference to Christopher’s work.

In their third of six terms, Digital Design students create title sequences for a film that doesn’t exist… yet. In short, it’s a chance to create something by combining the skills and experience they’ve picked up so far in their year. Often, it’s when students really get to cut loose creatively. (One of Christopher’s fellow YouTube Scholarship winners got to go to Beijing on the strength of his. And the two sequences could not be more different.)

The award, selected by a jury that includes the founders of the amazing The Art of the Title Sequence, will be handed out on Tuesday, March 16th. Watch Ladybird below, then head over to Christopher’s site for a brief but interesting case study on its creation!

Animation Grads Found Blatant Studios

When Jesse Davidge and Jonathan Busby graduated from the Classical Animation and Maya programs at VFS (the latter would soon evolve into today’s Digital Character Animation) they both took a pretty well-journeyed career path, working for big local studios like Studio B, EA, and Bardel.

A few years on, Jesse and Jon wanted something a little different. They wanted chances to work on smaller, more diverse projects – to build their own relationships with clients and see their work all the way through from concept to completion.

That resulted in the founding of Blatant Studios, a new Vancouver-based production studio specializing in animation and motion graphics. Jesse and Jon form two-thirds of the operation. “Blatant began as a way to brand our after-hours commercial work,” Jesse says. “Eventually, it became a full-time company.”

Blatant now boasts a splashy website and a nice track record of pro work, and, as Jon explains, it’s not the kind of thing you start on a whim. “Starting a studio is not an overnight venture. It takes years of networking, knowledge of production, and building a client base. It’s a 24/7 commitment.”

The two are putting their full range of animation, directing, and producing skills to use on an array of interesting projects – like this spot for Sprint/NASCAR, produced in collaboration with San Francisco’s Gunshop. Even more recently, they were approached by Tribal DDB to produce two videos for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the Winter Olympic Games. They had about 3 weeks. Like a lot of homegrown talent involved in the many facets of the Games, it brought a whole new level of exposure. “The thought of having millions of people see our work definitely energized us to do what was needed to see the project realized,” says Jesse. The second of the two videos was projected on the floor of B.C. Place during the Closing Ceremonies.

We’ll leave you with a video for the Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan that Blatant did. It was released earlier this year, and it’s pretty awesome.

To see all their latest work, check out the Blatant Studios website at blatantstudios.com.

2010 Women in Games Scholarship

Today is International Women’s Day, a time to reflect upon and celebrate the achievements of women the world over. And in honour of the occasion, we’d like to tell you about our Women in Games Scholarship, presented in conjunction with Game Design Expo 2010.

The Women in Games Scholarship covers the full tuition for the one-year Game Design program at VFS.

“The Game Design program at VFS has been a very rewarding and enjoyable experience thus far,” last year’s winner, Shannon Lee, told us. “Applying for the scholarship was the best decision I’ve ever made and I’m sure that the next recipient will feel the same.” Shannon started in the program in late October.

The scholarship is a big part of our ongoing initiative to support women who aspire to be professional game designers. It’s about giving women opportunities to excel – and, as we’ve seen with our past female graduates, we believe our Game Design program is a great launchpad for just that.

The 2010 Women in Games Scholarship will be officially unveiled with full details at the Open House on Sunday, April 11!

The Oscars: We Applaud Our District 9 Grads

Along with many millions of viewers just like you, we watched the Oscars last night. Many incredible (and some underappreciated) films were honoured, and it was a real source of pride for us to see all the love for District 9. Though it didn’t win, it brought some deservedly renewed attention to this sci-fi gem.

So we’d like to take this moment to join in the applause for our nominated graduates, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, as well as the many other alumni – especially those behind the film’s beautifully integrated visual effects – who made District 9 Oscar-worthy. And make no mistake – it was Oscar-worthy!

For Neill and Terri, especially, it’s a high point in what will surely be a long career. We haven’t seen the last of them on the red carpet!

Film Grad Makes Ballsy Documentary

It was only three years after Thomas Cantley graduated from VFS’s Film Production program that he heard  some shocking news that would irrevocably change his life and burgeoning career as a filmmaker/photographer: he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

In an amazing display of courage, Thomas responded to this life-threatening disease by filming his experiences for a documentary he could then share with the world — all in an effort to help create an open dialogue about testicular cancer.

Thomas is currently anticipating the completion and release of this feature-length film, appropriately titled “Ballsy”, which will also feature interviews with other men affected by this disease. He recently answered a few questions for us about what drove him to take on such an ambitious and personal project.

Can you talk a bit about the early stages of development on this project? When were you originally diagnosed with testicular cancer and how long was it before you started filming your experiences?

Thomas: I was living in New York City when I was first misdiagnosed on September 15, 2009 with a bacterial infection in my left testicle. As my testicle became more swollen and extremely painful – even after taking the prescribed medication – I was then diagnosed with testicular cancer on October 1, 2009. I had my first surgery a week later to remove my left testicle.

