Saturday, 28 March 2020

Max Howard Gives Feedback to Our Students

Max Howard
Veteran animation Producer Max Howard joined us yesterday at Escape Studios, giving online feedback from his home in Suffolk to our second year animation students on their short film projects.

Max is a film producer and studio executive who has run animation divisions at Disney, DreamWorks and Warner Bros Feature Animation.

Industry feedback is at the heart of what we do at Escape Studios; it helps our students to connect with the commercial world and make sure we're teaching industry-relevant skills.

Max Howard
Max Howard
Max has set up and run animation studios for Walt Disney Feature Animation in London, Paris, Orlando and Los Angeles, and in the late 1990s was president of Warner Bros. Feature Animation; his credits include Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Igor.

Max also runs two independent film companies, Melwood Pictures, and the Max Howard Consulting Group. He has an honourary Doctorate of Arts from Teesside University, and is the Chancellor of Middlesbrough Children's University.  In 2015 Max started working In China on a regular basis for the DeTao Group, where he runs Melwood Pictures at DeTao, and is developing animated feature films based on Chinese content.

Studio Project Module PR5001
Max kindly agreed to give up a morning of his time to take a look at our second year animation projects, part of the "Studio Project" Module PR5001, a 2nd year film-making module worth 45 credits, in which our students form themselves into groups and create short animated films, working to a variety of creative briefs. The feedback sessions were organised using Google Meet and Syncsketch, online platforms which are working well.

The importance of clarity

One of Max's key notes was the importance of a clear, well-told story. One of the challenges of film-making is seeing your work through the eyes of an audience which has never seen it before, and taking nothing for granted. Our students should always remember that just because they know the story of their film, that doesn’t mean that the audience will get it.

Avoid clichés - but make sure you have a better idea
All filmmakers like to avoid clichés, but they should not be avoided at any price, especially if by avoiding the cliché the storytelling becomes unclear. Clichés work - so beware of throwing them out - unless you have a better idea. Film conventions such as violins playing over emotional scenes, or rain beating on a window, exist for a reason. These are clichés, but they work. If you get rid of the cliché, first make sure you have a better solution.

The art of the pitch
Max had a good deal to say about the art of the pitch, especially the confidence that needs to go with a strong pitch. When you pitch, your goal is to "take control of the room". And, whatever you show, try to "avoid qualifying what you’ve done - don’t apologise for it". You're there to inspire confidence and leadership.

Feedback from Framestore's Oz Gani
Industry feedback
Here at Escape Studios we also host regular industry feedback sessions, where students can get feedback from industry guests.  Industry feedback forms one of the five pillars of "The Escape Method", and is important because it helps to keep us grounded in the real world of the animation industry, reminding us of what animators will be expected to do when they are facing actual clients.

Getting feedback for our students from industry is very much at the heart of what we do at Escape Studios, and there is no better way to get our students up to industry standard than to bring in professionals to critique their work.

Undergraduate Student Experience at Escape Studios
The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt starting in September 2020, follow this link.   To apply, visit the offical page here

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