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Posted 25.11.15

In Conversation: Animation student Sofia and lecturer Chris

By Jake May

Part of our In Conversation series where we ask our community of artists, designers and makers to interview each other about college life, we sit down with Animation lecturer Chris Eales and student Sofia Beale.


Chris is a lecturer on our BA (Hons) Animation student and freelance filmmaker whose recent animated short 'Two Films About Loneliness' has been a hit at film festivals worldwide, and Sofia is a recent graduate of our BA (Hons) Animation programme.

What was it about Animation that drew you both to the subject?

Sofia: I did film, art and writing at A-Level and I thought Animation would be a great way of combining them. I watched lots of cartoons as a kid and thought ‘I want to do that.’

When I got here I realised that animation is so much more than the stuff you see on TV – stop motion or 3D, lifelike or abstract. There’s such a range, and I find that fascinating.

"The facilities here are amazing. There’s no way I could do what I do if I weren’t here." — Sofia Beale, BA (Hons) Animation student

Chris: I always liked the idea that one person or a small team could make their own films. I like the democracy of that. And I really like low-budget films.

For me, stop motion also still has a real magic about it. You know there’s a lifeless object there, but you can see it move. Its appeal goes back decades and decades.

What does the teaching focus on here – is it mostly the technical side of Animation?

Sofia: In the first year you get to know the key technical skills that allow you to animate and bring a character to life. After that, the teaching becomes increasingly about getting feedback on your work and choosing a specialism that most interests you.

Sofia's film 'PLYMOUTHLAND' on her Vimeo channel.

Chris: That’s it. First you learn the principles of animation, but then you specialise. You take the reins of your own body of work.

We also teach our students to be resourceful. Something that we’re addressing more with students is problem-solving. We set students challenges, such as making armatures just from off-cuts from the workshop, and students also work on industry-set live briefs.

We also have a lot of one-to-one teaching. Students and staff work closely together. In some colleges with high student numbers you only get to see your tutor a couple of times a year, but it’s the opposite here.

I really like talking to people about their ideas and discussing different methods for exploring them – so it’s great for me as as well as the students.

Characters and props from Sofia's film 'PLYMOUTHLAND'.

And what are the facilities like at the college?

Sofia: They’re amazing. The cameras, the lighting, the software...

We also get access to other departments like woodwork, which I’ve used to make bits for my sets, and printmaking, where I’ve screenprinted scenery and set backgrounds... There’s no way I could do what I do if I weren’t here.

"For me, stop motion also still has a real magic about it. You know there’s a lifeless object there, but you can see it move." — Chris Eales, BA (Hons) Animation lecturer

Chris: The FabLab, where students and staff can make use of new design technologies like 3D printing and scanning, is a really exciting space too.

It’s a great resource and there’s so much open source stuff online. You can download little parts for armatures which can be very expensive. Or you can scan objects and work with them digitally. There are so many options – and it’s very accessible.

The trailer for Two Films About Loneliness-Trailer – directed by Chris Eales and Will Bishop-Stephens.

And finally, what do you think is the most important thing to pass on to students?

Chris: The freedom and joy of exploring new ideas. That’s why it’s so important that the college has practising artists as tutors.

People who are still learning themselves. People who are always looking for new ideas, and who don’t want their own practise to stagnate. People with a broad idea of what’s possible within animation and with the creative industries.

BA (Hons) Animation lecturer and freelance filmmaker Chris Eales and BA (Hons) Animation student Sofia Beale.

Sofia: Having teachers who are still themselves making films is great for the students.

Not just teaching you how to animate but from the point of view of getting advice. Showing you how to get your work seen at festivals for example. Getting your foot in the door of the industry. And landing a job once we graduate!

See more of Chris' work on his website and watch Sofia's Animations on her Vimeo channel. Photos by BA (Hons) Photography grad Andy Ford.

Find out about studying on our BA (Hons) Animation programme.

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