Listening Homework

Visual Effects students at an art school are a creative bunch! Right?
Um…not really.
Some students certainly have active imaginations, but most admit that they have trouble coming up with ideas, and many admit that they can't close their eyes and see the project they are working on in its completed form.
At first, I assumed the endless stream of derivative junk I was seeing from students (even grad students!) was a result of laziness or lack of inspiration, and sometimes it is. Often, however, students just don't have any experience using their imagination and will readily admit it.
My "Aha!" moment came last year when a group of four Korean grad students stayed after class to talk to me about their project ideas. They were coming to ask for help "being creative." In a somewhat somber tone, they explained how easy it was for Americans to come up with ideas and to be original because it seemed that we were encouraged to do so from the time we are children. In Asia, and in Korea specifically, the opposite is true. My students explained that children are taught to conform and to do things exactly as instructed. Experimentation and expression of individuality are frowned upon. That said, my Korean students have consistantly had the most amazing drawing skills. They capture reality, especially portraiture, impecacably and precisecly.
I have since learned that plenty of American students are out of practice using their imagination, especially lacking is the ability to visualize. Now, to be sure, my view may be a bit skewed by my life growing up with two fantastically creative parents and then going on to work in the ILM Art Department.
This year I have taken on the task of helping students develop their creatinvity and visualization skills.
The first exercise I'm using to help them out is to force them to visualize on the fly. Enter good, old fashioned radio drama. As a kid, I was lucky enough to hear (and tape and listen obsessively to) the original Hitchhiker's Guide BBC drama, the NPR Star Wars dramatization and the BBC Lord of the Rings (starring Ian Holm as Frodo!). Even before that, I would ask my rich friends with VCRs to tape the audio off of the TV when they watched movies.
So, each week this quarter, I'm giving my Concept Design for Visual Effects class a different episode of radio drama to listen to. Please join them in enjoying the first episode of Star Wars from 1980. Sit back, close your eyes and watch as Luke busts up his skyhopper in Beggar's Canyon and hangs out with his loser friends at Toshi Station…

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1 comment on “Listening Homework

  1. I need to find some time to sit down and listen to this. I think I should audit one of your classes, or just do the work in tandem with the students or something.

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