I thought I would share a little story with you from my time as a teacher as a round about way of making a point about facing up to a simple reality.
Every year Southbank Institute of Technology (where I taught animation for four years) hires an independent company to review student satisfaction. Representatives from the company turn up at a class and give the student questionnaires that they can fill out anonymously. The results a collated and a copy is given to the teachers supervisor and another to the teacher, you can't see who wrote what comments, but everything is there for you to read.
Don't get me started on what this kind of performance testing (which is common in all government education institutions these days) does to the quality of education. It this kind of “make sure you tell them what they want to hear” instead of “tell them what they need to hear” approach that has animation education so wide of the mark industry is setting these days and that makes such fertile ground for the new schools like Animation Mentor who are taking a different tact. Luckily the Southbank course has great teachers who twist and turn within the system as much as possible to keep it true.
Beseiged teacher by tajai
So anyway its fair to say that in my last year of teaching, the reviewers caught me at a bad moment. I had been struggling to contain a restless student, I wont name here, but after a couple of months in the course it was becoming obvious that she wasn't really interested enough in animation to do much of it, and she had taken to distracting other students as her favourite pass time (there are no hard feeling, she was just discovering that this path wasn't for her is all). All morning she had been up to shenanigans and I must have asked or told her to calm down at least ten times already when she decided it would be a good idea to entice some of the boys in the class into a chair spinning competition. I walked over to her, planted my feet and yelled, “WHAT THE F*#K ARE YOU DOING?!?!” The class fell silent, then I got this feeling like there was someone other than my students watching. Slowly I turned my head and standing there at the classroom door were the reps from the review company, clipboards in hand.
I was asked to leave the room (as is the normal procedure) while the students were asked to fill out their opinions about me, the memory of my irate and obscene exclamations still ringing in their ears. Afterwards the the student came up to me and assured me that she hadn't written anything bad about me which was nice I guess (I would rather she had done some animation ;)
A few months later I got the results back, they were all positive. Some of the comments were interesting (eg - “He has like ADD or something”), but that's probably an inevitable side affect from me being quite an excitable (as is obvious now) and animated teacher. The only comment close to negative was something like, “could be a little less pessimistic.”
Now I could be feeling pretty happy with myself after such a good review, but that comment still pops into my mind from time to time. You see the thing is I don't see myself as a pessimist at all, I just accept the fact that failing and the constant threat of failure is part of being an artist, it is in fact what makes being an artist such a compelling thing. I don't really understand why some seem to think that we are all supposed to live our lives animating away without actually articulating that any of us could stuff it up at any second. After years and years of animating, I still live in fear of someone coming up to my look at my work and saying, “Aha! You have no idea what your doing do you?!?!” But I wouldn't have it any other way.
I was inspired to write this post when I saw this quote from Micheal Jordan in a Nike Ad, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Students often roll their eyes when I make comparisons between sport and animating, probably because most animation students are about as sporty as Fat Albert or something, but I think there are similarities in the psychology. Both require passion and determination beyond what you are likely to be paid for, and both require that you stick your neck out and take a risk, you could fail at any moment. That's not pessimistic, that bloody beautiful and I wouldn't have it any other way. Animation makes me richer every day and it has nothing to do with money.
An Artist's Dream by Umair Mohsin