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June 2010

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EDUCA TION An opportunity of a lifetime L OS ANGELES —One of the biggest challenges to freshly-minted gradu- ates of animation and visual effects The VES/ Autodesk Student Award gives a budding artists a head start at a career. programs is getting their work seen by the right people — people who understand the artistry, the technique, the innovation demonstrated in truly stellar creative work. People who recognize their talent. And more practically, people who can help them start their careers. The Visual Effects Society (VES) and Au- todesk offer just such an opportunity with the VES Student Award (www.visualef- First presented in 2009, the award recognizes outstanding achieve- ment in visual effects in a student project. “The idea for a student award had been bubbling through our Awards Committee for a number of years,” says VES executive director Eric Roth.Things started to move quickly when Autodesk, a long-standing sup- porter of entertainment and design educa- tion, proposed sponsoring a VES student award in 2007.When director Steven Spiel- berg encouraged the VES to acknowledge student achievement in his 2008 acceptance speech for a VES Lifetime Achievement Award, all the efforts came together. “Au- todesk was right there to support it,” Roth notes.“They have been a tremendous sup- porter of the VES, and of the craft.” “This award is a wonderful opportunity for us to help inspire the next generation of entertainers and designers,” says Jennifer Goldfinch,Autodesk Media & Entertainment marketing manager for education.“We’re proud to partner with the VES on this pro- gram, encouraging students to excel, ac- knowledge their achievement, and help them prepare for their careers.” Roth notes, “The visual effects craft is changing not year to year, but day to day, be- cause of advances in technology and the way those advances affect and enhance our ability to go forward with a creative vision. We provide opportunities to get the next generation exposed to all that’s occurring in the industry.The Student Award is a way to enable them, in turn, to expose their work to the industry. It gives them a chance to be critiqued not only by their peers and in- structors, but by the best in the field. It’s the ultimate stage upon which they can show their work.The ultimate resume-builder.” While being a finalist or winning the award is a spectacular honor on its own, the 40 Post • June 2010 platform the award presents is the opportu- nity of a lifetime. Student project submis- sions are reviewed alongside the best pro- fessional work of the year by voting mem- bers of the VES — more than 2,000 pros worldwide, including visual effects artists, an- imators, supervisors and studio heads at all levels in the industry. had already landed at Pixomondo in Santa Monica, and was working on matte paintings for Roland Emmerich’s 2012. He pulled the submission materials together in less than a week with the help of Filmakademie sup- porters in Germany, and crossed his fingers. At that point, Ewers’ work entered the pool of submissions that were screened ini- They Will Come To Townby Student Award winner Thilo Ewers. And the student winner’s work is shown at the swanky Hollywood VES awards cere- mony attended by more than a thousand members, guests and honorees, which have included Steven Spielberg, Ed Catmull, Kath- leen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Phil Tippet and James Cameron, as well as longtime VES members, such as John Knoll, Richard Ed- lund, Joe Letteri and other VFX luminaries. Talk about an ideal audience. THE FAST TRACK “It’s crazy,” says Thilo Ewers, the 2010 VES Student Award winner.“When you submit for the award, you know that the VES are the top people in the industry.You know their names, and maybe you have had one of them as a guest lecturer, but as a student, you don’t ever expect to see or meet these people, or imagine that they would be look- ing at your work.” Ewers, who hails from Filmakademie in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, earned the Student Award honor withThey Will Come to Town, a stunning photoreal CG short imagin- ing a post-global-warming New York City. At the time he submitted his project, Ewers tially by a group of VES and Autodesk execs and narrowed down to a short list.That list was judged by VES members in their day- long review session to determine nominees for all categories. Ultimately, four nominated projects (in 2010 they included Ewers’ fel- low alumnae Tina Ohnmacht for Motherland and Moritz Mayerhofer for Urs — Cliff, and Jeffrey DeVore of the Netherlands Film and TV Academy for The Full Moon Mystery) were posted online for the entire VES mem- bership to review (along with the full list of nominees in 23 categories). The winner, Ewers, was determined by vote. While at the award ceremony,VES and Autodesk execs introduced Ewers to James Cameron, who was being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ewers says, “I was really nervous.We talked about Avatar, and I told him it was so good that when I saw it, I wasn’t sure if I could ever achieve anything close to that. He said,‘You can do it! I’m the old guy, and you’re the new guy.’ He was really cool — a normal guy.” The 2009 Student Award winners, Sandy Widyanata and Courtney Wise from the Australian Film, Television and Radio

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