Shawn Kelly, the Animation Supervisor from Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) USA was recently invited as a speaker in The One Academy’s Virtual International Design and Creative Masterclass – a monthlong initiative which bridges the gap between global professionals and future creatives.
The session started off with a bang as Shawn delivered a fruitful session unlike any other. Touching on the topics of animation, his journey in the industry, best practices as well as imparting nuggets of wisdom, the Masterclass proved to be jam-packed with information and valuable insight.
“Animation is art, it’s not math and so there is no right or wrong answer”.
Speaking on what it takes to be a successful animator, Shawn advised that what often sets the great apart is focus. “When I was starting out, when I wasn’t sleeping, I was animating – or learning about animating and that made a really big difference for me”. In addition to being wholly committed to the field, he emphasized on the importance of having a strong demo reel sharing tips on how to produce one that covers the basis and showcases skill sets the best.
During his session, Shawn also elaborated on the roles of animators in the industry from the junior animators all the way to supervising leads. Touching on the industry practices at ILM, he explained to the viewers what to expect during their time in the industry and how best to excel in this field.
“I tell my students sometimes that the goal of becoming an animator for me was this dream and it is not enough to follow or chase a dream, you have to be proactive, hunt that dream down, jump on top of it and don’t let it go no matter what”, said Shawn recalling his grandfather’s words of advice to him while speaking on the importance of identifying their passions and following it relentlessly.
Reflecting on his animation education, Shawn relayed on how unlike at The One Academy, many institutes mainly teach budding animators how to master software but may miss out on other key aspects of the job. “During my time in school, a guest speaker had come in and said if you want to learn how to be a computer animator, take your computer and bury it in the backyard, then go learn how to animate. Come back, dig up your computer and use it as a tool to animate”.
Referring to this as the greatest piece of advice he had received, he encouraged viewers to not only focus on learning the tools used to animate but rather focus on how to bring your characters to life, how to make them seem real and how to create scenes that are memorable and entertaining as these are lifelong educational pursuits.
“Spend your time learning the art, not the technique”, said Shawn.
The Virtual Masterclass provided viewers the opportunity to have their burning questions answered by an industry expert and many jumped at the chance. Many young creatives were interested in understanding what inspires Shawn, what key steps should they take to cement themselves in the field as well as the trends that he hopes to see in the animation scene.
The insightful session ended with him highlighting all his favourite projects to date which include Rango, Transformers 1 and Space Jam which coincidentally ended up being the hardest ones as well as those that taught him the most.
Participants left the event with newfound inspiration and ideas to set their animation dreams to motion.