What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

February 27, 2011

Choosing a local animation school and the problems. part 1

DISCLAIMER (not the movie) : Most of these thoughts are gathered from my personal working/teaching experiences as well as talking to students, ex students, friends who run studios as well as friends who work in small and big studios as well as friends who have lectured. It is not based on published facts or figures. All comments are my own. No names of schools or companies are mentioned because I do not want a lawsuit and frankly I cannot be arsed to be sued.

How to choose an animation school if you are interested in going for animation? (Can I convince you to pick up accounting/banking/law/property development instead?)

There is a few really good article here and here

A few good pointers.

1.) Dun "go to a crash course program like Mesmer f/x (which teaches you about brand X software in 3 short weeks), put together a rather weak demo reel in the same timeframe, and then hit the streets looking for a job. These people, in my opinion, have no training at all because they know nothing of the art of animation, nothing about lighting, nothing about story telling. They just "think" they know the software. The majority of the failures occur amongst these individuals."

2.) "Get in contact with schools and ask for a free info packet, they should be more than happy to provide you with one and this will give you a good opporunity to see what they offer and teach. If you can, visit these schools and get in touch with former students. There's nothing like seeing a school first hand and touring the facilities, but if you can't do that, contacting former students will give you a good idea of what the school is like."

If the school is just concerned about money you can give them, it will reflect in talking to the students. There will be students that are lazy or unmotivated. But most of them knows it. But whether a school is genuinely concerned about the development of the students, the ones there can tell you best.

3.) "Make certain your school of selection has a proven record of accomplishment for turning out effective graduates that have fared well in the work force." Every school can claim that they have students that are working in the big studios. There will be talented individuals who are driven to succeed regardless of where they study. I know ex colleagues who got the job based on being self taught doing their own stuff in their own time and desire to succeed regardless of the odds.

The real question is the ratio of graduates that have graduated and have found a job. And lastly pls take a look at the reels that the students produce. Not just the excellent ones but also the ones that didn't make the reel and find out why they didn't succeed and what did the school did to push them. For the driven talented student, all we have to do is point the way and they will go. It is the rest of us that needs some pushing and encouragement to reach the destination. How good are the lecturers in that school to push you? Even if the students don't make it out there. Have they learnt anything from the course that is going to be useful to them?

4.) For me, the most important to be taught isn't the latest software or techniques. Or tutorials. Software come go, techniques evolve with the software. The most important thing that can be taught is thinking and the mindset. Critical, analytical problem solving skills. These are the most crucial thing to teach to local students. Especially Local students who have been spoon fed all their entire lives in this environment that is Singapore. And you will not find that easily in any of the institutions because that is not the culture. But they are there. U just need to go and see.

Previously on this post, I talked about the problems with the education model for animation in Singapore.

"From personal experience and observation, a lot of the people in animation education field are in it precisely because either they cannot find a good enough job as a professional or is worn out by the animation industry and wants a slower pace of life. And the good, genuinely sincere lecturers last a few years before get worn and beaten down by the bureaucratic political hoops they have to jump through. As well as the top down mentality so prevalent in our culture and society.
For a student, it is important to find out who the people they will be learning from are and the quality of education that they can acquire. "

A great lecturer can make a HUGE difference in shaping the mindset and path of a student's career. Not only imparting the technical skill sets but also cultivating the mindset and attitude to hopeful sustain in the industry. Not to mention pushing and motivating the student to strive to be better then they think they can.

I was very fortunate to have been under 2 such lecturers. Without them, my career would have been very different. Probably selling char kway teow in queenstown hawker centre or somewhere.

You are going to spend a lot of money and more importantly time that you cannot reclaim. So do your research or the person that is going to lose out is you.

Lastly just because its a govt sanctioned school or course does not mean its actually any good. Lots of schools are jumping on the band wagon because its an area that the govt is giving out lots of money to promote as an industry. Polytechnics and universities which are mostly govt funded do not want miss out on the cash being doled out. Private institutions also jumped on the bandwagon because there are more demand for such courses after the big push by the govt.

Problem where are the lecturers going to come from.

Talented artists with industry experience who are also excellent communicators and also more more importantly motivated educators are extremely extremely hard to find anywhere in the world. Much less Singapore. So where are the lecturers coming from and why are they teaching? :)

Singapore education system...... actually pretty much most of the public companies and institutions have a top down mentality. The senior management says they want something to happen, the middle management try a way to get it. And the rest just follow orders. No consultation with the staff. It is just make it happen. The opinions of the rest do not really matter.

For them, its all about career advancement. And that is all about facts, figures and most importantly being seen to be doing something that will raise the profile of the school so that they will get more money from the govt for the next financial year.

Seriously. The people (not all) who head the dept at the govt run schools are ex MOEs or people who do not know about the animation industry. They might be good facilitators but I also seen some of the curriculum of some of the modules offered that students have to take at some of the schools. South east Asian history (I am not fucking joking), leadership community course blah blah thingy. Really? These are modules to go visit old folks home and make the school look good.

Bloody wayang to score brownie points. If the course is worth it, you just have to grin and endure it.

Let me say, there are great lecturers out there in the schools. I know them personally who will give time and effort to encourage and push the students. But really its the luck of the draw because even in the same school, you might get assigned someone that sucks.

From the excellent movie "The King's Speech."

Lionel Logue: [as George "Berty" is lighting up a cigarette] Don’t do that in here.
King George VI: Why not?
Lionel Logue: Sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.
King George VI: My physicians tell me it helps to relax the throat.
Lionel Logue: They’re idiots.
King George VI: They’ve been knighted.
Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.



  1. Before you even decide to go to school, get on the internet and start asking people who actually work in the industry in your area how much they make.

    Then find out how much your entire education is going to cost you, and how much DEBT you're going to have.

    Once you see those two numbers, you'll see it's not worth it trying to get into this industry, because you'll never make enough to make the education worth it.

    If after all this you still want to do it, go for it. I suggest learning a real skill in a non-animation field, like banking, because you're going to need it. The average career in the industry is 10 years or so.

  2. Also...do not, DO NOT spend a lot of money on an education in animation/vfx. DO NOT go into debt getting an education in animation/vfx.

    If you must go into debt getting an education, make sure it's for something like engineering, dentistry, or medicine. Those will pay off in the long run. Animation will not. It's going downhill and pay is pitiful. I would feel horrible knowing anyone spent a lot of money on an education in this field.

  3. thank you for your post. animation is a relatively costly course here in singapore in the private schools.

    So finding if you are cut out is going to be crucial.


  4. not everybody enjoys working with medicine, dentistry, banking or etc. animation is an art and I enjoy being an art student. I choose that over any kind of medical school anyday. im doing what I love, if it doesnt follow through I will try again for something else or do something with my art and for people.

  5. doing what you love is all good and well when u are young. What happens when u are no longer loving it and you have kids to feed? If you love it, go watch a movie, rent the dvds. If you want to survive in this industry. You better have some skills.

  6. Man! This site is gold. I wished I had discovered this sooner and I can totally relate to it on so many levels.

  7. share the posts. pple out there needs to know. I wrote this 2 years ago and nothing changed. It just gets worse.