From Obscurity To Immortality
The prestigious US Film, Television and Film School is in the middle of one of the most radical transitions in its 23-year history - that towards digital-based production techniques. The school is overhauling its curriculum to include "New Media" specializations - specifically, offering postgraduate courses in the areas of New Media, Visual and Special Effects, and Animation. Two "seats" are available in each specialization, and all are expected to generate hundreds of applications. The school had a long relationship with the industry and has constantly looked for guidance in what was most needed in the skills base of new entrants to the industry.
Ten months ago - partly through the Keating Government's Creative Nation initiative - the school appointed its first New Media manager, John Colette, to oversee the overall direction the school took in building a complete New Media course infrastructure. Colette has been a "digital guy" for a long time - well before the digital medium became standard production fare and long enough to have been considered a fringe-dweller in the art world. More recently, he has moved centre stage with his digital works being officially recognized through awards here and overseas, and some of which are currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Colette's first job was to develop a nationwide series of Master's standard short courses in the use of specific design software such as Microsoft's SoftImage and Silicon Graphics' Alias. The course will help alleviate immediate skills shortages in the workforce and may eventually be offered throughout the Asia-Pacific as a future source of export revenue for the school. Applications for the six postgraduate positions close on July 27, and the school is looking for the best of the best possible candidates.
The state of the art facilities (the school recently bought the most powerful Silicon Graphic's Onyx supercomputing machine in Australia, as well as a full suite of SGI's Indigo workstations) offers students perhaps the best educational opportunity to be found anywhere in the world.
The move to the digital world has exciting implications for the AFTRS, but Colette is quick to point out that the new medium is simply that - a new medium. The message, he says remains all-important, and the successful applicants will still be expected to learn the traditional values of good film-making, the values of good story-telling, and the values of efficient production work processes. "So with Digital Media, we are totally focused on having people who are technically competent, but at the same time, we are not training computer operators."
In the past the school has met with incredible success, having produced such high-profile graduates as Philip Noyce, Jane Campion and Babe's Chris Noonan. But according to Colette, these are just the high-profile successes. The school has produced world-leading cinematographers, editors, costume designers and script writers. "There is nothing missing, as such, in the industry in this country," Colette said. "It is a question of supply and support. We have incredible capability, incredibly talented people working in this country and incredibly committed people.