Mark Simon Hewis: Head of the Aardman Academy on demystifying the route into the Film and Animation Industry

With a career spanning 16 years as a Director of Commercials, Feature Films & Short Films; Mark Simon Hewis, newly appointed Head of the Aardman Academy sat down with Student Pages to discuss their new 12-week online course, and what it means for future Film and Animation students seeking to break into the industry!

Falling in Love with Film & Animation

Mark begins by explaining how he fell in love with photography at the age of 14. Having begun by animating in his bedroom with Lego figures as a kid, he went onto study photography. Soon realizing that if you joined photos together you could start making films! “I found animation and filmmaking that way”, he points out. Going onto to highlight how he fell in love with it, and “loves the collaboration involved and sheer joy of making something come to life, be it live-action or animated. It’s a special feeling”.

He explains that he enjoys how each animator/film maker is extremely unique, with different backgrounds and unique pathways that lead to us being together in a team. Further highlighting his passion for the magic of film but even more the beauty of animation. “The pride you feel at the end of a production is addictive. Now working for the Aardman Academy, it’s thinking about all the things we could do today to truly help people learn about that magic, to have that pride that I’ve felt so many times”.

When it came to developing the Aardman Academy’s 12-week online course, Mark explains how they were keen to create something that could be accessed by everyone, no matter where you lived, what your background was, what stage your career was at, or even what other pressures you may have had in your life. Whilst simultaneously offering the best animation training on offer.

“We started with a simple premise; to create an industry training course that was as affordable as we could make it, with the highest quality of teaching anyone could offer, while making sure it felt welcoming, warm and personal to everyone”.

He explains that even though they have participants meeting and creating work all over the world. There is a greater feeling of supportive friends; strengthened by the delivery of leading mentors from Aardman. Meeting with course participants one-to-one, alongside regular weekly live sessions between masterclasses.

Building Experience

Mark recalls not being academic at school. Whilst he remembers persevering in spite of his dyslexia;  working hard (admittingly with his fair share of resits!) and eventually got to university where he started getting involved with film-making. “To be honest, I would have loved there to be real alternatives to university like the Aardman Academy when I was 19. I then gained a place at the Royal College of Art to do a Masters in animation”. His belief that you need to be aware you are always learning and that with every opportunity there is so much to learn.

He openly admits that some of the greatest challenges faced by creatives seeking to make their name in the Film and Animation industry is gettng people to see your work. Mark highlights that it is far easier nowadays as a range of opportunities are shared across Linkedin and other social media platforms, make the old fashioned idea of “it’s who you know not what you know” less relevant. He explains how at Aardman, every single opportunity is publicly advertised and openly welcome applications from everyone!

When it comes to his aspirations for his students, Mark is keen to keep opening doors to the animation industry as wide as they can and to as many people as they can. Due to the nature that there will never be a single option that suits everyone, they are hugely excited about all the new projects they have in development to give as many viable ways to learn, improve and fall in love with the film/animation industry. Firm in the belief that the industry has become more and more inclusive since he began on his journey all those years ago.

Getting the Right Advice

For those interested in pursuing a career in animation, Mark immediately points to practice! With equipment cheaper to purchase, he explains how you can now download an app on your phone that in principle has the same features they use for shooting a feature film. Where the skills come in is making sure you understand the movement and dynamics which are key to all animation. “Moving things robotically is a great place to start, but after that start to play with using different timings and spacings between your frames”. He goes onto point out that if your increments between frames are large, then your animation will be fast, and if the increments are small then the movement will be slow…

To find out more about the courses and training on offer at the Aardman Academy visit www.aardman.com/academy

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