Keeping Industry in Indiana  

Brian Phillips, Executive Creative Director at The Basement Design + Motion guest blogs for Heartland, exploring how the education and opportunities for animators and filmmakers have changed in Indiana over the past 20 years. Heartland is proud to have partners like Brian who are helping build industry and imagination in Indiana. Follow Brian on Twitter @AtomicBigWheel.

When The Heartland Film Festival asked me to be a guest blogger to discuss the Acting for Animators with Ed Hooks workshop I was honored. Developing the animation industry in Indiana has become an ongoing crusade of mine. In 2010, I founded the MG Collective to connect the professional community, provide quality industry leadership and collectively grow the state’s identity within the national animation industry. To say I’m enthusiastic about the workshop is an understatement. Let me level set where I’m coming from.

I grew up on the east-side and have lived in Indianapolis all my life. When I graduated high school, I decided to work towards becoming a 3d animator. This revelation materialized after I saw the characters in Toy Story. Blown away. So I entered college in the mid 90’s for a degree that most people today call “New Media”. At the time, you could count the places doing 3d work on one hand. The trend in schools at that time was to teach various software from tutorial books. It was good to get exposure to the tools, but as I got more experience I realized the method and techniques in animation remain constant while tools constantly change. After college, instead of pursuing opportunities on the west coast, I decided to stay home and enter the Indianapolis School of Hard Knocks on a quest to become an animator.

This may start sounding like one of those “back in my day” narratives, but that’s not my intention. My motive is a “wow, look at our city” post.  And wow, look at our city!  We have animated films screening at The Heartland Film Festival from flesh & blood Indiana filmmakers, that went to Indiana schools to pursue their vocations! We have a thriving community of artists, designers and animators that are constantly challenging themselves. Schools like Ball State, Huntington, IUPUI, Purdue and The Art Institute are producing world-class talent. And studios like mine are working on world-class projects. All of this in a relatively short time.

I can boil this down to developed curriculum and Indiana artists embracing their talent, vision and hard work. We have a maturing community that understands there is more to telling a great story than Maya’s latest subsurface scattering shader. Although, that’s important too.

So Ed Hooks will be here on November 5th. His workshop will teach us how to apply acting principles to animated characters. What makes this different from a traditional acting class is animators work with the illusion of the present moment. It’s important to mention Mr. Hooks has shared his acting techniques with studios such as Epic Games, Valve, Walt Disney Studios, EA and Blue Sky Studios. And his book Acting for Animators is standard text in animation schools across the globe. Is this event “once in a lifetime”? Maybe. One thing is for sure, it’s another milestone in our community’s life-cycle. It will ultimately improve the quality of Indiana’s body of work. I’m certainly looking forward to it improving mine.

To me this is a small success in the efforts myself and countless others are putting forth everyday to help establish a reputation for our hometown. What if imagination could be one of Indiana’s top exports? Better yet, what if it already is and we just need more opportunities like this workshop – and events like the Heartland Film Festival – to bring it to light in the rest of the world?