Student Night

It’s that time of year where the members of ASIFA-East judge the submissions to the annual animation festival.

The Student Films jury screening brings attention of sorts to trends amongst animation schools and students. Animation schools, it seems, each have a certain reputation for certain kinds of films and thesis. Sometimes, it’s the students who go against these reputations who succeed in standing out from the rest. But something else that sometimes goes unnoticed are the types of storytelling and processes that appear to be trending amongst animation students.

Now bear in mind, this only covers the student films submitted to ASIFA-East festival, not all films from all animation schools in the U.S. and abroad. These aren’t fashion trends. But at the very least, it gives us a good idea of what trends amongst the New York and Philadelphia schools. For example, last year, there seemed to be popularity amongst monologue films and stories about maintaining relationships through social networks.

Most of this year’s submissions came from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts (U-Arts), with a total of 14 films. Pratt Institute and NYU Tisch each had five submissions this year. A few came from School of Visual Arts (SVA), and from various colleges in the North-East U.S. and abroad. U-Arts films this year are noted for combining specific designs (or in this case, experiments) with humorous and/or emotional stories. NYU/Tisch’s films are harder to pin down stylistically this year, from funny and direct to surreal and existential. Pratt Institute’s films continue to join in the experimentation, but are more expressionistic and less than linear stories. The films from SVA are also a mixed bag but each with a focus on character animation.

The narrative films of the evening mostly seemed to be moving into cerebral territory. Some of these stories even enter existentialism, with the characters’ very existences being questioned. Experimental seems to be a big thing this year. I would have to say that more than half of the night’s films were produced in very individualistic styles. A few of these films utilized character animation, but experimented with the storytelling. And only a few of these films were designed in styles attempting to emulate influences such as Disney (actually there was something that attempted to emulate Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animation, which is just as cool).

It’s nice to see animation students being encouraged to strive beyond traditional character animation and CG (that’s not to put either one down). But it seems like most of this years submissions are stretching their minds into more unique territories and really striving for their own style rather than trying to make something impressive for potential hiring. But in saying that, there should never be a time in our artistic careers to try something that challenges the regular way of doing things.

The winners of the Student category will be announced at this year’s festival on April 29th.