The Best Feeling You Can Have: Portrait of an Animator

“If I have a pencil, I know I can express whatever’s in my mind.” So says Classical Animation graduate Luis Gadea in a video profile directed, shot, and edited by Carlo Solanoy as part of his documentary series, CTRL+ART+DEL.

The beautifully captured video has style to spare, and it also offers great insight into the inspiration and motivation of an artist. Luis, by the way, graduated a year ago and today works at Atomic Cartoons.

Watch it now:

See more of Luis Gadea’s art at

Explore Carlo Solanoy’s work at

How Design Brought Emily’s Story to Life

Design has power. When it’s used to bring joy and hope to a sick child, that power takes on a whole new meaning.

Recently, Crush and Jullian Ablaza, a VFS Digital Design graduate, paired with the Children’s Wish Foundation to create a piece about a little girl named Emily.

Here’s her true story.

“We all had such a blast doing this project,” Jullian says. “It was a lot of long hours, but we had such a great time. You’re in early and you’re out late at night for the duration of the project. Long days bring you closer together because we all wanted to deliver the best possible project.”

And the ultimate goal?

“The video continues to get views and we’re hoping for a lot more, which will draw people’s attention to this cause. In the end, I think we were all very happy with what we produced, and hopefully, people will continue to appreciate it.”

Visit Oomph, the VFS Digital Design community, to read the full interview with Jullian and watch a behind-the-scenes video of how Emily’s Story was created.

VFS Grad Brian Hayes: From Scientist To Animator To Games Creative Director

Photo of Electronic Arts Creative Director Brian Hayes

Brian Hayes is a graduate of the VFS Classical Animation program, but he’s now a Creative Director at Electronic Arts, one of the biggest game companies in the world. He also started out as a scientist. So how does that work – going from scientist to animator to a creative director of games, working on such popular titles as Def Jam: Icon, Fight Night Round 4 and Fight Night Champion? It sounded like an interesting journey, so we spoke with Brian to find out more about it.
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“I Sit Around Some of the Top Compositors in the World”

When last we spoke with Daphne de Jesus, she was just beginning her career, working as a compositor on the animated TV series League of Super Evil. Since then, a lot has happened for the Foundation Visual Art & Design and 3D Animation & Visual Effects grad.

First, she did stints with Atmosphere, Prime Focus, and Digital Domain in Vancouver, and spent time with Scanline in Los Angeles. Now her career has taken her to New Zealand, with preeminent visual effects studio Weta Digital, where she’s worked on some of the highest-profile films of recent months – including the much-anticipated first film in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy.

What led her there? Daphne was kind enough to clue us in.

Tell us why you choose to pursue a career in visual effects. Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?

Daphne: I originally wanted to work in animation and wanted to work for Pixar. But as I progressed in the 3D program at VFS, I went into the VFX stream and realized that I really like working with footage, so I decided I wanted to be a compositor. You realize as you go through the program what your strengths and weaknesses are. I still hope to work for Pixar some day.

You got your start working on TV series like League of Super Evil and Stargate Universe. Is it much different to work on feature film VFX?

Daphne: I think there are stepping stones that you need to take before getting to working on a high-end feature film. Coming out of school, you have to see where you will get your first job. I’m grateful for how I’ve started in the industry. I had to take jobs in live-action TV first to show that I can work with live-action footage. Then, once you have those on your demo reel, you can use it to get your foot in the door in features.

Working on feature films, especially one such as The Hobbit, is amazing and challenging. Working in stereo can get very technical, and I learn new things every day. I work with so many talented artists, have seen their work, and learned about my own level as an artist. Feature film just makes you grow faster as an artist because you would see a really cool shot and go, “Wow, that looks amazing! How do I get from where I am now as an artist to there?” and you learn from those around you.

You’ve been quite a nomad the last couple of years. How are you finding life in New Zealand?

Daphne: New Zealand is awesome. It’s so green and people are really nice. It really does look like Middle Earth. I have always wanted to work in the different cities that have VFX companies. This is the dream – to travel and work in VFX!

Now that your career is established and you’ve been working pretty steadily, what advice would you give to a young artist who’s thinking of following in your footsteps?

Daphne: I wouldn’t say my career is established, per se. I sit around some of the top compositors in the world, it’s very humbling, and I have so much to learn, before I can say I am “established”.

