Thursday, 9 March 2017

Letter of Intention

Ever since I was seven years old, I wanted to be a witch. Then I grew up to the horrible realization that magic wasn't real, but storytelling was. My name is Michelle Gruppetta and this letter will be the start of a great story.

I am applying to the Character Animation course because of its holistic approach, covering both 2D and 3D animation techniques, not to mention the professional opportunities it provides, particularly the internship during the final year. From following the Animation Workshop's social media pages, I am encouraged by how supportive they are of their students and how incredibly student friendly the school it. Also, having seen the final students' year films, I have full faith in the guidance and teaching methods of this institution. The skills I'd learn from Animation can also be applied to other fields of art, leaving me room to branch out in the future. Regrettably, there is no such course in Malta. I applied last year for the first time in 2016 for this course.

After having been turned down from this school last May, I decided to apply for an internship and did a two month spell as a Graphic Design intern with TBWA/ANG. I am currently participating in a positive queer representational anthology called Dates 2 which is being kickstarted at the moment! I am taking part in another comic anthology by local creators called Pilot, which is now in its fifth issue. I've also successfully tabled at my local comic-con a couple of times, which was a wonderful experience to connect with the local art community and meet new peers, both local and from abroad. I learnt valuable leadership skills while teaching English as a foreign language to young adults and even headed my secondary school council as vice-president. As for related courses I obtained a Diploma in Design Foundation Studies in 2014/2015.

I am proficient in both Photoshop and Indesign and am an intermediate-level user of Illustrator, besides having basic knowledge of Tvpaint. Due to my deep interest in narrative, my ideal goal would be to work as a storyboard artist or a story artist, and continue to strive to lead a project of my own in the future as an Art Director.

I feel that in the future, the animation industry will continue to combine both 2D and 3D animation, such as in Disney's Paperman or Lyft's promotional video June in amazingly inventive ways. The director of Paperman wanted to find a way to embrace the 2D style of animation that he thought was still something audiences loved and still captivated their imagination and so produce a hybrid with the 3D animation he'd had experience in. Paperman's impressive raster based technology seamlessly combined 2D and 3D animation, while June with its deceptive 2D-styled 3D look is more reminiscent of a moving illustration, with the blend between 2D and 3D appearing incredibly natural. Many young animators are creating truly innovative animation styles, especially for indie companies which tend to lean towards more 2D. Even the larger companies are beginning to push their own boundaries by including marginalized groups over the past few years, something that has been lacking for a long time in the entertainment industry.

My professional influences are Cecile Carre, Glen Keane, Henri-Toulouse Lautrec and Egon Schiele. Although Glen Keane is one of the pioneers of the Disney art style, none of his characters are over exaggerated or zany, but are incredibly lifelike. Keane focuses heavily on anatomy as an animator which really shows in his work, especially Tarzan who's every aspect of his character is physical, particularly in the hypnotizing way he moves. This is the most impressive characteristic- how every figure or motion looks undeniably solid, real and gestural. For Carre, I really admire their dynamic, inventive character design and the strength of their character's personalities.

Lautrec's style definitely owes itself to the Impressionists, in particular Manet and Degas, both figurative painters. Lautrec was a master at capturing people at work or relaxing, with brilliant and sensitive use of colour, presenting the night life with the glamour stripped away, and focusing instead on more tender moments. He captures the personality and individuality of the people he's painting using brushstrokes which often showed the board underneath. Due to this approach, his paintings look like drawings in coloured paint, especially thanks to the hatching effect and visible individual lines.

Egon Schiele's expressive line work and powerful portrayal of the human figure are also important elements to implement in animation. His work was well known for its intensity and graphic element, and the many nudes and self-portraits he produced. He often used colour judiciously, his work easily discernible by his characteristic supple black line. The twisting figures and expressive line that distinguishes Schiele's work mark him as an early proponent of Expressionism, which was revitalized thanks to the unparalleled level of emotional and erotic directness, including anatomical distortion in lieu of the conventional standards of beauty.

My three favourite works are Dragon Age: Origins, Kubo and the Two Strings and Zootopia. Dragon Age: Origins is an old game so the cut scenes and overall aesthetics can be forgiven, in favour of the great interactive storytelling of the game and the complex characters they created. It is also a sort of "choose your own adventure" game where the player has to make a series of difficult decisions which will affect the outcome of the game. Although it uses typical fantasy races, it totally subverts the archetypes to give a fresh approach to the fantasy genre.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a fantastic stop motion animation, visually astounding and touchingly told, despite its somewhat predictable path. Kubo emphasizes the importance of kindness and forgiveness, and accepting the flaws of humanity. It is also a technological and artistic pioneer for its combination of traditional stop motion and puppeteering with CG. The team behind Kubo was super resourceful in its use of 3D printing.

Zootopia is a 3D animated film by Disney that artfully tackles prejudice and racism, managing to do this with wonderful visuals and a wicked sense of humour. Like Dragon Age, this film has fun skewering stereotypes and building complex character relationships.
My three least favourite works are Frozen, Teen Titans Go and Black Cauldron.

I dislike Frozen because of its emphasize on visuals rather than strong storytelling. I feel that it lacked proper character development and had pretty boring and uncompelling characters. Too much screen time was devoted to the comedy reliefs, Olaf and Sven, rather than being used to push the characters further along an emotional path. The world itself was also badly explained and seemed to have no real structure or thought to it. Overall I think it was just poorly executed.

Teen Titans Go is a revival of the brilliant Teen Titans that was prematurely cancelled. The original series became known for its combination of humour, character development and structured season-long story arcs. Unlike its original however, it severally lacks in both storytelling and visual appeal. In Teen Titans Go! each main character is seemingly defined by their stereotype. There is no depth for these characters, just opportunities for jokes. Their characters are given little opportunity for growth and seemingly remain static throughout the episodes. It seems like a terrible waste of five beautifully developed and complex characters to turn them into caricatures of their previous selves.

Black Cauldron is the film that almost killed Disney animation. Despite it being the most expensive animated film made at that time, the delivery, aesthetic and voice acting was terribly lackluster with disjointed, troubled narrative. It’s not just the characters who are underdeveloped; it’s the whole world of Prydain. The movie gives lip service to the idea of a war, but never explains who is fighting or why. The kingdom barely seems inhabited beyond a handful of main characters, so when the Horned King’s plans put all of Prydain in jeopardy, it’s hard to feel like the stakes are high.

I have been privileged to have traveled many times outside of my country and even outside of my continent. It is always an amazing and enriching adventure to be able to experience culture and society aside from your own. Travelling has also allowed to me to visit several museums and helped expand my visual vocabulary, but the best experience abroad I ever had was when I traveled to Marseilles with a team of other students to perform in an international student theatre festival. Meeting so many different students and watching their own unique performances was a wonderful experience.

I am fortunate enough that my parents will be funding my education. I hope you will consider me for a position at your school.

All the best,

Michelle Gruppetta.

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