29th October 2019
Animator Will Becher is so keen to sing the praises of ScreenSkills Select and its aim of identifying industry-relevant screen courses that he takes time out from the global rollout of his new Shaun the Sheep sci-fi film, Farmageddon, to speak.
The freelance master animator has worked on productions for leading producer Aardman Animation for more than a decade and enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience; so much so he often gives talks and masterclasses about his field.
“I’ve always been interested in education and in educating people about animation,” says Will, particularly how to help people “bridge the gap” between college or university and the world of work.
As a specialist in stop-frame animation and directing, Will was a natural choice for ScreenSkills when it was looking for someone to evaluate the National Film & Television School’s MA Directing Animation course.
He is no stranger to appearing on TV himself having appeared on Blue Peter and BBC Breakfast to talk about epic stop-motion adventure Early Man on which he led the animation development and directed the studio floor.
With other credits including being lead animator on the Shaun the Sheep movie, an animator on the Oscar and Bafta-winning film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and working on the US version of Aardman’s ground-breaking title Creature Comforts before co-directing Farmageddon, Will has a wealth of knowledge about the thriving UK animation industry.
He became involved in ScreenSkills Select after speaking at a Royal Television Society event. Afterwards he was contacted by ScreenSkills to ask if he would be interested in helping to evaluate the NFTS MA Directing Animation course. He then spoke to a coordinator and was sent what he calls “a well-worded document that says what’s expected”.
Stage one of his assessment of the course has involved being sent “lots of materials” from the school for him to look at and “the mix of practical work they’ve done”, plus surveys, applications and feedback students have had from their tutors.
He says this gives him a sense of what challenges they face and “what the students get out of the course and learn over those two years.” He is looking forward to the “more interactive” stage two, which involves him “going into the NFTS and students presenting their work from the feedback they got from stage one”. So far he has been impressed by how good and thorough the course is.
He has seen over the years how unprepared some graduates are from different institutions. “It varies from course to course [but] there’s always that slight separation between what goes on between university and the challenges they face when they leave.” So Will reckons that ScreenSkills Select is “a worthwhile and overdue scheme” for the screen industries.
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