The advice I would give is, never be too proud to take the smaller jobs because you can meet someone there who would help you and it would lead to bigger things down the road. Getting along with everyone is really important, this is a small industry and word gets around if you’re a good artist to work with or not. Follow the companies you aspire to work at and see what kind of artists they are looking for, and shape yourself to become that. I think when you’re young or starting, you have a picture of yourself as an artist, and don’t necessarily consider what companies need in someone, then they wonder why it is difficult to get into the industry.

Thanks, Daphne! And good luck with whatever comes next!

FEARnet Goes Fishing, Catches Mermaid

The Little Mermaid, a short film created as part of Entertainment Business Management‘s Compendium series, has already won at Screamfest and the Leo Awards, and its teaser trailer alone has chilled viewers of our YouTube channel since last year.

But what you couldn’t do until now is see the film online. That all changes now.

FEARnet, the US horror cable channel and online portal, has licensed The Little Mermaid for online, video on demand, and TV distribution. You can finally watch the film, in full, right here and comment, like, and share away!

Then, come on back and check out our two-part behind-the-scenes story, How to Make an Award-Winning Short Film (Part 1 | Part 2) for more insight into the film’s remarkable origins and production.

Update: The Little Mermaid has finally made its long-awaited debut on our YouTube channel. Here it is in all its eerie glory.


Announcing Our 2012 Latin America Writing for Film & Television Scholarship Recipients

We’re happy to announce the recipients of our 2012 Latin America Writing for Film & Television Scholarship!

You read that right – recipients, plural. We had such a great response from so many talented individuals that we’ve awarded four partial scholarships to the one-year Writing for Film & Television program. The recipients are:

  • Adam Donelly
  • Andrea de la Paz
  • Jaime Fidalgo
  • Santiago Sanchez Cordero

Congratulations to the recipients and thanks to everyone who applied! We hope to see you all on campus soon!

2Jam! — 2 Days + 2 Designers = 1 Game for 2 Players

Computer Startup Screen for 2Jam

What is 2Jam? Well, according to VFS Game Design Instructor Chevy Ray Johnston, “2Jam is a two-day rapid game development session. The goal is for each jammer, with a single partner, to create an entire game from scratch in just one weekend!”

Game Design Instructor Chevy Ray Johnston

Chevy was the creative energy behind this invitation only event, which was sponsored by VFS and held at 88 Pender St on November 3rd and 4th, 2012. He stayed on hand throughout the event, to help when needed, to adjudicate, and also to the participate. Mentor Kimberly Voll was also on hand to help. In the end, 36 people came in teams of two to develop 18 new games!

“I’ve been planning the event for a long time,” says Chevy, “I always wanted to do a game jam like this where everybody has to create a simple competitive two-player game with a partner. This is fun, because you can easily test your game with your partner during the event, and the competitive nature of the games makes things exciting and social.”
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From Musician to Sound Designer: “It’s All About Pursuing What You Love”

Since graduating from the Sound Design for Visual Media program this past August, Karla Ahumada Melendez has been busy. In fact, she’s worked on seven films in the last few months alone, including several VFS productions and an upcoming made-for-TV movie She Made Them Do It. Karla shared with us how a love of music led her to discover her true calling – Sound Design.

Why did you decide to study Sound Design at VFS?

Karla: I was studying Music Production in Australia, and had a class in Sound Design. As a musician, I wanted to pursue a career in the music industry, but after seeing what Sound Design was all about I decided to give it a try. I made a short film with my friends and I created the entire soundscape for it. I loved it. VFS has one of the best Sound Design programs out there, so I decided to jump in with both feet.

Karla on the set of Don't Be a Hero. Photo by Alastair Leong.

How would you describe your experience in the program?

Karla: I have to be honest; I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew I liked Sound Design, but I was still very music oriented. On the very first day Shane Rees, the Head of the Department, came in and said ‘This is NOT a music course. We don’t teach music at all, so if you’re here for that, you’re in the wrong program’. There were some disappointed faces for sure but the more I learned, the more I liked it. It felt much more natural than music, and since the technical aspects are very similar, I felt I had a bit of an advantage due to my previous experience.

