Learning the "reel" mechanics
By Brad Lister
Ever wondered how to reel-in a career in the film industry?
You go somewhere to learn. Industry professionals say Canada delivers some very well-trained graduates and the one place to receive this training is at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario.
"The single best reason, if you want a high paying job unequivocally then you must come here," says college president Sheldon Levy.
"We've been at it for over 25 years," says Garrick Filewod, program coordinator of the media arts program. Media arts teaches the students to work in a number of different aspects of production, film, video (single camera), multimedia and audio. The program takes three years, with students doing a common first year, giving them a taste of all aspects before specializing. "It gives them flexibility in the future," Filewod says.
Being accepted into the program is also fairly intense. "There were 1,400 applicants for 100 spaces," says Filewod about this year's class. They must submit a portfolio and be interviewed by the school. "A lot of students come to the school already having degrees," he adds. Thus everyone brings with them varying backgrounds.
The animation program at Sheridan is also incredibly difficult to get into. There are some 4,000 applicants to the program with only 250 acceptances. Of these, only 27 are in the school's computer animation program. "It's a very select group," says Robin King, co-director of the school of animation and design. Before they are let into the program, however, students must have either an undergraduate degree from a university, or a college diploma in art or a related field. But, "if you can get in, you'll do well."
Students in the media arts program learn the mechanics and technical aspects. However, Filewod says they are taught to pay attention to content as well. King echoes that sentiment, "You don't have to work on the absolute latest equipment."
Students graduating from the animation program at Sheridan are also incredibly in demand. King says graduates can command anywhere from $50 to $120,000 in salary.
Even though computer animation is becoming incredibly important, classical cel animation is still very much in demand, King says. "It is still the basis for a great many pictures."
So what makes the media arts program special? Students learn on very current and cutting-edge equipment. Filewod says the students use the latest digital editing equipment, which allows editors to cut the film without ever actually touching the finished product. Non-destructive editing is being used extensively in the industry, says Filewod and Sheridan was one of the first schools to use it.
So after all this training in either discipline, where do the students end up? They have worked on such pictures as, The Abyss, Jumajii, The Lion King, Men in Black and many others.
There have also been a few Academy Award nominees among graduates as well. James Straus received an Oscar nomination for his special effects work in Dragonheart. Steve Williams was also Oscar nominated for his work in The Mask. In 1985 graduate John Minnis won an Academy Award for his short film Charade something he created and produced while he was a student at the school. Levy says there have also been negotians to bring back former grads as adjunct faculty.
Levy maintains Sheridan is the place to go for industry training. "It has an international reputation," he says. If you've gone to Sheridan, then employers feel you must be good.