The inaugural Falmouth Annecy trip (first of many, we hope).

On the 9th June a group of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year pioneers from the Falmouth Animation and VFX course set out on the first official Falmouth Annecy trip, accompanied by two members of staff who had also never been before.  

The old town of Annecy is wonderfully picturesque, like a fairy tale or an animated feature film environment.  
The trip had been carefully planned, we were all ready and excited, and yet… already before we had even set out the Festival website had crashed and booking screenings was almost impossible.  In addition we were to be camping 7kms of the town, at the mercy of a free Annecy Festival bus shuttle, followed by a 2km walk up a mountain. There was a slight aprehension as to how things would pan out on this first Falmouth Annecy trip.

On getting off the plane in Geneva we were immediately met with a rush of hot air, we had found ourselves in a heatwave that dominated our first day.  It was not until we had later found the beautifully clear lake that we were able to enjoy it.  Shedding garments as a matter of urgency, we were whisked off to the campsite in a speedy minibus convoy and arrived at what would be our beautiful, tranquil home for the week.

On the first day it was necessary to take drastic action to combat the heat. Many were later to jump in, clothed or not.
The campsite chalets sat on a tree covered mountainside down sandy little lanes, shaded by pollarded lime trees.  The people were friendly and the swimming pool was a godsend in the sizzling temperatures.  Over the week we even came to love the walk up the mountain from the main road, (especially at 1.30 am), trooping as a chattering group past the moonlit fields and winding our way up through the little village of wooden houses to the sound of hooting owls and snuffling donkeys.

Camping Le Panoramic at Annecy
The shuttle buses went at specific times so there was no choice, we had to be up and out in the mornings.  So there we were, at the start of each day, standing a little bleary eyed at the bus-stop, ready to make the most of our day in Annecy.  This was a good thing for those of us who may have missed out on some of the morning screenings if we had had more choice in the matter.

The mountains around the lake rise, snowcapped and beautiful to shelter the town of Annecy
What a week! There were huge outdoor screenings by the lakeside, several parties and a picnic which featured a pedalo race and game of rounders.  The main events were the various screenings and talks that took place in a range of different cinemas.  There was also MIFA, the International Animation Film Market, which included pitch and recruitment opportunities - some of our third year students were particularly keen to take advantage of this.

The magical atmosphere of an Annecy outdoor screening
Annecy in festival week is a bustling, lively place full of animators from all over the world, all wearing their accreditation badges, cycling from one screening to another.  Once we had got our badges, maps, programmes and had mastered the website bookings (which worked very well by that time), we were all raring to go.  We spent our days hopping from venue to venue, being inspired by animation from all over the world.

Life was tough for Ben and Nick on the streets of Annecy
In the evenings, sitting out in the pavement restaurants and chatting to fellow animators, we were in food and drink heaven (and in fact it is possible that some of us may have dined a bit too much on the divine patisserie that week).  Sometimes we preferred to stay at 'home' in the restaurant by the pool to watch the sun going down over the snowy mountain top.

In a shopping mall we came across an old friend, Max from 'Mary and Max'.
The animation festival screenings both in and out of competition were comprised of 9 animated feature films, 6 short film programmes, graduation films, TV films and commissioned films.  Highlights for many of us included Bill Plympton's new feature film 'Cheatin', the Japanese feature, 'Giovanni's Island' directed by Nishikubu and and the final evening screening of Miyazaki's 'The Wind Rises'.  We all saw most of the short film programmes which featured an unexpected amount of artistic, experimental animation.

Inspired, Rachel and Katie are busy in their sketchbooks.
We were all exhausted by the end of the week but there was a general agreement that it had been a great success, a chance to absorb what is current in animation.  For our first year students in particular, this had been an opportunity to begin to gain an understanding of the what animation industry is.

It was particularly great to meet up with and spend a little time with some of our Falmouth Animation graduates, Insa, Gaz, Omari, Elliot and Orla and to hear all about their work in various animation studios.

Cooling off - a synchronised drink for Rob and Mads
Another enjoyable thing for staff was seeing how well our Falmouth student group got along together, how they looked out for each other and enjoyed each others company.  They were all fantastic and we couldn't have asked for a better lot to take.

And thanks to the incredible weather and lovely campsite it felt like a proper holiday.
Au revior, Annecy and here's to next year's trip!


The Fourth Annual Cecil Awards

Last Thursday saw the return of the most prestigious award ceremony of the show biz calendar, the very glamorous Falmouth Animation & VFX Awards for Student Excellence. Otherwise known as The Cecils.

Students arrive on the red carpet

The award ceremony, now in its fourth year, has evolved from humble beginnings. The first annual Cecil awards, named after the anatomy skeleton that resides in the studio, was a far less illustrious affair than today's extravaganza of glitz and glamour and took place amongst a hubbub of excitement and artistic tension in 2011.  Since then the awards have gone from strength to strength and are now internationally recognised as the place to be seen on the red carpet.  They have recently been compared to that other well-known award ceremony, the Oscars (during a conversation in the canteen over coffee and cake last Tuesday).

