Kropka writes about the new animation M.A. program Re:Anima.
The Re:Anima master in animation is a unique project that is being born in a context in which mobility seems to be restored.The project should have started last year, but for obvious reasons it was postponed.
Imagine that you can have a master's degree, in which you attend each semester in a different country. Belgium: beer, chocolate, Hergé. Finland: teas, saunas, Tove Jansson. Lisbon: wine, fado, Regina Pessoa. How about discovering the different educational, artistic and professional perspectives in three countries so different from each other, but united by a friendship and a long tradition in animated art?
Well we had the opportunity to speak with Geert Van Goethem and Steven Malliet, founding members and academic board members of this exciting project: Re:Anima European Joint Master in Animation.
ZF: How does the idea start to make this master project?
Geert: Well for us this starts because of my strong connection with the Portuguese animation world - with artists such as Jose Miguel Ribeiero, Pedro Serrazina, Regina Pessoa, Abi Feijó- and with the Lusófona University.
Pedro came up with this idea to make a master project with the scheme of Erasmus Mundus, he wanted to make a master project connected with animated documentaries. He asked me about a school in Belgium to create a partnership and we proposed LUCA School of Arts.
ZF: What is LUCA School of Arts?
Steven: LUCA is at this moment the biggest University in Belgium dedicated to art and research. It is a very “recent” school. We used to be different art schools spread all over Belgium and, then seven years ago we emerged together into a bigger structure as LUCA School of Arts and our goal is that LUCA eventually becomes a Faculty of the Arts of KU Leuven, the biggest University in Belgium. We have campuses in Brussels, Leuven, Ghent and Genk. This last city is where the Animation department is based and where Geert and I work. Genk is a very young, nice and cozy city near the border with the Netherlands and Germany. There we teach film, animation, game design, photography and product design.
Geert: And Genk is a special city because it used to have some coal mines that were closed 30 years ago. Our building is new but it is just beside the old buildings of the mines that now have offices for business, startups, etc...
Steven: It is a cultural hub with audiovisual companies, the art school, a cultural centre, and many more. So, it is an exciting environment for the students.
Geert: When the idea of the master came to change cities every semester I proposed Genk because it is a city of contemplation. After that students go to Helsinki and after that to Lisbon. So, also the changes of cities we believe is something positive for the students.
Steven: Also we think that in the reality of our days, even for short films, it is not easy to obtain all the funding only in one country. The reality is: international co-production. And our scheme provides that international background. It also allows the students to know the production industry in each country and make contacts for the future and make their own networks.
ZF: Was the Re:Anima master an academic project dedicated to animation documentaries?
Geert: Yes, it was in the beginning, but two years ago before starting the project we decided to extend the vision and the approach to include different angles, not just documentary. This will bring an opportunity, mostly for students from abroad, to work in four categories: narrative, poetic, abstract animation and expanded animation. Coming back to the mobility scheme, it is also very interesting to have the backgrounds of interaction with different cultures.
Steven: Yes it is very important nowadays. Second semester in the coldest and one of the most expensive countries in Europe; and between the second and third semester they will move to Portugal, a little bit warmer and less expensive country.
Geert: It also lets the students understand the different mentalities of each society, that probably will help them at the moment to deal with their production of their future films.
ZF: How are the candidates selected?
Geert: Well, last year was the first edition and we had 50 candidates from all over the world. We look for candidates that already had studies in animation or at least a base in animation. And they must have a clear idea to develop during the master.
Steven: And we look for people with an artistic mindset and open to making research. Not only to make films, we need a certain level of commitment to experimentation and research to express their artistic visions.
ZF: How many students did you accept?
Geert: Twenty one. There are eighteen or nineteen students that got scholarships from Erasmus. The rest of the students pay by themselves. You can check our website where all the information is very well detailed about how it works. The funding is from the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.
ZF: Do you have events between industry players and the students?
Geert: Yes, systematically during the two years.
Steven: We will organize network events with representatives from Belgium, Finish and Portugal animation industry. We also will have masterclass and workshops with professionals. Along with the master we will improve the contact with the professionals and with the creative sector because it is very important for the real life after the master.
Geert: We will also collaborate with several festivals. At the end of the second year we will attend those festivals with the films made during the master. The idea is to promote as much as we can the work from our students.
ZF: And do you have contacts with some companies in the sector to send your students to do some work in the animation industry?
Geert: Not really for now. This is our first master, and probably we will discover many things that work or not. Things that we can improve or take out. It will be a beautiful trip for everybody. We hope to get more partners in the future to improve our project for the sake of our students.
Steven: Yes, but actually at LUCA that is really international we have cooperation with many other universities around the world: Mexico, Poland, United States, Brazil, Japan, and it is important at the moment to open the view to students for other countries to go and put on practice their knowledge. But we need to keep this part manageable, so we need to upgrade slowly to not lose the core of our educational program.
ZF: Could you tell us more about the curriculum and the educational activities?
Geert: Well, we tried to make the program in an organic way. We have three layers that follow the three first semesters : creative atelier, research and management. In the creative atelier the students make a creative workshop in groups where they will develop each semester a project together. During the first semester at LUCA they will work in groups of three people around storytelling. They will choose for themselves the kind of project: poetic, abstract, narrative or interactive. They will work on it till the animatic stage with temporary sound.
Steven: In Helsinki, the second semester, they have to work on an interactive installation or VR or AR . It will depend on their research.
Geert: And in the third semester they will focus on animated documentary in Lisbon, at the Lusófona University.
Steven: In the research layer the students investigate several topics that relate to the development and production of their project. They can do artistic research, thematic research, stylistic research, if needed even scientific research, and the research can be both theoretical and practical. Within each semester there is a Research course that builds on the results of the previous semester.
Geert: The management layer follows the three main stages of an audiovisual production : development (Genk), production (Helsinki) and distribution (Lisbon). Next to these three layers, students have courses about history and actualities of animation film. And in the fourth semester the students choose one of the three cities to finish their thesis and master project. And of course the research, development, production and execution of their master projects are divided in the fourth terms.
ZF: It sounds very exciting and complete program. Is it possible for students to look for job positions even outside the animation sector?
Steven: Yes, this is the idea. All those that want to pursue their careers in an animation studio will be very well prepared, but also in video games, journalism, or in the new formats of art.
ZF: Is there another offer like the Re:Anima master in animation?
Steven: No. In animation no. In film cinema, yes but not animation properly. Re:Anima is the only option so far.
We will follow the development of the Re:Anima masters. If you've been looking for a master in animation, innovative and with a high quality, Re: Anima is probably a great option and experience. The next call for entries will be in October.
contributed by: Kropka