Aardman Academy Alumni - Where are they now?
The Aardman Academy was established in 2013 to nurture and encourage new talent and to help meet the growing demand for animators in the UK.
The flagship intensive 12 week Certificate in Character Animation course launched in partnership with the National Film and Television School and Creative Skillset. Drawing on Aardman’s connections and relationships in the wider industry, the course provides students with valuable insight, experience and industry connections, and our talented alumni have gone on to win awards and work at some of the most prestigious productions companies in the UK and throughout Europe.
With the new cohort of students arriving at the studio this week, we decided to catch up with class of ’15 graduate Sarah Caisley about her Aardman Academy experience and what she is now..
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey prior to taking a course at the Aardman Academy.
I have always loved animation, and have wanted to be an animator since I was 12 years old.
I followed this passion to University, where I studied traditional, hand drawn animation. After graduation, I spent a few years working in a coffee shop whilst sending my showreel round studios and trying to break into the industry. Though I did manage to work on a few small hand drawn projects, I eventually came to the conclusion that my reel and traditional oriented skillset weren’t getting me where I wanted to go, and decided to take some time away from my day job to teach myself CG animation using free online tutorials, until I eventually found the course at Aardman.
What originally attracted you to the Aardman Academy and Certificate in Character Animation?
When I saw the course listed online, I thought it looked like the perfect opportunity for me to refine my newly-found CG animation skills, by learning from respected industry professionals. That along with Aardman’s reputation for excellent character animation and the visible success of the previous years’ alumni cemented in my mind that this was exactly what I needed in order to get my skills to where I wanted them to be, and come out truly ready to enter the industry.
In your opinion, what was the best thing about the course?
For me, the best thing was probably the opportunity to have one on one mentoring with the tutors, who, as successful members of the animation industry, were able to give us insightful and practical feedback on our work as we progressed through the course.
It was also great to be able to meet and connect with visiting animation professionals from a variety of other studios such as Blue-Zoo, TT Games and Locksmith, and to be given the opportunity to undertake a paid placement with some of these studios after the course was over.
How does it compare to any other animation courses you have taken?
The course was much more condensed and focused than my animation degree. This was great because we were able to really concentrate on honing animation skills over all else, as well as working to realistic deadlines that prepared us to work at a speed and quality that would be expected from us in a studio environment.
Having tutors and visiting professionals that were all actively part of the industry was also a big difference for me, and an important one. I felt that we were given information and advice that was accurate and relevant to current industry expectations- something that I feel a lot of other courses struggle to provide.
Did you have any industry experience prior to taking the course?
I had extremely minimal industry experience prior to the course. After University, I made several attempts to enter the industry off my own back when a took a few small freelance 2D animation and illustration projects. I also completed a remote, unpaid internship shortly before being accepted on the course.
Did the Aardman Academy facilitate an industry internship for you after you graduated?
Yes, after the course I was taken on as an intern at Blue-Zoo in London for 4 weeks where I was working on the CBeebies show, “Tree Fu Tom”.
What has your journey looked like since graduating from the course? What are you currently working on?
A couple of months after completing my internship at Blue-Zoo, I was asked if I would be interested in coming back to the studio to work as an animator on a new show for CBeebies called “Numberblocks”. I happily accepted and after a wonderful time working on the show, was asked to stay on to work on the new series of “Go Jetters”, again for CBeebies, which I have been working on since January and am still very much enjoying!
What was your personal highlight of your time at the Aardman Academy?
It’s so hard to pick one highlight! The whole experience was such a pleasure for me and I honestly believe it has changed my life by giving me the tools I needed to fulfil my dream of becoming an animator. Getting to come into the famous Aardman studio every day, spend time with the tutors and absorb their knowledge and getting to know my classmates and learn from them as well, it was all such an amazing experience. I cherished my time at Aardman Academy and I would recommend it to anybody that wants to become a better animator and succeed in the industry.