I have to say, I learned a LOT in the program. From technical, to creative, to work flow, to business creation and development, I feel like I not only learned how to do the work, but how to be an accomplished freelancer. I learned that hard work is the only thing that gets you to the top, and there’s no way around it. At VFS I learned to manage my workflow and became faster and more efficient. The main thing I liked about it – using a quote from Steve Smith, one of the best teachers I’ve ever had – is that I learned the technical aspects so deeply, they became second nature which freed my brain to become a full creative tool.

Tell us about what you have been doing since graduation.

Karla: Now that I’ve graduated, I feel more than ready to venture into the real world. Of course I still have tons to learn – things that you can only come with experience and mistakes. But VFS gave me an excellent network, and I’ve been working non-stop since graduation. I’ve worked on numerous VFS Film Production final projects and already earned seven credits in less than three months. The networking I’ve done at VFS has gotten me even more offers for short films.

I also recently started working with Miguel Nunes, Sound Designer/Sound Supervisor/Re-recording Mixer at Bionic Audio, as an Assistant Editor.

I never thought I would be busier than when I was at school, but I am now. There are always ups and downs in the industry – sometimes you’re overflowing with work, sometimes you have nothing, and that’s why you have to manage yourself as efficiently as possible.

Photo by Alastair Leong.

Anything advice or comments for aspiring sound designers?

Karla: To aspiring sound designers, I have to say that I’m still one of you. You never stop learning, because as soon as you do, you fall behind. The first thing you need to learn is to adapt fast. Learn the very basics the best you can, because if you have a solid foundation, you can build on top much easier. The second thing you need to learn is to work hard and efficiently. Hard work always pays off later on.

Last but not least, people skills. This is a creative industry after all and we’re constantly working with people that create art. They all have different visions that may not be the same as yours. Learning to interact with them is a big advantage.

This industry may be tough, but seeing your work on the big screen is the most satisfying feeling ever, and in the end it’s all about pursuing what you really love.

Thanks for speaking with us, Karla!

Sky Hero Plummets Into App Store

Sky Hero, a game developed by Mexico City-based Kokonut Studio, hit the App Store today for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. It’s the culmination of many months of toil for the small Kokonut team, which includes studio co-founder, producer, and programmer Benjamín Morales, a 2010 graduate of the VFS Entertainment Business Management program.

Sky Hero, released in partnership with Chillingo, takes the “endless runner” concept pioneered by Canabalt and… drops it off a building. Using either touch or tilt, you steer your hero as he plummets from the top of a tower, dodging enemies and obstacles. The game even has location-aware weather.

Update! Here’s Kotaku singing the game’s praises!

Benjamín co-founded Kokonut Studio to provide multimedia services in 2009, but the enterprise went on hiatus when he came to VFS. Among his many projects during his year in Entertainment Business Management at VFS, he worked closely with a team of Game Design grads to bring their student game to Facebook.

“I came back to Mexico with the clear idea to start making games,” he says. “Kokonut Studio started operations again around August 2011.”

Along with Benjamín, the Sky Hero team consisted of Nadim Matuk (Producer/Creative Director), Gabriel Medina (Producer/Interactive Designer), Humberto Corte (Sound Designer and VFS Sound Design for Visual Media grad), and Ricardo Ruiz Dana (Artist).

In March of this year, Kokonut had the opportunity to attend GDC in San Francisco as part of the acceleration program TechBA - a trip that laid the groundwork for a deal with eventual publisher Chillingo. It’s been a long journey, so today’s release is one to celebrate.

“A couple minutes ago, I saw that Sky Hero was Editors’ Choice in iTunes Mexico, and in other regions, it’s New & Noteworthy,” Benjamín says. ”I can’t explain to you the satisfaction, happiness, and relief that I feel right now!”

Sky Hero is just 99 cents – and it’s worth every penny. Download it now!

Microsoft Unveils New Game Studio in Vancouver

The Vancouver Sun reports today that Microsoft has unveiled a new game studio in Vancouver. It’s called Black Tusk, it’s notably got a mandate to work on AAA games, and it’s hiring.

The studio itself has been ramping up for some time now, but until now it’s been under the radar outside of Vancouver’s close-knit developer community.

No word yet on what exactly the new studio is developing, except that it’s now been “officially green-lit by Microsoft executives,” according to studio manager Mike Crump.

Read the full article.