I then found out the cancer had spread to my lymphoids. It was then that I made the decision to capture what I was going through on film. I wanted to share my story, but I also knew it was a way to keep going when I wanted to give up. Having a camera and filming my toughest moments is the most therapeutic way for me to cope as a filmmaker.

I also had to make the decision to move back to Canada when I found out the next step of treatment for my cancer:  I was told it would be best to skip chemotherapy and to have a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (commonly referred to as RPLND), which is a procedure to remove abdominal lymph nodes to treat testicular cancer. The surgery took place on November 16, 2009.  I started filming a few weeks before, documenting the preparation and establishing what my life was like before cancer.

Why did you feel compelled to capture such a personal experience on camera?

Thomas: When I started doing research, I felt that there was no information out there. When I was in the hospital back home in Nova Scotia, I met a young guy who was only 17 and was going through the same battle I was. We quickly became friends. He felt alone too — it’s hard for young guys to speak up if they notice something irregular about their balls. I want there to be a platform for men to talk easily about it. This is why I am bringing awareness to a sensitive subject.

What is the biggest misconception about testicular cancer you’ve encountered while shooting this film?

Thomas: The age. People do not realize how early this disease can affect them. The most common age to be diagnosed with testicular cancer is anywhere between 15 to 35. If it’s not caught in the early stages it can spread so fast, like it did with me. Three years ago, 8,000 men were diagnosed with testicular cancer, and about 390 men die of this disease each year.  Now-a-days, 40,000 men are diagnosed and 8,000 die each year. It’s a staggering and frightening statistic.

One of the trailers for Ballsy highlights the fact that most men ignore the early warning signs, as you did in the past. What are those early warning signs you’re referring to?

Thomas: Loss of sex drive, and slight enlargement and firmness in the testicle. For months I ignored these signs because there was no pain. It was only when I started experiencing pain that I went to the doctor’s office.

Where do you go from here, both personally and in your filmmaking career?

Thomas:  I plan to do more documentary work. It’s my passion and love. Personally, I have grown a lot from this experience, which the documentary will show. I had a different mentality before I was diagnosed. I feel humbled because of this disease.

Thanks for sharing your story, Thomas. We look forward to seeing the film!

Click here to watch the Ballsy trailer on YouTube or visit The Canadian Testicular Cancer Association’s website to learn more about this disease.

Win Autographed District 9 Swag

The 82nd Academy Awards are live this Sunday night! We’ll be cheering on all the VFS alumni whose work in District 9 has been nominated, including 3D grad Neill Blomkamp and Writing grad Terri Tatchell, who are competing in the Writing (Adapted Screenplay) category.

To celebrate their nomination, we’ve put together a special prize package of District 9 swag that has all been autographed by both Neil and Terri, including a D9 mini-poster, the D9 DVD, and a copy of VFS In Focus Magazine’s special District 9 issue.

For your chance to win, leave a comment on this blog post — not on Facebook or Twitter — with a prediction for the Oscars: pick a nominee you think will win on Sunday night (doesn’t have to be District 9-related) and be sure to fill in your name and email address in the boxes below.

This contest is closed. We’ll soon be notifying our randomly-selected winner.

Thanks for entering!

Emmy Award-Winning Makeup Artist Visits VFS

Eve Pearl has a lot of experience as a makeup artist for such television programs as Live with Regis & Kelly, Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Dateline, The Late Show with David Letterman, and – the source of her five EmmysThe View.

She dropped by VFS recently to demonstrate her corrective makeup technique for current Makeup Design for Film & Television students, and to also share some of her industry secrets such as:

Peach fuzz? Shave it. In her experience, it never grows back darker.

Powders? Don’t use them on HD shoots. They sit below the surface of the skin and won’t stand a chance against the cameras.

While demonstrating different techniques on her student volunteer, Hannah Eustis, Eve discussed a number of issues students might encounter when applying corrective makeup, like concealing veins, tattoos, bruising, and 5 o’clock shadow. Her big advice from years of experience in live television is to not experiment too much when something’s already working.

“You want consistency,” she said. “I don’t want to see my news anchor with different eye shadow every day — I wouldn’t trust him.”

Click here to check out more photos from Eve’s visit on VFS’s flickr page.

Grads in Wonderland

The perennially eerie Tim Burton has once again returned to classic children’s literature in his next film, Alice in Wonderland.

Opening in theatres this Friday, a number of VFS grads have helped realize this not-surprisingly eccentric tribute to Lewis Carrol’s magical story of a girl who tumbled down a rabbit hole.

Alumni include 3D Animation & Visual Effects grads Andrew Lawson (Character Animator), Geeta Basantani (Digital Matte Painter), John Iskandar (Visual Effects Artist), and Phan Wiantrakoon (Animator), alongside Classical Animation alum Ken Kaiser (Animator).

Update — Not surprisingly, we’ve just heard from more 3D grads who have worked on this film: Veronica Marino (Compositor) and Jacob Curtis Miller (Digital Artist).

Click here to watch the film’s trailer on YouTube.