This year’s awards were hosted by a treasure of British animation, known to his students and show biz pals as ‘The Silver Fox’: Falmouth University’s very own Animation & VFX course coordinator Derek Hayes.  Mr. Hayes was assisted by that well-known connoisseur of gold sequins and tutor of animation history and theory Ann Owen.
Derek and Ann marvel at the wonder of modern technology

The evening kicked off with a screening of third year films, the content of which was so varied and diverse that it had the audience laughing (My Pet Rock, The Boer), and crying (Crocodile Tears), marveling in awe at the wondrous effects (Out of the Dark, Luminosity), feeling good about life (Reaching for the Stars, Friends are like Umbrellas) and occasionally also cowering in fear (Sliver of Silver, Skinnister). The highlight of the screenings was a beautifully made CGI third year film The Heart of the Tree, which tells the story of Hare, Hyena and a tree with a secret heart.
The award winners were selected by the Academy Board but this year nominations from students were also invited and taken into consideration. 

Highlights of the evening included:

Yasmin Down for Success in the Field of Career Development.  Yasmin sadly couldn’t be with us in person as she is already working in her new job at Travellers Tales Games, but was able to join us by Skype and her award was presented by boss Stephen Bate.
Yasmin and her boss Steve on the big screen

Jake Teal winner of the award for Unexpected Excellence in Theory. The award appeared to be quite unexpected too.

Jake celebrates his win
Two of the most coveted awards of the evening were the prizes for the fancy dress, which went to second year Charlotte Grant, who came as beloved anime character Totoro, and third year Joshua Smyth in an extremly shiny suit (and who also won an award for unofficially mentoring our second year students).

Our three Angels of Animation this year were:

First Year: Jack Ghigo, whose indomitable spirit, sense of humor and hard work has been a shining light to all those around him.

Second Year: Lokii Rayne, who in her role as producer has steered her fellow students expertly through many of the trials and tribulations of the second year (and was also a contender for the fancy dress).

Third Year: Alex Papanicola  (also sadly unable to be with us in person but now a veteran of the Skype presentation).  Alex is a master of Flash and has introduced a new word to the animation lexicon: to ‘pap’ something, usually a storyboard or an animatic, meaning to geesh it up a bit, inject pace and/or comedy timing.

Alex is now an old hand at receiving his awards on Skype.

And this year the Academy Board awarded a special student-time achievement award, The Wizard of Technical Jiggery-Pokery, which went to one of the future stars of the VFX industry Joshua Bainbridge.

Josh is clearly impressed with the quality of his award

The grand prize, the magnificent Skull D’Or, was presented by our special guest, Aardman’s Luis Cook, and went to third year student Darren Smith. Darren was sadly unable to hold the trophy himself due to having recently broken both wrists in a motorcycle accident (which proved to be are mere minor hiccup to his studies - his devotion to his work was such that he had already finished animating and needed only to wave at the screen with his cast whilst giving directions to his sound designer). He was nevertheless suitably blown away just to be able wear the accompanying sparkly-shiny medallion on his head.
Darren can't quite believe that he has won the prestigious Skull D'Or

Darren has consistently proved to be a 2D animator par excellence and has been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement to the other students on the course. He has been a student union representative for the last two years and received the highest number of student nominations for a Cecil award.  Darren also has a very fine beard. The Academy Board concurred wholeheartedly with the student vote, and we all look forward to seeing his name in the credits of many an animation masterpiece. 

Aardman's Luis Cook and veteran martial arts cinematographer Frankie Keung
Winners Freddie Horton and Emma Walsh (left) with friends from the course.
Derek Hayes, aka 'The Silver Fox'
Other winners this year included:

Katie Wyman - The Going Viral Award for Internet Blogging

Ben Wardle - The Degas Award for Progress in Life Drawing

Eline Lindaas & Elizabeth Horne - The Award for Stupendous Storyboards

Laura Andrews - The Work Ethic Award for... erm... having a good work ethic.

Adam Wesson - The Master Prop Builder Award

Anthony Gardener - For Marvelous Modeling in the Face of Extreme Adversity

Alex Watkins - The Master Rigger Award

Joshua Smyth - For Unofficially Mentoring the Second Years

Stu Whitten - For Marvelous Matte Painting in the Face of Extreme Adversity

Freddie Horton - The Monet, or is it Manet, Award for artistry

Emma Walsh - The Award for Excellent Produceryness

Congratulations to Darren, and to all the other winners and non-winners alike. It has been a whirlwind of a year, full of frenetic creativity and artistic endeavour and we, the staff, have loved every second that we have worked with you (well most of them anyway). You are a continual source of inspiration to us and it is a pleasure to tutor you all. 

To those who leave us now - go forth and show the world what you can do. 

And to those who stay with us for another year or two, and to those who will be joining us in the autumn we have just one thing to say...

... The Cecils 2015!!!

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